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LeConte Route, North Palisade

Posted: Mon Apr 20, 2020 9:53 am
by Wandering Daisy
Someone asked me about this route. I did this in 2005 and do not remember many details and failed to label my photos, so am not sure all my captions are correct. We came in from South Lake, over Thunderbolt Pass, climbed North Palisade, then went out via Knapsack Pass. We camped above Barrett Lakes to have a shorter approach. I also do not remember exact dates, but it was still quite snowy so I think it was early season. I took two fellows up the route who had completed all the California high points, except this one. To assure that we made it, we took crampons, double thinner 8mm? ropes and plenty of gear. We climbed the wall (about 5.2) left of the chock stone as well as rappelled down it. I was not sure of their rock climbing skills so I took the double ropes so we could simul-climb if needed, but I do not think we actually did this. I do not recall it being particularly difficult but it took all day. Although it is rated Class 4, remember that when first done, before the Yosemite rating system, everything up to about 5.6 was called "class 4". A lot of those old routes still cling to the older rating. I always take rope and gear on a class 4 climb, just in case. One fellow had rock shoes, I just had sticky rubber approach shoes.

Anyone else who has done this route, please add comments! Particularly if I drew the route line correctly on the first photo.

Some of the photos were taken by one of the fellows.
3-Thunderbolt Pass.jpg
6-Snow below chockstone.jpg
8-scambling up gully.jpg
7-rope up.jpg
9-views from near top.jpg
12-rappel chockstone.jpg

Re: LeConte Route, North Palisade

Posted: Wed Apr 22, 2020 7:39 pm
by Jim F
Hi Wandering Daisy,

I do not think the first photo (labelled "Le Conte Route ??") has anything to do with climbing North Pal from the west. That is, this is not the chute heading up to the U Notch.

Excuse my fading memory, but possibly this is the next chute as one heads towards Potluck Pass.

I did the Le Conte route years ago and some other stuff in the area and will try to find some old notes.


Re: LeConte Route, North Palisade

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:54 am
by Jim F
As a follow-up of my post yesterday:

This morning I located some notes for a hike which included some old Kodachrome prints. My photos included the chute in the photo "LeConte Route ??" and confirmed the location I suspected.

The notes include some historical background. From his camp in the Palisades Basin, on July 24, 1903 LeConte and his partners climbed Mt Sill (first ascent) by the Southwest Chutes. From the summit of Sill, they saw the nearby summit of North Palisades. A first ascent of North Palisades had been an elusive key objective of theirs for a number of years. They did not risk down climbing into the U Notch and then back up to reach North Palisades. Disheartened (but not ready to throw in the towel), they returned to camp in the Palisades Basin.

The next day (July 25), LeConte gave North Palisades one final attempt for the season. He located the west side chute leading up to the U Notch. He now knew he could not get to the North Palisades summit from the U Notch (too risky to climb the chimney route), so he looked for a way to leave the chute to the left. Roughly half the way up the chute, his team discovered the "catwalk" and the rest his history.

Returning to my outing. Early in the day I climbed Sill by the Southwest Chutes from camp in the Polemonium Bowl at the foot of the Polemonium Glacier. Then after descending back to camp (and packed gear), went up the ridge directly SW of the Bowl and descended into the Palisades Basin just NW of Potluck Pass. From there I headed NW along roughly the 12400' contour. My photos show that on my right I soon came across the chute labelled "LeConte Route ??" Still heading in the same direction, not long thereafter on my right was the chute the LeConte group took up toward the U notch.

What awesome country in that area!

Hope that this summer works out well for HST members.


Re: LeConte Route, North Palisade

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:53 am
by Wandering Daisy
Yes, that line probably is wrong on the photo. I do remember, now that you mentioned it, that we started up on the west U-notch gully. What did you think of the chock stone when you did the route? I remember that the "catwalk" was exposed but pretty wide with a few places where you had to step over an obstacle to continue on the ledge.

Re: LeConte Route, North Palisade

Posted: Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:01 pm
by Jim F
Wandering Daisy,

I do not recall the chock stone, but do recall the catwalk. Locating the catwalk is crucial on the route and I took a picture of the start of it. Indeed, it is exposed. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago a fellow from Vacaville fell off it to his death. I did not know if there was a friction problem (gravel, rain, ice, snow,...), or perhaps he was distracted (by group members, "selfies",...).

Professor LeConte ("Little Joe"), a native-born Californian, was a remarkable man. The catwalk is concealed fairly well. His finding it and continuing past it is testimony to his strength and persistence. He retired from the Mechanical Engineering Department at UC Berkeley a few years before my Dad received his PhD from that Department. Unfortunately, apparently my Dad never had the privilege of talking to Professor LeConte.


PS-Thank you for sharing your photos of this iconic route.