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Mt. Mendel
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Right Mendel Couloir 

Right Mendel Couloir 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b WI3

Type:  Ice, Alpine, 9 pitches, 1000', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b WI3 Steep Snow [details]
FA: Felix Knauth, John Whitmer June 1958
Season: best climbed June through Fall
Page Views: 3,449
Submitted By: Kris Gorny on Dec 6, 2006

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In 1980 Mendel was fat ice top to bottom. This was...



The north face of Mt. Mendel is cut by two twin gullies (see photo). The one to the right is the route. The gully to the left is the harder Ice Nine. Cross the chossy bergshrund and ascend 400' of steep snow to the bottom of the ice section. Continue past an ice bulge into the couloir. Follow the 60 degree ice for about 4 pitches. Another 2 pitches in the mixed terrain lead to the notch below the summit, on the western side of the mountain. From there, a short 10 feet rap from a bolt to the ledge is followed by an excellent 5.7 pitch leading directly to the summit of Mt. Mendel.

Joel Thernau and I climbed Mendel Couloir in July 2005. At that time the ice was thin and plating. The upper pitches consisted, to a large degree, of loose boulders marginally bound by thin ice, making climbing very unnerving.

Make sure to clear the lower sections of the route early, before sun hits the summit. We didn't and found ourselves in a midst of frequent rockfall. Be aware that once above the bulge, retreat would be dangerous and difficult, and could turn into an epic.

Rumour has it that global climate change affected ice conditions on Mendel. As a result, the neighboring Ice Nine very rarely comes in. We eyed it and there was ice leading to the steep chimney at the entrance to the couloir but we didn't see any ice above that.


Drop down from Lamarck Col to the bottom of Darwin Canyon and ascend the steep snow slope towards Mt. Mendel. Negotiate your way through scree fields (loose and icy at times) towards the bergshrund below the snow fields on the north face.

Descent: From the summit of Mt. Mendel follow the ridge towards Mt. Darwin for about 200 yards. Locate a left hand side gully marked with a cairn. Exposed class 4 ledges and three raps from old slings lead to the base of the mountain. Finding the gully and decending was not trivial and we were racing the sunset. Didn't want to find out what it's like in the dark.


We had 5 ice screws and wished we had 7. In the upper part a standard rack of cams and nuts was handy.

Photos of Right Mendel Couloir Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Joel following in the loose mixed section higher u...
Joel following in the loose mixed section higher u...
Rock Climbing Photo: Summits of Mt. Mendel and Peak 13,360' lit by the ...
Summits of Mt. Mendel and Peak 13,360' lit by the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: North face of Mt. Mendel. A team of climbers can b...
BETA PHOTO: North face of Mt. Mendel. A team of climbers can b...
Rock Climbing Photo: Joel coming up the ice section towards belay on to...
Joel coming up the ice section towards belay on to...
Rock Climbing Photo: Mt. Darwin from the summit of Mt. Mendel.
Mt. Darwin from the summit of Mt. Mendel.
Rock Climbing Photo: Joel leading ice into the couloir.
Joel leading ice into the couloir.

Comments on Right Mendel Couloir Add Comment
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By 426
Mar 5, 2007

Awesome route, did it a while back with just a few screws and a light trad rack. Crux ice "bulge" was in fine shape. There was some fixed gear in the gully but no fixed rap stations on the descent. The descent was hard for 4th class and pretty steep and scary.
By Scotty Nelson
From: Boulder
May 16, 2007

I'm no expert, but is this really AI5?
My impression was that AI5 was vertical. Mendel Right never exceeds 60 degrees.
By Kris Gorny
Jun 19, 2007

I agree with you and I am removing "AI5" from the description. Moynier and Fiddler rate it as AI5 in "Climbing California High Sierras" and I didn't want to contradict them. I am not sure how AI and WI scales compare. As I say in the description, Right Mendel is mostly 60 degrees, probably depending on conditions. I am confident with the WI rating as WI3, WI3+. AI ratings are ambiguous to me. I saw a website where Right Mendel was rated WI3, AI2. Go figure... Thanks for the post.
By J. Albers
From: Colorado
Jan 23, 2010

In reference to the question about alpine ice versus water ice, my understanding is that the difference is solely due to the nature (and permanence) of how the ice forms. Thus, the steepness of AI3 and WI3 should be similar. This view is confirmed by standard sources, see for instance: Jack Roberts' book for Colorado Ice; Jeff Lowe's Ice World; or S.P. Parker's guidebook to Sierra Ice.
By SirTobyThe3rd
May 23, 2012
rating: 5.2 3 8 II 8 D 2c WI2+ Steep Snow

By book definition this couloir is Wi2/Ai2.

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