Palisade Crest, Norman Clyde Pk, and Mt Gayley

16-19 Jun 2001 - by Ron Hudson

(An SPS trip)

Seven of us met at the parking lot and backpacked up to a camp spot at about 11,000', taking about 8 hours. We had a great view of both peaks and the Clyde Glacier. Little snow up to there. The next morning we all went up to Palisade Crest, using our ice axes but not crampons in the snow bowl beneath the peak. From above Scimitar Pass we began the long class 3-4 traverse. Lots of exposure, and it is necessary to be in balance and confident on your hand and footholds. Not for the meek! After two diversions to the left side before the final notch, I led the 160' class four slab pitch; used three pieces of protection. Some time was wasted by me not managing the ropes right; they couldn't be thrown to the bottom, so somebody had to rappel down before the next climber could come up. The top was nice; good views, perfect weather and warm. Some in the group were quite tired going back to camp, but we made decent progress and all had summited. We were back to camp 14 hours after starting.

Two of the group elected to hike out the next morning, three had doubts about succeeding on two hard peaks in a row and slept late, and two - Reiner Stenzel and myself left at 4:30 to get the next peak. We elected to do the NNE Ridge route on Norman Clyde, so we went up the glacier on hard snow, using our crampons higher up where the slope was about 35 degrees. I skirted around the far left side of the bergschrund and gained the rock about 100 feet above. The day before I had seen the rock ramp we used from the Glacier up to the ridge, and it was only class 2-3. Another few hundred feet along the ridge, and we were the start of the NNE ridge route.

We crossed over to N side of the ridge at a thin notch, and followed the route mostly as described in R.J. Secor's book. Lots of zig zags, but there were ducks and sand disturbed by previous climbers to mark the way. A couple snow patches and a little ice and wetness needed to be skirted, but were no great hindrance. Again lots of exposure, necessary to be 100% in balance and trust your life to the handholds and footholds on this class 3-4 terrain. At the top of the face there was about 50' of class 4 in the "lichen chimney", then we were at the ridge top. Actually we were at the top of NNE ridge and also on the crest, since the lichen chimney is within about 20 feet and just on the north side (toward Bishop) below the point where the ridge and crest meet Then on the false (W) summit, and then the true summit 200 yards away. We were at the summit at 10 AM. Great views and weather again! After an hour we proceeded down. Unlike the day before, going down was more difficult, because it is harder to climb backwards or facing outward. Also, we should have had two ropes rather than one. We did three 80' rappels and climbed in between, but with full rope lengths most of the most exposed climbed could have been be avoided. Anyway, we got back to camp and the mosquitoes at 3:30 PM. R.J. Secor and Tom McDonnell had gone to Gayley, and arrived late after succeeding on it from the Notch between Gayley and Mt Sill. Terry Flood had rested for the day, and Dot Reilly and Dee Booth had signed out and hiked to the cars.

I was glad that we got a couple nice peaks (second time for me), and that Reiner had succeeded on two of the most difficult peaks; ones he needed for his goal of completing the list. R.J. also got his 3rd SPS Senior Emblem, with Gayley. Thanks to Reiner for the good happy hours! And everybody's great companionship for a congenial group. Hiking out to the cars, I was able to find a pretty direct route from camp to the S Fork trail, and it took us four hours total to the parking lot. We used the parallel drainage that is N of and about half way between point 3401T, and the S Fork branch pointing right at Mt Gayley.

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