Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008 | High Sierra Topix  

Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

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Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby Ranboze » Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:28 pm

Just in case I ever thought I was ready to give Middle Palisade a try, Ive been collecting route photos and TRs for over a year. Im data driven and like to know how to get from point A to point B, and Middle Pal sure seemed to have a lot of xc options. I felt I was ready this summer to give it a go. My first attempt in August was thwarted early on day 1 of a planned 2-day BP trip by altitude sickness in one of my companions. My friend Ben has been wanting to nail this bad boy, so I thought I’d give it a second shot last weekend. We allowed 3 days, but hoped for 2. I came carrying lots of paper… photos of the elusive glacier “step off” and ez class 3 route, TRs and emails.

Ben and I left the TH around 0945 on Saturday. I immediately noticed I was slower than normal… either just “one of those bad days” or just plain tired… either way, it took us 5 hours to get to Finger Lake. We discussed the bennies and downers of camping at Finger vs higher up, and because I have more endurance than I do ability to carry weight, especially uphill, I was hedging towards Finger. Ben was all in favor of that. We followed the trail all the way to Brainerd Lake, then skirted the NW shore to an obvious use trail heading west to Finger Lake where we made camp for the night. Earlier in the day we had met Mark, a solo hiker from the SF. We ended up camping near him (lots of people camped at FL on Saturday). He joined us for dinner and we discussed joining up as a team for the summit attempt in order to minimize risk of injury from rock fall. We were happy to have him along. We also met rock climbers Shu and Scott from the Bay area who were less than thrilled with the approach to their main objective.

On Sunday, we took the route west of Finger Lake. We ascended the ridge to the west of FL, at which point the route to the ridge separating the north and south glaciers was obvious. The glacier was hard as ice (hahahaha) and treacherous without crampons. Being late in the low-snow season, the glacier had separated from the mountain base, leaving a pretty wide gap and making the step off very challenging. The shrund was about 3-4 feet wide at the bottom and 5-6 feet wide at the glacier surface. Shu and Scott showed up as we were approaching the step off and proved to be invaluable in my getting up onto the “rock”. To get onto the mountain, we had to stand in the shrund and climb an exposed class 4 piece of granite for at least 10 vertical feet until there was a decent flat spot on which to stand. I got a few feet off the ground but couldn’t find a good handhold to go higher. Scott climbed over me as I was hanging on the wall, got above me, then pulled me up. I wondered how I was going to get down. Had it not been for Scott and Shu, we would not have made it off the glacier, so I thank them for the opportunity to taste MP’s east face. They decided to turn around because they had to drive 300 miles and didn't think they had enough time to summit, exit and drive. That step off was much more difficult than the first move from the notch to the Final 400 on Whitney – I did the latter all by myself with no snow on the ground.

We all made it up and followed the ledges to the class 3 chute to the left of the big gendarme. The route was very obvious from that point onward. The climb from the glacier to the summit is 1160 ft of exposed class 3 rock. Foot and hand holds were plentiful though. Ben was tired even before we made it to the mountain. I kept checking in on him and he wanted to keep going. But after 820 vertical feet, I felt we needed to make a critical decision. Mark did not have summit fever and was pleased with his efforts. The psychological impact this mountain imparts to someone who prefers terra firma is impressive. The sustained climbing and steepness started to get to me too. Talk about self-management and the need to control one’s fears. Even I was starting to get a little uneasy and realized I didn’t have anyone to “push” me. It was time to turn around. So, 340 vertical feet from the summit, we retreated.

I was getting pretty worried about getting off the "rock" and onto the glacier. Mark went first and got to a flat platform about 8-9 ft above ground then jumped over to the side of the glacier, clinging to the top to prevent falling into the shrund. Although I considered than an option, I wasn't confident in my arm strength. Mark offered to give me a foot hold, so I scooted to that same platform, then turned around to downclimb. I put my left foot into his hands which were stretched high above his head. I may have gotten a right foot hold, but I coudn't get a hand hold. I ended up dropping... ok, falling off the rock. By some miracle, I landed firmly on both feet on even surface and then my butt, all in the shrund. We all made it back to camp around 5:30... 11 hours, no summit . Ben and I decided to walk out so repacked our packs and bid farewell to Mark. We got back to our cars at 10pm.

This is a huge mountain, in all sense of the word. Although the mileage is nominal, it is just hard work. From Brainerd Lake onward, it is all cross country and most of it over talus and glacial morraine - tiring on the body. This one sure earned my respect. Despite missing out on the summit, I am pleased with my decision and effort. Maybe we'll meet again another time.

Photos are here
Walking outside is where I find what's inside.



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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby freestone » Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:37 pm

Thank you for the wonderful trip report. The pictures do complete justice to the stark beauty and steepness of that area. I suspect you will score on your next attempt!
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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby Snow Nymph » Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:34 pm

You'll get it next time! Sounds like you did your homework on the route. You made a good decision to get Ben down. Would have been a bummer if he bonked (or worse) up there! Safety first! There's always next year. Good detailed photos! thanks!
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby tomcat_rc » Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:36 pm

Hi Robin -
Congradulations on getting back into the Palasades region again. There can be no bad hikes there. Your pictures captured the awsome beauty of the area. Next time you will be screaming from atop the peak. See you soon - Tom
mountain hiking is addictive:
I can quit anytime I want - I just choose not to want
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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby Trailtrekker06 » Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:10 pm

Wow Robin! Congrats on your amazing efforts. The photos were spectacular- very helpful for anyone attempting this climb. Like Cori said, smart move turning around. That is sometimes alot harder than continuing, but always safer under those circumstances. Very glad your fall was not life or limb threatening....whew!
Congrats again!
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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby quentinc » Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:10 pm

Gosh, what a terrific report. Reading it, I almost felt like I was there with you.

Middle Pal is one I've been dying to do. But after your bergschrund story, maybe too literally? :) Perhaps I'll wait till next year and do it earlier in the season.
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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby Ranboze » Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:36 pm

Thanx everyone. It's always nice to have encouragement even if a summit was not attained. Success is a journey, not a destination.
Walking outside is where I find what's inside.
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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby ridgeline » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:15 pm

Great trip report, please put me on your call list the next time you try this one!
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Re: Middle Palisade Recon 09/13-14/2008

Postby Ranboze » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:32 pm

ridgeline wrote:Great trip report, please put me on your call list the next time you try this one!

Yahoo... you got it!!!
Walking outside is where I find what's inside.
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