Middle Palisade

28-30 Jun 2003 - by Ron Karpel

Sunday June 29th 2003, the 7 of us left camp at the south end of Finger Lake heading towards the moraine separating the south and north portions of Middle Palisade Glacier. Climbing the sun cupped snow on the south side of the moraine, we reached the headwall.

There had been lots of talk about the difficulty of finding the correct chute, so we came prepared with maps, pictures, copies from guide books, and a printout of every trip report I could find. Peter Maxwell's report from 1993 and Kelly Maas's from '99 were most helpful. I could see the gullies Peter was talking about and I could see Kelly's large snow patch and "lower buttress". The one difficulty was the correct spot to climb the headwall. I couldn't make out Secor's "chimney and ledge system", but close to the highest point on the South Glacier and a bit to the right, we found an EASY class-3, 45 degree ramp, leading off the snow, around a corner, and into the chute.

The moderate class 3 chute led up to a ridge where it ended and forced us to the next chute on our right. The melt from Kelly's snow patch help with last minute water supply. Continuing up the chute and keeping left as it branches, we made it to the summit ridge. The west side of that ridge is a sheer drop hundreds of feet down. The only way to continue is on the east side of the ridge.

Next challenge was to find the EASY way to the summit block. We found the traverse about 10 feet below the summit ridge and followed it for about 50 ft south. Then a 20 ft. corner led up to where there seemed to be a possible traverse around some blocks farther south, or a slightly harder class-3 ramp still higher. We first tried the higher ramp, and discovered Peter's "difficult last portion". Traversing south another 50 feet or so and up some exposed blocks we found the "trivial route round the back side".

We never climbed anything harder than class 3, the entire way, but it was loose.

One of the interesting things about the summit of Middle Palisade is that it provides a great view of the trailhead, in addition to all the normal views of any summit. Another thing we could see from the summit was our camp. And we could also see Tom's tent sailing across Finger Lake. It got blown in the wind and was now sailing towards an island in the middle of the lake. On the return, Tom's tent got blown up on the island and now stood upright as if Tom put it there himself. We built a hoping stone bridge and went to save Tom's stuff, which was partially soaked from sailing in the water. Luckily, the wind was kept blowing all evening, which help dry his things off.

Wildflowers were in bloom and we were treated to terrific display both going up and back down, but the mosquitoes seem to be in charge of every shady spot.

Participants: Brian Doyle, Christopher Franchuk, Debbie Benham, Greg. Johnson, Nancy Fitzsimmons, Tom Driscoll, and scribe, Ron Karpel


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