After much anticipation the snow is rapidly melting and the (warm-weathered) alpine season is now in full swing. This past weekend I brought Jascha along to revisit two favorite routes, the NE Gully of Laurel Mt and the W Chute of Cloudripper. I have fond memories of my last visit to Laurel with Dave and Matt, Dave's first alpine experience, which resulted in this. Dave and Naomi are recent proud parents, so Dave's ADP (Alpine Development Program) is on hold for the near term. No matter because my newest student, Jascha, is progressing along quite well.
Conditions on Laurel were decent, given the recent melt-off. Not surprisingly the gullies were wet and the slabs were covered with silt. The various route options made this only a minor inconvenience. The scree descent was slightly more palatable by the fact it wasn't blazing hot (thanks to our mid-day start). Once back on the Convict Lake trail we encountered a snake that I had not seen before in the wild, which we later confirmed to be a rubber boa. Although the literature reports is as being incredibly docile we suspected that it was injured due to its inability to move the lower third of its body. Jascha moved it off the trail, and we let natural selection prevail.
Sunday we headed out from the S Lake to do Cloudripper, which we had planned to do the previous weekend before detouring to Hurd. There was little information on the W Chute in Secor's The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, summitpost (I later remedied this), or the various other internet alpine resources, so I hoped my memory from our 2004 trip would provide some enlightenment. From the Chocolate Lakes we identified an obvious route, which upon closer inspection of the upper slabs I could see was the same as from my previous trip. We headed up the chute and just as I remembered the granite was solid and there were a number of options for bumping up the Class 3 rating. On the summit the lighting wasn't so ideal for views/photos of the Palisades, but I did notice that the bergschrund was quite sizable.
We headed north down the talus slopes toward Green Lake hoping to catch the aqueduct. Unfortunately, I could not remember where we caught the aqueduct four years ago, only that it crossed the trail several times. We looked at the topo and decided to contour cross-country southwest after Brown Lake to shorten the distance. I figured we would be able to use the dam on S Lake as a landmark for the parking area. After following a series of faint animal trails we hit the aqueduct, which we followed (in the dark) until I noticed that we were about to pass the dam. We cut through the trees, hitting the road ~0.2 miles from my car (pretty good route finding IMHO).
Off to Tuolumne tomorrow for a solo trek up Cathedral after my Venusian Blind plans got postponed due to Miguel's cold.