Mount Mendel, while a worthy objective by any route, is primarily known for having two of the hardest ice climbs in the High Sierra on its North Face. The left hand gully is known as Ice Nine ( IV,5.7, WI 3-4 ) and features 1000' + of climbing including ice up to 75 degrees. The classic right hand Mendel Couloir ( III, 5.6, AI2 or WI3 ) features 1000' + of ice climbing to 60 + degrees. The right couloir is a " 100 Classics " must do route for the High Sierra ice climber.
Other routes include -
The Southwest Face - class 3 from Evolution Lake.
The Central Chute - class 4 from the lower end of Evolution Lake.
The Northeast Ridge - class 4 ( current opinion of those SP members who have actually climbed it ).
The East Face - class 3 ( lots of loose rock ).
See one of the climbers guides under books for more detailed information.
The usual trail is the Lamarck Col cross country trail. From the North Lake trail head, follow the Lamarck Lakes trail to where it crosses the stream between Lower and Upper Lamarck Lakes. Head southwest and follow the faint trail to Lamack Col ( 12,960' ). More detailed hiking info can be found in the R. J. Secor guide. The North Lake Pack Station is also available to haul packs to near the top of Lamarck Col ( 760 - 873 - 4785 ).
The maps needed are the Mt. Darwin and Mt. Thompson 7.5 minute USGS maps.
Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping. There is a wilderness permit quota in effect from May 1st to November 1st. 60% of the wilderness permit quota is advance reservation ( $5.00 per person ) and 40% is available on a walk in first come first serve basis ( free ). See the Inyo National Forest website at http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo for the most current information.
Inyo National Forest - Wilderness Permit Office - 873 North Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514
Reservation Line - 760 - 873 - 2483
Wilderness Permit Fax Line 760 - 873 - 2484
Wilderness Information - 760 - 873 - 2485
When To Climb
For the ice routes, the best time to climb is probably August - October ( will vary due to seasonal snow fall ). For other routes, June - September.
There is excellent camping in upper Darwin Canyon. Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping - see Red Tape section above.
For general conditions and weather, see the Inyo national Forest website at http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/inyo/