TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

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SNOOOOW
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TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by SNOOOOW » Mon Apr 20, 2020 6:14 pm

Middle Pal PANO.jpg
Finally made it out to South Fork of Big Pine Creek complete with a successful summit of Middle Palisade. Jackofall and I drove down to meet a buddy in Big Pine and do the cl.3 chute up to the summit of Middle Palisade. We drove down to Mammoth the day before to pick up our permit and to get a little acclimation. We drove to a buddies place and then the 3 of us headed up to Crystal Crag to hang out for the afternoon. Crystal Crag was a fun warm up and time killer. After a fun afternoon we headed into town for pizza and beers then called it a night.
Crystal Crag.jpg
Woke up early the next day and headed to Big Pine to meet Vinny who was driving up from So Cal. With a quick stop by great basin bakery for breakfast and cookies we met up at the trailhead parking and geared up. Vinny and I had been up North Fork a few times but this was everyone's 1st trip to South Fork. Early in the journey up south fork you get a great view of Middle Pal and Norman Clyde peak. If either of those are your objective they seem very, very far away. The trail up to Willow Lake and Brainerd is pretty straight forward, we were staying out for 2 nights so we had no reason to rush. Our goal for the day was to head up to the tarn west and above Finger Lake, ~11,270', and set up our camp. We saw nobody all day but did stumble upon a few tents on the NE corner of Finger Lake which would still make for a great jump off point if heading to Middle Palisade. After a little scramble up the hill we found our tarn or lake even as it is decent in size. Camp was set up in no time and we just relaxed the rest of the afternoon.
Glacier Red Rock & Cl.3 Chute.jpg
Middle Pal & Norman.jpg
Finger Lake.jpg
The next morning we were up early, maybe out of the tents around 545. We had our breakfast and coffee and loaded up our day packs and headed out. If you do a bit of research it's a no brainer as to how to get to your destination. The only "tricky" part is getting into the red rocks for the traverse into the cl.3 chute. When we were there the split in the glacier was very obvious and the approach to get to it was as obvious. A quick refill of water and we headed into the red rock area which isn't terrible but it is loose as reported. We moved slowly through 1 at a time with 0 problems. We stopped every so often to inspect the path in front of us or maybe the person who was ahead of you guided you to the best footings but the loose red stuff is very very short. Once thru and into the cl.3 chute it was just as advertised. Very solid and the fun begins. The 3 of us made it up the chute with 0 problems making sure to stay staggered apart in case we did knock some stuff down but we never really did. I think we topped out on the summit around 9:30am and had the summit to ourselves for a solid 75 minutes before somebody else finally showed up, another couple who was day hiking. In fact everyone else we ran into that day was day hiking Middle Pal, quite a task if you ask me. Once everyone else started showing up we left and headed back down the way we came up. We stayed another night at our camp and had fun relaxing around camp. It was a great cl.3 climb and I HIGHLY recommend to anyone interested in Sierra Summits to make sure you visit this 1. Day 3 we packed up and headed back down the trail to our cars. We said our goodbyes and everyone headed back to our home bases with amazing memories in our heads. Another amazing weekend in the High Country. Thanks for reading! :drinkers:
Down Chute Gendarme Split.jpg
Just Another Day.jpg
Start of Cl.3 chute.jpg
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Jim F
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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by Jim F » Fri Apr 24, 2020 9:57 am

SNOOOW,

Your TR/Photos were much appreciated.

You noted a predominance of day hikers. Having the advantage of some previous experience in the area, I attempted the day hike in early August 2005. Left my camp/car at the trailhead at 3:00 AM, reached the summit at 12:30, returned to the trailhead at 11:43 pm, enjoyed a beer, crawled into sleeping bag.

At the time, I saw the advantage of the day hike as twofold, given that the trip goal was entirely to get to the summit:

(1) No permit was required for a day hike for South Fork Big Pine Creek. (This is still the case.) In August getting an over night permit is competitive.

(2) Mid Pal's neighbor Norman Clyde warned in his writing that Mid Pal "is not recommended for novices." Indeed, there is a lot of terrain to cover between the glacier and the summit. Constant focus is deserved and there is not much in the way of natural shelter. That is, it is not the place to be in bad weather! So if you can find a day with a forecast of great weather/conditions, a day hike limits your exposure to the more predictable period of less than 24 hours.

Again, thanks for the interesting TR.

