I have read that fast and strong parties can climb this route in a day from the parking lot. Neither adjective applies to me anymore :) and the first time I'd been to the Palisades in 2005 I got altitude sickness at Gayley Camp (~12000'). So I was in the mood to take it slow and enjoy the scenery. Justin and I set out from San Jose early on Wednesday morning, arrived in Bishop in early afternoon to pick up our wilderness permit, and then headed down to Big Pine and Glacier Lodge (7800').
We started hiking around 4pm and made our way up the North Fork Big Pine trail. The forecast called for 20% chance of thunderstorms each day until Friday (our summit day), when it was supposed to rise to 30% pop. Ah well, we'd just see how things went.
About 3 hours later we arrived at First Lake (9950') and decided to just camp there. It was pleasant, aside from the very enthusiastic mosquitoes :)
We got going promptly in the morning, and hiked up past Second and Third Lakes, then hung a left on the Glacier Trail up to Sam Mack Meadow (11000').
We crossed the creek here and headed up the trail to the moraine. There were patches of snow here and there, pretty much standard stuff this time of year. We could see Mt. Sill, Gayley, North Pal slowly emerging ..
Great views of the lakes we'd passed, too -
We continued up for a while and then found some nice slabs at 12200' and made camp.
It was only about noonish, so we decided to head up to the glacier and see how things were. We traversed the Palisade Glacier to Glacier Notch, then up the loose second and third class to near Mt. Gayley and Sill.
We decided to scramble up Mt. Gayley via the Yellow Brick Road, a third class scramble that I'd done before in 2005. It was short & fun and gave nice views of our intended route.
Great views of Middle Pal and the South Fork too -
Things were clouding up, so we headed back down .. the snow was wet and sloppy. We got back into camp around 5pm rather beat, cooked dinner and turned in early.
Next morning dawned clear and not very cold, and we got moving around daybreak. We hadn't needed crampons the previous afternoon but decided to bring them on the early morning approach. The alpenglow was spectacular -
We traversed the glacier and headed up Glacier Notch again. The route looked great.
We traversed the L-shaped snowfield and scrambled up to a ledge in the lower left of the pic above. It seemed well-used, so I'm pretty sure it was the right place. The altitude here was at least 13000' so I was breathing hard :)
We got our gear together, radio check, and I cast off up the first pitch at 8:30am.
Some fun crack moves, and nice features to sling, but mostly pretty easy. I ran out to almost a full 60m and found a nice ledge with a horn for an anchor. Justin came up and cruised the next pitch. While the climbing was mostly pretty easy, the exposure and scenery were fantastic.
We could see the crux pitch looming overhead -
I'd read about people mistakenly heading left and up the 5.9 crack instead of going right to the step-around. Except for some rope drag it was not that bad, except for the fact that it was near 14000', kinda cold (being in the shade) and there was an ice axe & crampons strapped to my pack :) The steep hand crack was a lot of fun and I brought Justin up.
We swapped the last couple of pitches to the top.
Woohoo !! We gazed at the scenery and signed the summit register.
It was about 1pm. We could see some clouds off in the distance but nothing serious yet. Scrambling down we made a couple routefinding errors, but eventually found the rappel slings and the fourth class downclimb. We decided to just downclimb, since the ledges looked dry and not too hard.
The fourth class is short and the remainder of the scramble to the L-shaped couloir is third at most. Back down at the top of the snow I was happy to plunge step and glissade .. the snow was wet and sloppy. We headed down Glacier Notch again and made our way back to camp. I was pretty seriously dragging. It was almost 5, and we elected to stay one more night instead of trying to hike out.
Overnight the wind picked up but then died down. Saturday morning dawned a bit cloudy, and we got moving before 6am.
Things cleared up a bit on the way down though -
The intermittent clouds were nice on some of the more shadeless parts of the trail. We got back to Glacier Lodge before 10am and headed back to Bishop to have lunch -
The drive back through Tuolumne was fantastic .. paradise on earth. I soaked my feet in Tenaya Lake and marvelled at another summer climbing season.
6 trad draws (shoulder length)
2 double-length slings
Wild Country zeroes Z5 & Z6
Omega Pacific Link Cams 0.75 and 2
Wild Country tech friend 3.5
Wild Country rocks 1-8
60m x 8.3mm half rope
2 cordelettes (we belayed off rock horns the whole way, sometimes backed up with a small piece)
It was probably too much gear, but eh :)