Type: Ice, Snow, Alpine, 1000 ft, 9 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Felix Knauth, John Whitmer June 1958
Page Views: 4,712 total · 32/month
Shared By: Kris Gorny on Dec 6, 2006
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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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.

We 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 did not and found ourselves in a midst of frequent rockfall. Once above the bulge, retreat could be 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.
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. Mar 5, 2007
Scotty Nelson
Scotty Nelson   Boulder
I'm no expert, but is this really AI5?
My impression was that AI5 was vertical. Mendel Right never exceeds 60 degrees. May 16, 2007
Kris Gorny

  5.7 WI3 Steep Snow
Kris Gorny    
  5.7 WI3 Steep Snow
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. Jun 19, 2007
J. Albers
J. Albers   Colorado
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. Jan 23, 2010
  5.2 WI2+ Steep Snow
  5.2 WI2+ Steep Snow
By book definition this couloir is Wi2/Ai2. May 23, 2012