Swiss Arete 5.7

 
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Mt. Sill


High Sierra, California USA


Trip Report
Swiss ArÍte-Living the Dream
Monday March 7, 2011 2:09am
Mt. Sill seen from Mt. Robinson
Mt. Sill seen from Mt. Robinson
Credit: Vitaliy M.

First time I came across Swiss ArÍte (III 5.7) as a possible route to the top of Mt. Sill (14,153 ft / 4314 m) I fell in love. I fell in love with the amazing line that follows an impressive arÍte, and ends on the actual summit of this stunning CA 14er. There was only one problem at the time- it was May of 2010, and I had no experience with climbing trad, or climbing any 5th class routes outside my local gym. Swiss ArÍte was only a dream, a route I thought was possible some time in the future, maybe in two years, maybe in three. A route I had to work hard to complete. Outing that would require planning, confidence in climbing multi-pitch trad in an alpine environment, and ability to haul plenty of gear in (19 mile round trip with close to 7,000 feet of elevation gain) and out- all at high altitude.

The summer approached, and I started climbing outside. Climbed two to three times a week in the gym, got out for some awesome Sierra scrambling during weekends, and worked my way up to following 5.8s at Lovers Leap. Back in May I had no idea I would have a chance to get out so much. Every outing I treated as a way to prepare myself for my next goal. First multi-pitch alpine climb I experienced was not too far off in the future, and was located only a couple of miles away. I had an opportunity to check out the impressive arÍte in person-before climbing Northwest ridge of Thunderbolt Peak (5.5 w/ 5.9 summit block). The alpine glow on the arÍte that day was fantastic-- Sill dominated other Palisades on the ridge. I was hooked! After completing 2010 Sierra Challenge (http://www.snwburd.com/bob/challenge/2010/); I felt physically prepared, and added a couple of other alpine trad climbs to my resume before setting a date for another adventure in the Palisades.

Beauty
Beauty
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Palisades panorama from Sky Heaven pk

The trail-head starts at Glacier Lodge, at elevation of about 8,000ft. We started our hike up North Fork of Big Pine Creek at 10:30am. Since most of my summer outings were long day-hikes, I was not excited about hauling overnight gear, rope, climbing rack, crampons, ice axe, stove, food, and a load of other crap. Day-hikes had me spoiled. Nonetheless, Bryan and I were making decent time. The day was truly perfect for a hike. It was not too hot, but sunny. On the way to Sam Mack meadow we passed scenic lakes # 1-# 3 and enjoyed a great view towards Temple Crag.

Temple Crag
Temple Crag
Credit: Vitaliy M.
View of Temple Crag on the approach


A bit past Temple Crag the trail crosses a creek and ascends up to Sam Mack meadow-popular place to camp for most climbers. However, we wanted to make our summit day a bit easier and set our camp 1,000 feet higher. From Sam Mack we took a trail leading up to the glacier. This trail is well maintained and easy to follow for the first part. After that the trail grows into endless field of boulders, with the way marked by "ducks."

To make our life easier we decided to camp at the lake which is located at the base of the Palisade glacier (12,200ft). This lake would give us the opportunity to have a water supply directly next to our camp and some classic views to enjoy. We reached our destination at around 3:30pm. Ice-filled glacier lake looked awesome, especially with five CA 14ers rising two thousand feet above it. Bryan and I got some good rest and re-hydration during the remaining hours of light, than crawled into our sleeping bags, and attempted to sleep.

Sill, Polemonium, N. Palisade, and Starlight-our view from camp
Sill, Polemonium, N. Palisade, and Starlight-our view from camp
Credit: Vitaliy M.
CA 14ers are towering around us


We left our tent about an hour before sunrise and made our way up and over a huge amount of boulders. Navigating through these at night wasn't pleasant, but by dawn we reached the snow field which led us up to the Glacier Notch. Moving through the snow field was uneventful. The only highlight of the approach was the alpine-glow which lit up the Palisades during sunrise. The supposedly class 3 chute up Glacier Notch was straight forward- steep scree scramble. Way up was clear, and at times even marked with ducks. After we got over the saddle there was another surprise-Bryan was extremely short of breath. I passed him some of my snacks/water as he rested. After about fifteen minutes of rest he said he was ok, and we continued towards the arÍte which was five minute walk away. At this point I was nervous for Bryan, and thought about turning back down due to the symptoms he exhibited. However, we crossed the L shaped couloir, and at last were gearing up at the base of the climb.