Jim

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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by SNOOOOW » Fri Apr 24, 2020 10:18 am

You are welcome Jim. For that particular trip/peak we only saw dayhikers the whole time. We did see that 1 camp around finger but never saw the people. I agree the whole permit situation for those popular trailheads is tough especially with a group but my buddy from so.cal only really gets 1 trip per year to chase after a big peak so we always reserve a permit the day they come available and lock it down. I day hike a lot of peaks but those big ones I usually end up staying at least 1 night. A lot of times I will hike in and camp, next day is summit day and hike out. As much as I like traveling light on day trips I really enjoy spending nights out in the high country so if I can, I will always just add a nights stay onto my peak. This summer maybe I will test my limits with a big crazy mission like yours to middle pal.
Thank You for the Norman Clyde quote, I really enjoy fun facts like that. The 2 people I was with that trip did not know who Norman Clyde was so I explained to them all that I knew about the legend. I named my dog Clyde also btw.
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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Apr 24, 2020 12:02 pm

There are also advantages of doing a basecamp. Perhaps I am "old school" or perhaps my preference is due to climbing many peaks in mountain ranges with less predictable weather than the Sierra. Here is my "method"- hike in leisurely the day before, to acclimate and get to bed early. Up 2-3 AM, approach by headlamp, on route by 6AM, down by noon or early afternoon and drive out same day as climb. This way you are the first on the route (nobody climbing above you to knock down rocks), beat the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms (Rockies), and have better snow conditions. If the route long or a technical climb, you then may spend the entire day on the climb and walk out the next day.

In the Pacific NW, you go into basecamp, regardless of weather. Then there may be a short window of good weather early next AM in which you can do the climb. Sometimes you have to just walk out next day without even starting the climb. In the Canadian ranges, we often would go in for several days, spend most the time waiting for good weather, and then going for it once the weather broke.

I actually was not that fond of Middle Palisade because there was too much junky rock. But it was beautiful. I liked your photos.

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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by Harlen » Fri Apr 24, 2020 4:26 pm

Hey Jon SNOOOW,

Thanks for the great TR, and fine photos. I expanded the panorama by clicking on it, and stared into it for long, happy minutes.
You write:
...much as I like traveling light on day trips I really enjoy spending nights out in the high country so if I can, I will always just add a nights stay onto my peak. This summer maybe I will test my limits with a big crazy mission like yours...
I feel the same, BTW, what peaks have you in mind for a "big, crazy mission?" Here are a few big, crazy ideas:

Mt. Sill via Scimitar Pass; Cathedral Peak by the easy western route; Mount Tom by the endless NE Ridge; Dragon Peak from Onion Valley...

Best of luck, Ian.

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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Apr 25, 2020 8:29 am

Mt. Williamson from George Creek! Everyone should have at least one experience going up George Creek to embrace your masochistic side.

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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by Gazelle » Sat Apr 25, 2020 8:08 pm

I like to day hike the “close ones” and go for a big backpack to enjoy the lakes and the peaks for the further out ones. I have a trip planned for 9 days ladder lake and wheel/ devils crags area this year, this will finalize my Ionian area last year...well other than a trip to Reinstein and all the ridge/finger etc...and well hermit ridge/emerald ridge/peter/mcgee! Dragon peak and the lake are awesome!

But I did Middle and Norman Clyde as day hikes. may do Sill and Palisade crest area as a backpack.

Kristine
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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by Harlen » Sun Apr 26, 2020 2:34 am

Gazelle writes:
But I did Middle and Norman Clyde as day hikes. may do Sill and Palisade crest area as a backpack.
Nice (long, hard) work on those two peaks as day hikes/climbs. Re. the Palisade crest, is that different than the Palisade Traverse?. And as for Mt. Sill, do you, and Jon too, like the idea of climbing via Scimitar Pass? Or do you intend to do the Swiss Arete, Glacier Notch, or ??? Never been up Sill, and I'd love to bag that famous view.
Jon, maybe we can attach a rope to Gazelle and be pulled up whatever she does?

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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:16 am

Swiss Arete is a wonderful route. I first climbed Mt Sill from Barrett Lakes; it was a bumbling affair of climbing the wrong peak (there was an old mason jar with a peak register inside confirming that I was on the wrong summit). Then I climbed every lump along the ridge until I came to the top of Mt Sill, met a party who had just done Swiss Arete, and they informed me that I finally got the right peak! Subsequently did Swiss Arete twice, and it was as good as those fellows told me.

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Re: TR: Middle Pal Sept 2019

Post by robertseeburger » Sun Apr 26, 2020 11:12 am

Harlen mentions climbing Mount Sill from Scimitar Pass. As far as I know I am the only one dumb enough to try that. I tried from a campsite below Elinor Lake. The going was difficult and I abandoned the effort before making Scimitar Pass just because my progress was too slow and I realized I wouldn't make it. The consolation prize for doing this was a great view of Norman Clyde Peak. I eventually got Sill from the west side. I am curious if someone has done Sill from Scimitar.

I remember watching some folks climbing the Swiss Arete from a climb of Mount Gayley. Our intent was to do Sill via the L couloir but a thunderstorm was brewing and we did a consolation prize of Mount Gayley, which possesses a great view of all the palisades. The thunderstorm came in and we got clobbered by it. I always wondered what happened to those poor souls on Swiss Arete.

Count me as someone who prefers to camp and climb from a basecamp rather than day hike.. too tired at the end of day hikes to enjoy..

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