Clyde Couloir Tunnel
(Y.C. was here)

20-22 Sep 2002 - by Paul Kane

A couple of weeks ago, my partner Derek and I were in the Palisades attempting a S-N traverse from the U-notch to somewhere. We were slowed by route-finding difficulties, but were on the summit of N. Pal at 8:30 on 9/20. It was a perfect, calm, clear night with bright moonlight - we could even see the lights of Fresno. After about an hour on the summit, we got going again and had discussions about where to go - I opted for going home go Glacier Camp given that route-finding wasn't going too well. I mistakenly thought I knew how to do that; Derek however REALLY wanted to try to follow the ridge line and get his summits. Anyway, after a while, we found ourselves in the notch between N. Pal and Starlight with very few options, climbing the wall to the North seemed too hairy. There was a rap sling on the West side - we decided to go there and try to find our way home. Derek felt good when he heard the ropes hit something - he had this fear of ending-up dangling in space in the dark at the end of the rope. He went first - when I was coming down, he said he had a surprise -- he sure did. About 80 feet down, the ropes landed in the mouth of a cave where I found Derek. It would make a great bivey shelter. Anyway, he had noticed light, moonlight, at the back of the cave. Turns out it narrows down and there is a body-sized tunnel which goes left a few feet, then right and opens out into another cave on the East side. I later concluded that this was above, or in the top or, the Clyde Couloir. At the mouth, there was a boulder ~18 in diameter with a sewn Chouinard sling around the bottom. We wondered how it was put there and what was holding it; fortunately, we didn't think about it too much. It was pale yellow and seemed to be in good shape. We decided to go down the West side and see what we could do. I still wanted to go home and Derek wanted Starlight. For the first time, Derek had a strong preference for me to rap first. It was near vertical and with a rounded bead of green ice about 3 feet across. Toward the end of the ropes (we had a single 60M) I could see no other rap possibilities, but did get out onto the East face of Starlight.

My questions:

Has anyone else experienced, or heard of, this tunnel? My brief search turned up nothing. How young could the Chouinard sling have been? 30 years? It was 1" webbing with "Chouinard" clearly printed on it. (Incidentally, it held)

Doug Robinson was at Glacier camp that w/e with friends Jim and Terry to to the Swiss Arete. Doug, who I believe did the FA of the Clyde Couloir did not know of such a tunnel. I'm sure the tunnel and sling have been in cold-storage, probably in ice, for years and years.

ps: We wandered around the E. face of Starlight for a long time, exploring almost all the dead ends, but finally headed back towards the couloir, up and to the right and found our way to the summit. Derek was on the summit as the moon was setting and the sun was rising on the equinox. We eventually came down the south chute of the underhill and lived to tell about it; it was the most dangerous chute I've ever been in. Doug had suggested we take the ridge down but that looked too intimidating. We should have. It was a long day's night.

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