Thunderbolt-sunrise
Thunderbolt-sunrise
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Sunrise-on the approach

As we organized our protection and flaked the rope the party of four arrived. They turned out to be guides in training, with a leader guide. Their leader confirmed that we were at the base of the route. Bryan looked better, but after asking him if he does feel better he asked me to lead a "few" pitches. I decided that bailing off the arÍte would be relatively easy if we had too (brought enough webbing and rap rings), and started climbing, keeping close to the center of the ArÍte. Climbing wasn't hard- low 5th class. Protection possibilities were there, but I did not place much due to relatively easy climbing. As I moved higher exposure picked up, and arÍte got steeper. I had to well-protect couple of exposed traverses during second pitch, and finally climbing became surprisingly fun. As I set up my second belay station I noticed both groups moving up closer to L shaped couloir (northwest) on 3rd/easy 4th class terrain. They were simul-climbing, their pace was obviously faster, even though surprisingly not by much. Due to rope drag I was not able to climb full pitches, and it took me four pitches to get to the harder section of the climb. The "guides" were already there and one of them started his lead up the arÍte. As I brought Bryan up we didn't like the picture. Guys in front of us were taking their time, and the wind added to our suffer.

Bryan climbing up the Arete
Bryan climbing up the Arete
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Bryan climbing up to the big ledge

After freezing our butts off for an hour and a half we finally were able to start climbing. Bryan felt better and took the next pitch. The pitch before "step around" move was steep, but climbing was not difficult (5.6 or so), offered good stances, and nice cracks for placements as well. If it wasn't so windy we would have enjoyed this exposed section a lot more!

Looking up 5.6 pitch
Looking up 5.6 pitch
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Next pitch featured the 'step around move'-one of the highlights of Swiss ArÍte. Right before the steep opened book the climber traverses right, and to the base of a short, but steep crack. This traverse has serious exposure, and features a VERY long step around a corner. I made sure to stay there for an extra second to take in the views and enjoy the moment. After the "step around," and another obvious climb up a crack system I was at the belay station.

Looking down the Swiss Arete after climbing it..
Looking down the Swiss Arete after climbing it..
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Looking down towards Arete, above the crux


From this huge ledge according to most people it is 4th to easy 5th class to the summit. Bryan and I packed the rope, and decided to climb this section unroped. After climbing for about half a pitch we caught up to the guides- they were protecting these pitches. Another pitch of unroped climbing and we were at a spot with some serious exposure and a short, but vertical crack to get over. After trying to find a better way without descending Bryan decided to climb over it. I decided to skip the Russian roulette, and asked for a belay. After quickly managing over this steep crack there was another short section of formal climbing and we were finally on the true Summit!

View towards N. Palisade from the summit
View towards N. Palisade from the summit
Credit: Vitaliy M.

Fantastic views towards North Palisade, and Norman Clyde peak are unforgettable. No questions to why Peter Croft included this route as one of his 40 favorite high Sierra Classics. Even wildest dreams come true when amount of work you put in matches the desire to succeed!

Mt. Sill-summit
Mt. Sill-summit
Credit: Vitaliy M.

After the climb we made it back to our camp, packed it up, and were back at Glacier Lodge trail-head at about 10:30pm. Road back to the Bay Area led through Sacramento (Bryan's residence). Travel through the night ended back in San Francisco at 6:30am on Monday- I had to be at work in an hour. Just another enjoyable weekend in Sierra!

  Trip Report Views: 3,601
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

Comments
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Brian Biega

climber
Truckee, CA
  Mar 7, 2011 - 02:20am PT
Great report and ascent. Way to go!

And awesome shot of the "Palisades panorama from Sky Heaven pk"...

Thanks for sharing.

