The Sierra is home to some of the great gully ice climbs in the lower 48. Come summer and fall, last winter’s snow is transformed by freeze/thaw cycles into the coveted Sierra ice. These climbs range in angle from a moderate 40 degrees to 70-degree calf-burners. Some are only several pitches long but others are up to fifteen hundred feet in length and are all day climbs.

One Day Ice Climbs

North Peak — Introductory
This is an ideal introduction to the pleasures of steeper snow and ice climbing and with the benefit of a short approach. There are three gullies on the north side of North Peak. Our choice is about six pitches long and up to about 50 degrees in steepness. A short rock scramble takes us to the summit, and an easy descent leads us back to the cars.
Trip length: 1 day | Physical Difficulty: Strenuous

Two Day Ice Climbs

Dana Couloir — Introductory
This is also a good introduction to Sierra snow and ice. About 1,200 feet long, it often offers snow and ice climbing on 45-degree slopes. The special features of this area include the spectacular colors of the metamorphic rocks and an incredible view of the Yosemite high country from the summit.
Trip length: 2 days, 1 night | Physical Difficulty: Strenuous

Three Day Ice Climbs

Mt. Thompson — Intermediate
This is slightly more difficult than Mount Dana, but also shorter. We have three couloirs to choose from and which one depends upon conditions. Partner this with Gilbert for a three day outing on our Alpine Ice Climbing Seminar.
Trip length: 3 days, 2 nights | Physical Difficulty: Strenuous

Mt. Gilbert — Intermediate
This little-known route has become one of our favorite fall ice climbs over the last few years. The approach from South Lake is reasonably short, the gully 1,500 feet long and up to 65 degrees steep before it ends a rock pitch below the summit. A great view of the headwaters of Kings Canyon rounds out the climb.
Trip length: 3 days, 2 nights | Physical Difficulty: Strenuous

U-Notch and V-Notch — Intermediate
These are the two most well known gully climbs in the Sierra. Mainly snow climbs in early season, they turn to ice by fall and offer great challenges. The U-Notch of North Palisade (14,242 feet) averages 45 degrees for eight pitches, two steep rock pitches then lead to the summit. The V-Notch is a little steeper, especially near the top. On both routes the crux can often be crossing the large crevasse at the start of the routes, which in some years can completely block access.
Trip length: 3 days, 2 nights | Physical Difficulty: Strenuous

The Mendel Couloirs — Intermediate and Advanced
Mendel Right is the classic Sierra ice route – legend has it that Chouinard invented the curved pick on this climb. The route follows a 60-degree couloir with a final rock pitch to the summit. Mendel Left is the most difficult of local gully climbs and is also known as Ice Nine. The lower sections can often be technical rock, but higher up it turns into a narrow twisting gully, inclined at up to 80 degrees and often little more then two feet wide. Following a winter with plenty of snow September is the prime time for these routes but in drier years July and August are best.
Trip length: 3 days, 2 nights | Physical Difficulty: Strenuous