This route is the direct variation of the normal route
which involves substantially steeper couloir climbing, very likely encounter of hard water ice in late season, and a 5.4 rock head wall to reach the summit ridge. The 1000 ft North Couloir on Abbot is a great fall climb, is easily approachable from the Mosquito Flat trailhead (10,300 ft), and could be easily paired with other ice climbs (NE Couloir
or N. Face
for example) up the east and north sides of Mount Dade for a multi-day ice climbing outing. This line was first climbed by John Moynier in August of 1984 and from the evidence in Abbot's summit register has seen few repeated ascents.
The approach is easy compared to most of the others in the high Sierra. Parking at the Mosquito Flat trailhead, one can either approach from the Mono Pass or the Treasure Lakes trail. The former is shorter and more direct while the later is arguably more scenic. Gain the large snow field which stretches from the base of the north face of Dade to the bottom of the east side of Mills and traverse over to the base of the North Couloir. If approaching from Mono Pass the N. Couloir is obvious running diagonally up the side of Abbot yet if coming up from Treasure Lakes one must walk just under it before it is visible.
Climb the couloir. The wide mouth at the base of the couloir is shallowly sloped and one will pass the exit for the sandy slopes of the normal route
on the climbers right.
As one ascends the couloir, it becomes progressively steeper approaching ~50 degrees. During late season/fall one will likely encounter hard neve and water ice on route.
During September of 2006, nice neve was found from the base of the couloir which became increasing more dense as one climbed higher until water ice was found formed in the last part of the couloir.
At the top of the snow/ice section of the couloir, a rock headwall is found. This section is quite steep and there are no prominent ledges on which one can safely take off crampons. Unless one builds an anchor and ties in, it may be safest to climb the class 5 rock with crampons to avoid risking trying to take them off without falling down the 1000 ft couloir; at least one summit entry describes climbing the rock with crampons on (made by SPer bobpickering
; see picture below). Climb over the rocks veering left until entering a wide chimney. Climb the right wall of the chimney and then up over some steep rocks (crux) to the summit ridge. Continue to the summit and descend the normal route.
Two tools, crampons and a helmet are necessary although if one attempts in spring or summer when there is no ice on route one may get by with just a mountaineering axe. Although this author climbed the 5.4 rock solo, it was very sketchy (read: scary) taking off crampons on a small 1 ft by 1 ft ledge surrounded by steep ice; thus ice screws for anchor building would be suitable along with a rope for the rock pitch. If soloing in water ice condition, be prepared to climb 5.4 (or harder) rock in crampons.
Bob Pickering signs the summit register mentioning he climbs the rock with crampons
note on naming
This route as mentioned is a variation of the class 3 normal route
which is labeled on SP as the "Northeast Couloir". In both Secor's and Moynier's book, this route is consistently referred to the North Couloir; thus is why it is termed such in this route description page.