This is a climb of Mt. Gilbert’s Engram Couloir as told by Kurt Wedberg.
Tom Sakowych came to use a few years ago with an interest in completing the SPS list of peaks. The Sierra Peaks Section of the Sierra Club created this list in 1955 as a representation of what they believed are a good sampling of peaks in this great mountain range. The original list had 100 peaks. Many have since been added and the current list encompasses 248 mountains. Some are relatively straightforward hikes to their summits while others require knowledge and expertise in a wide range of technical mountaineering skills to safely climb them.
Mt. Gilbert at 13,106’/3995m is located along the Thompson Ridge just north of Bishop Pass and is rightfully included in the SPS list. It is a lofty summit that offers spectacular views of the Sierra from all sides. From looking west into LeConte Canyon in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, to the south where many of the California 14ers are on display one gets a real sense of the majesty of all the Sierra has to offer. If all of this isn’t enough Mt. Gilbert has a steep couloir on its north side that offers a real mountaineering challenge. This 900’/274m snow/ice route is called the Engram Couloir.
Mt. Gilbert is typically climbed in one day from the South Lake parking lot. Leaving before morning light hit the trail we began navigating by headlamps up the Bishop Pass trail then turned right onto the Treasure Lakes trail. Crossing a couple swollen creeks we then climbed a steep hillside decorated with pine trees and granite slabs. This landscape eventually gave way to snow that was still hanging on from our heavy winter. Donning crampons and ice axes we traversed into the Thompson Ridge basin and angled across the snowy terrain to the base of the Gilbert Couloir.
Climbing into the couloir the terrain continued to get steeper eventually reaching close to 50 degrees near the top. Conditions allowed for the perfect kicking of steps up the route. As we gained altitude the views became increasingly spectacular. Topping out on the couloir we immediately had a bird’s eye view into upper LeConte Canyon. Leaving our crampons and ice axes here we turned south and climbed a couple pitches of steep 3rd/4th class rock to the summit of Mt. Gilbert.
After enjoying the view and some well-earned summit photos we retraced our steps back down the way we came. Back to the cars by 5pm another stellar day in the mountains with superb weather in spectacular alpine terrain with great companionship. Thanks Tom for another great climb!!
A few pictures are below. The entire photo gallery can be found here: Mt. Gilbert’s Engram Couloir July 7, 2011.