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Cirque Pass

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Re: Cirque Pass page

Postby Ska-T » Wed Dec 16, 2015 2:29 pm

For me, the crux of Cirque Pass, starting out from near the outlet of the lower of the Palisade Lakes, is the area not too far above the lake where one may be forced to decide between a circuitous route to avoid bushwhacking or a direct route that is likely to include a brief class 2-3 scramble. Finding a way down from Cirque Pass to Lake 11,672 ft (3558 m) is interesting, but not health threatening if one has patience. I haven't tried the far left or far right routes.

In 1979 I soloed Mt Sill from Barrett Lakes. I was surprised when I encountered Potluck Pass, and did not recall seeing it on my old Mt Goddard 15' quad. Looking down the pass there didn't appear to be a particularly tasty way down so I picked from the dishes on the table (pot luck). The length and rigidity of the aluminum frame of my nearly empty Kelty pack made things more difficult than they had to be to descend class 3 rock.

Recently I was pleased to find out why Potluck Pass is not mentioned by Francis P. Farquhar in his 1926 book, "Place Names of the High Sierra"; to confirm my suspicion for why the pass was named Potluck; and to discover why the existence of the pass surprised me that day.

--from Sierra Nevada Place Names (2011) by Peter Browning
"Apparently named in 1927; perhaps because there is no obvious route down the southeast side, and one has to take pot luck in making the descent." (Letter, Thomas H. Jukes to Farquhar, Aug. 30, 1939.) It was added to the map by the USGS because of its use in The Climber's Guide. The pass is not named on the Mt. Goddard 15' quad.

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Re: Cirque Pass

Postby acvdmlac » Sat Jul 09, 2016 4:43 pm

My advice for any non-climbers planning to traverse this pass for the first time (especially if carrying a full pack), is to allow LOTS of time for scouting and route-finding to avoid the slippery Class 3 slabs that we encountered (details below). I advise against counting on the Google-Earth-based route speculation from those who haven’t traversed this pass in person.

We ascended Cirque Pass from the the north, from the outlet of Lake 11,676. Both north and south sides seemed less steep than Chimney, mostly easy Class 1-2 slab, ledge and bench systems, with the following exceptions:
--There were narrow choke-points on either side of the summit for which we used both hands dynamically but briefly and without exposure, that might have been avoided with patient route-finding.
--The final descent to the tarn just west of Lower Palisade Lake was more challenging Class 2-3. The day before I had scouted from below, looking for the supposed Class 2 route to the west of the tarn, but all I found were transverse (east-west) gullies choked with huge talus, over which one could reach a very steep cliff, without an obvious Class 2 or even Class 3 route. It looked essentially the same when descending from above, so we found ourselves heading down steep, wet and grassy slabs, that we descended mostly by slowing our butt-slides with our feet, due to the lack of good foot- or hand-holds and the crumbly nature of the available flakes. The ledge I slid down for about 20-30 feet narrowed at one point to about 6 feet wide, which, although it was not outward-tilting, felt significantly slippery, and very exposed during the 5 minutes I spent there repairing a day-pack chest strap which had chosen this convenient moment to detach itself from the shoulder strap. A fall at this point would most definitely have been fatal. I personally wouldn’t have wanted to take a full pack through this Class 3+ crux. Much spookier than anything we encountered on Chimney Pass (see my comments on Chimney for comparison).
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