Norman Clyde Peak, Twilight Pillar, 9/2/06

2-4 Sep 2006 - by Alexander Brennen

I went up the south fork to Finger Lake the first year I started climbing. I had signed up for a trip to climb North Palisade, Mt Sill and Thunderbolt. The trip leader noticed I had no mountain climbing experience but he said I could come on the trip if I got over 13,000 feet three times before the trip in early September. My first peak was to be Mt. Shasta. It seemed like just a big snow hike so I decided to carry my downhill skis so I could ski down. That year on the Clear Creek route the snow ended at 13,000 feet and the scree began. Cramponing in ski boots is OK but climbing scree in them isn't. I found out a couple of things on that first trip. These mountains are huge. Hey, who knew! Also that my body usually gives me a choice on summit day, I can climb or I can eat but not both. Skiing from 13,000 on Mt Shasta is still a pretty good day. We hike out to the nearest cafe. I ordered what looked on the menu like the biggest burger they had. I must have been a little out of it- it was vegetarian!
My second trip was the East Ridge of Mt. Humphreys. My partner and I had together taught ourselves to lead over the previous six months. It took us all day to climb the initial class 4 knife-edge ridge. 17 pitches. By 6 PM we had reached the notch just before the class five started. We retreated. We did manage to get over 13,000 feet while climbing the tower on the ridge.
Finally on Middle Palisade I got to the top of something. No crampons, ice axes or ropes. Just fun cruising on class three rock. I was looking forward to returning to the scene of my first success. I remembered it as a spectacular area.
We picked up two of the last three permits on Saturday morning and started hiking near midday. Here is a picture looking up canyon after crossing the river at Glacier Lodge.

Some cool trees at the top of the first big rise.

Looking up at Middle Palisade and its glacier.

Brainard Lake is just a beautiful lake. I took a million pictures of this lake and they are all good .You can just see the Twilight Pillar in this picture.

We camped with a few other parties at the end of Finger Lake. We woke up around 5:00 and were hiking by 6:00. Bob has this cool Jetboil stove. Man, the thing can boil water quickly.

The route goes around the left side of Finger Lake and then climbs class 2/3 for 1,500 feet. Here's Norman Clyde Peak and Middle Palisade during the approach.
Here is Norman Clyde Peak. The route goes up the pillar that drops straight from the summit.

The standard route goes across the glacier and climbs a 5.7 pitch. We didn't bring snow gear so we crossed to the Firebird Ridge far to the right where the snow was narrowest. The climb to the ridge is fun fourth class. I took this picture of the Palisade Crest as we made our way along the ridge.

As we crossed below the snow field and started up toward the pillar I was really feeling the altitude.
Parts of me, I think it was my heart and lungs, was thinking, You are really crappy at altitude. You are going to move too slow and have to bivy on the descent.
Other parts of me, I think it was my brain and legs, was answering them, You pathetic wimps. It's not even 9:00. You are strolling this thing!
Sometimes there are way too many voices in here.
Anyway, the approach was steepening as we neared the rope up spot. Pretty continuous and exposed class four. Maybe not quite Eichorn class four, but steep. I got to a section that was a little more serious but I was in the groove so I started up it just as Bob called down. Hey, I missed the start of the climb. He had climbed the first 25 feet before noticing. He was in the groove too. He threw down the rope and I tied a bowline, for the second time ever, and climbed up to join him. Don't do what we did. The start is from a big platform. We had to change shoes, put on our harnesses and sort gear on this little ledge. We started the roped climbing at 10:00.
We brought 3- #2, 3-#1, 3-#.75 and 3-#,5 Camelots. We had one each of the five smallest Aliens and a set and a half of stoppers. We had a 60 meter x 9.2 rope. I used a cordalet and Bob used a big tied sling for the belays. This rack was pretty good. Maybe it could have been smaller but I climb faster when I have enough gear. I took the first pitch, which turned out to be the crux of the climb. You stem and jamb a corner until it runs out and then climb the crux 35 feet of 5.8+ cracks to a nice ledge with a fixed pin. I used up most of the rack. About half way up I realized I was moving slow enough that my lungs had caught up with the altitude. I shouted out my appreciation for the day and Bob smiled up. Here's a picture from half way up the first pitch.

Looking down from the P1 belay.

The supposed 5.8 crux traverse goes right around the corner from the belay. It just didn't seem that hard compared to P1.
Here's a posed shot from the P2 belay trying to look like the photo in the Sierra Classics Guidebook.

There is one more hard move on the climb which is mentioned in Secor. Bob led up that way. I climbed a few feet to the right, which was much easier. More pics of the route.


We summitted at 1:45. It was a outstanding day. Here's a view toward Mt. Sill and North Palisade from the summit.

Yours truly with the cool summit register

Bob, smiling as usual

The last party before us to summit were Dingus Milktoast, Brutus of Whyde and Nurse Ratchet. Hi Guys.
The descent felt really long. We descended the North-Northeast Ridge route, which is the recommended descent. It's a little hard to figure out the best way. I think we could have stayed a bit closer to the ridge. We kept getting coaxed out onto the face. This goes but the route line in Secor shows the best path as closer and more parallel to the ridge. Bob found a bunch of booty. A hat, a pair of rain pants and a sixty foot piece of 8 mil. rope. We got back to camp at 7:00. I was pretty beat and lay down for a while to rest before dinner. A couple of guys, who we had met on the approach came over to talk about the day. They had retreated off of the East Face of Middle Palisade, from altitude problems mostly. Bob made his dinner and chatted with the guys while I lay there like a lump. Later I heard him tell someone it was the first time with Zander when I did most of the talking. Hmm, what is he trying to say?
Eventually, I just went to sleep without eating. We had a great day for the hike out. Here is a picture of this beautiful little lake that I particularly like.

We feasted at Jacks in Bishop.
See ya on the rock,
Zander


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