Laurel & Bloody Mountain Via Convict Canyon

  • Updated: September 17, 2010
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

September 17th to 19th, 2010

This trip was led by Jack Kieffer and myself as a student experience trip the second year I was on staff with the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course.  I'd been interested in hiking up Convict Canyon since I'd been coming to the lake for years and spent countless freezing cold mornings fishing where the runoff enters the lake waiting desperately for the sun to finally reach us.

We decided to do Laurel and Bloody which could have been reached more easily from the 4wd Laurel Lakes Rd but then I wouldn't have gotten to see the canyon.  Also doing it this side gave us a nice backcountry lake camp at Lake Genevieve without having to do a lot of backtracking.

It was a great trip though the crossings in Convict Lake were just as treacherous as advertised and it would likely be impassable early in the season.  Also we were suffering from the usual late summer smoke which reduced the views a bit.

The trailhead for Convict Canyon is located in a nondescript parking lot north of the resort.  All the lots around the lake itself are reserved for day use fisherman.

The group was Jack and I, Kim who was an instructor with Modjeska, Mark who had taken the class with Kim and I in 2008, two Modjeska students, one Whitney student, and then May who came from non WTC Sierra Club.

Stats coming in this way (if you trust my GPS) are 9.5 miles and 5k gain though I think the latter may be a little overestimated.

From the parking lot we followed the trail behind the resort and around Convict lake.  The canyon can be seen on the left here.

The lower part of the canyon is easy but then you get to the narrow section where all the snow melt from Mildred Lake and the surrounding slopes shoots down each year polishing the rocks and making passage treacherous even late in the season.

A few years later Jeff Atijera and I tried to lead a trip up this canyon to do Baldwin and they wouldn't even issue us a permit over the phone claiming it was impassable.

This is where the old cement bridge was washed away years ago.  They apparently decided it was futile to try and replace it.  We had a few other parties come up to this point and turn around though others made it across.

Past that it became trail again the rest of the way to Mildred.

Taking a break at Mildred Lake

The maps showed a trail running south of the lake but we couldn't find any trace of it.  We eventually settled for bushwhacking across and decided to go north of the lake when we came back.

From there we climbed up past Lake Dorothy and then descended to Lake Genevieve where we made camp.  It's a large lake and we found a camp not far from the trail on the east side in the trees.

I'd sold this trip to Jack promising he'd get to fish so he had a small fishing pole along.  After finding out May had never caught a fish before he decided this needed to change.

After he had caught a few he let May take a turn.  She kept getting bored while waiting for a fish to bite so I *may* have observed Jack hook a fish and then let out some extra line before coaxing her back once again.

The end result was the most excited person you'd ever seen catching a fish.

Jack then cleaned all the fish he'd caught and that became his happy hour items.

The next morning a slightly more rested cadre was ready to go not long after dawn.

Milage for today was 9.2 miles and 4500 ft of gain with a fair amount of up and down.

There's a trail that leads between the two peaks and down to Laurel Lakes which I believe is the more common trailhead to do these from.  Just be warned that Laurel Lakes Road is rather rough and when I tried to drive it with my Rav4 I ended up turning back at the switchbacks around 8,200'.

When we reached the large depression we continued up to the saddle and climbed the ridge to Bloody.

There's a use trail the entire way and it gives views of the two snow chutes that are popular Sierra Club climbs.

The view from the peak was spectacular even if the smoke did detract a small amount.  This is looking off to the south and the big one near the center is the steep snow route up Red Slate.

Looking down the drainage towards Laurel Lakes.  Laurel Mountain is near the center

The register only dated back to 2006 and had been left by Patty Kline.

Next up, Laurel!  We climbed the ridge you can see in the background of this shot despite a few people insisting it was too steep to be second class.

It went.  Ish.

Bloody looked damn impressive behind us the further away we got.

We thought we were alone up here but were surprised to find two people coming up the direct route from Convict Lake.

Looking down on Convict Lake from the top of Laurel Mountain
Lookup up at Laurel from the bottom

According to the climbers it was a bit loose and sketchy but not too bad.  

I looked on the way out and it didn't look as impossible once you were closer up.  I added that route to my bucket list.

Since the route up from the saddle didn't have much to recommend it we decided to descend the southeast ridge.  This seemed to go a little easier and drops you off at the eastern side of the depression.

The next morning we just had to hike out.  Other than the first 500 ish feet to climb out of Lake Genevieve it was *mostly* downhill.

This is where we'd tried to cross south of Lake Mildred.  The trail shown on some of the maps doesn't seem to exist anymore so I'd strongly recommend going around to the north.

Looking south ish across Mildred Lake

The crossing in Convict Canyon hadn't improved in the last few days and I ended up just wedging my boots under water in between a few slick but stable rocks and helping people across.  We did have one person who had a very heavy pack and insisted on trying to jump between two very slippery points which happens to be the closest I've ever been to yelling at someone during one of these trips.  Fortunately he avoided breaking a leg.  Barely...

The last bit to the parking lot feels like a very long walk.

One last look back at Convict Canyon

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