N. Pal and Polemonium

4-6 Sep 2004 - by Ron Karpel

I was sitting at the Big Pine Trailhead scratching my head. Where is everybody? I finally got it. How long does it take to get from Big Pine to South Lake TH? I can't really write it here from fear of this list being monitored by the CHP. So starting late, the 6 of us: Bob Suzuki (leader), Jim Ramaker (co-leader), Bob Evans, Stephane and Kirsten Mouradian, and I Ron Karpel made our way slowly toward Bishop Pass and Palisade Basin. We set camp on the NE shore of the largest of Barrett Lakes at about 11550 ft.

Climbing the U-notch Chute:

Looking up from our camp, the SW face of N. Pal contains 2 large white rock faces. The U-notch Chute is to the right of those 2 faces. Below that is an area of rock outcropping with a large boulder field on its left. The better way up was to go to the right of the rock outcropping (we tried both ways). The U-notch chute is one huge pile of loose rocks. Bring a helmet.

Climbing North Palisade (Clyde Variation):

We left the U-notch Chute at an obvious ledge leading left. There are many kerns of all sizes marking this point. There is a small use trail leading across the U-notch Chute to the ledge. My altimeter showed this ledge to be 240 vertical feet lower than the U-notch itself (I noted this on the following day as we made our way to the top of the U-notch). The ledge leads left for about 50 feet, then up 20 feet and left again for about 20 feet around the arjte and down diagonally about 100 feet into the next chute to the north. We used a rope on part of this route, but we all agreed on a low 4th class rating. Once in the next chute, we climbed for another 300-400 feet of class 3 to where the chute opens up into a bowl. We kept going straight and up towards the ridge above, avoiding an easy looking wide chute on the left. A couple hundred feed higher, we veered left and made our way back and forth around large blocks (class-4). Finally Jim announced "Thats it."

As we made our way towards the summit, so did the clouds, and soon after we summited it started to snow, yes to snow. We signed the registered and hurried down from there. By the time we finished down climbing the ledge, it was like a blizzard. Polemonium was going to have to wait till the next day.

Climbing Polemonium:

We made a good time climbing back up the U-notch chute, although it felt just as much work as the day before. Bob took the lead from the notch proper along a serious of flakes diagonally up and right, into a vertical chute, and then up to a large ledge (30 meter of class-4 or easy 5th). The 2nd pitch was an expose traverse leading right and to a large notch (class-2 or 3). From the notch, Bob led the 3rd and final pitch (30 meter of about 5.6) to a large ledge. From there we all walked to the summit (class-3). The decent consisted of rappelling 50 meter down from near the summit area to the first ledge and another 30 meter to the U-notch.


It was cold, cold, cold.

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