Cheers, Brian

mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Mar 7, 2011 - 02:23am PT
That is a great trip report! Nice job and good write up. You need to talk to that dude that needs a sport climing rack.
stilltrying

Trad climber
washington indiana
  Mar 7, 2011 - 09:51am PT
Great work. I was skirting along the edge of the glacier and rock a few years back approaching the rock to do this climb when my worst fears came true. My two partners suddenly were a couple hundred yards back and I could tell by their body language they were backing out of the climb. Very disappointed and wish I had just climbed it alone. Two years before that I had climbed North Pal from the Dusy Basin side and it was beautiful and I really wanted to climb to the top from the other side. That was my last trip up high as my heart issues began a year later. Maybe someday I will be the first pacemaker/ICD dependent climber to do it :) Great report and way to follow your dreams.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Mar 7, 2011 - 12:05pm PT
Nice pics, way to go!
Thanks!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Mar 7, 2011 - 12:12pm PT
Well done man. One of the proud lines of the High Sierra. Thanks for sharing!
Buju

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Mar 7, 2011 - 01:45pm PT
Great work! Congratulations on realizing the dream!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Mar 7, 2011 - 01:46pm PT
Great description -- I can follow it in my mind's eye. And I love hearing your caution and boldness going back and forth with each other. That doesn't stop, you know -- it just plays out on bigger climbs.
murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
  Mar 7, 2011 - 01:51pm PT
Nice TR!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 7, 2011 - 02:01pm PT
Good work, and good trip report. It was just what I needed to see to brighten a cloudy day.

thanks again.

John
thetennisguy

Mountain climber
Yuba City, CA
  Mar 7, 2011 - 02:20pm PT
Thanks Vitaly! This was wonderful! Congratulations!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Mar 7, 2011 - 03:12pm PT
(from the 'add a caption to the image' game...


"And I love hearing your caution and boldness going back and forth with each other. That doesn't stop, you know -- it just plays out on bigger climbs. "

DMT
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Mar 7, 2011 - 04:03pm PT
Great stuff :)
Papillon Rendre

Social climber
  Mar 8, 2011 - 12:20am PT
Beautiful photographs and a terrific trip report!

-PR
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Mar 8, 2011 - 12:22am PT
Way to go- love makes everything possible, doesn't it.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  Mar 8, 2011 - 02:45am PT
Nice climb, good report.

I called in sick on Monday am...

screw all that all nite driving.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Mar 8, 2011 - 11:28am PT
Guys I am very glad you enjoyed it. People here seem to be very nice with their comments!

PS: can't miss out on work, need to buy more gear : )
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Mar 8, 2011 - 11:30am PT
'Stilltrying' I know exactly what you are talking about. At times even pre trip body language shows that eventually the person will flake. Good luck to you in future, tough task..
Zander

climber
  Mar 8, 2011 - 03:17pm PT
Great trip report. Good job on the climb.
Thanks for posting.
Zander
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Mar 8, 2011 - 03:53pm PT
Awesome climbing bump!!!
Bad Climber

climber
  Mar 8, 2011 - 04:41pm PT
Nicely done. It won't be long before you are racking up at the base of Sun Ribbon Arete, one of my favorite Sierra routes. For my taste, however, I think the S. Face of Clyde Minaret is one of the best! Go do it.

BAd
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
  Mar 8, 2011 - 04:50pm PT
nice job.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Mar 8, 2011 - 04:52pm PT
awesomeness
neversummer

climber
30 mins. from suicide USA
  Mar 8, 2011 - 05:01pm PT
i gotta do that one...nice job !!
srathbun

Gym climber
Mount Shasta
  Mar 10, 2011 - 12:35pm PT
Nice work V
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Mar 10, 2011 - 04:01pm PT
"Nicely done. It won't be long before you are racking up at the base of Sun Ribbon Arete, one of my favorite Sierra routes. For my taste, however, I think the S. Face of Clyde Minaret"
Bad climber, I HOPE this day comes, the sooner the better! Those two routes look beautiful!
seneca

climber
jamais, jamais pays
  Mar 14, 2011 - 09:40pm PT
Inspiring trip report. This is one of those "one of these days" routes.

I will have to move it up to "one of these days this summer"

Thanks
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Mt. Sill - Swiss Arete 5.7 - High Sierra, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Photo: Ryan Crochiere