Middle Palisade

17-18 Aug 2002 - by Steve Landes

This past friday night John Sejerman, Brad Smith, and myself, Steve Landes, left the bay area for a journey up Middle Palisade. Saturday morning we picked up our permit in Bishop, had breakfast and headed to Big Pine and the Glacier Lodge trailhead. The plan for the hike in was to camp at one of the tarn lakes above Finger lake, so even though We made a moderately late start saturday morning, it really did not matter as the distance and elevation gain are not that significant.

Saturday morning the skies were clear and we made good progress. We cross a saddle on the trail to get our first real views of the palisade crest. This view was a first for me as I have never been to the palisades before. We studied our maps and climbing route and continued on towards Barnaird lake. Instead of going up the river canyon that feeds from Finger lake, we learned there was an easier cross country trail that goes to the left of the river canyon. We headed up cross country thru brush and easy talus slopes before coming over the ridge and arriving at Finger lake. As the name implies, the lake is long like a finger. The name does not imply that the mosquitoes would be fierce on the easiest way around the lake - ouch! We continued on, and as we climbed above the lake, what had been brief gusts of winds turned into a constant 30mph wind storm. No mosquitoes at the tarn lake we reached, but we did have to chase down a number of unsecured items as we made camp. The wind howled constantly until about 3AM when it began to die down. Fortunately by the 6AM wake up time the wind was all but gone.

Sunday morning the skies were clear, crisp and now even void of the wind. By 7:15AM we were heading up the talus slopes towards Normal Clyde and Middle Palisade. From the base of the two mountains we continued south on the rising talus slopes adjacent to the Norman Clyde glacier and then across the moraine to the base of Middle Palisade. As we moved up the moraine we could hear the voices of another party (6 people) who had beat us out of the gate. This other group was already high up the mountain ascending the class 3, east face chute. By the time we had climbed the moraine and reached the based of the east face, this other group was 700-1000' above us. This turned out to be unfortunate as the potential for rock fall is very high and loose rocks funnel into the 30-60' wide area which we would be ascending. Fortunately, while we had all left our crampons back at the car, we had all brought helmets.

We ascended a brief section of snow at the base of the east face and reached a well traveled path that gets you around and over the initial cliff at the top of the moraine. It was here that Brad decided to call an end to the days climb and head back to camp. John and I continued on up the rock slopes. We spread out to the left and right and climbed at the same level seeking to avoid dropping rocks on each other. We were also conscious of the other group high above us and the occassion undecipherable yell or comment from above. Were were about 500' up the chute when the distinct "Rock","Rock" yell could be heard from above. Looking up, three baseball sized rocks could be seen gaining speed and heading our way. We both scrambled for cover until the rocks passed by. I had thought the rocks had passed over us both and were gone, but we had not escaped the rocks. One of the rocks had given John a good wack in the head thru his helmet. It appeared no damage to john, but there was a nice ding in his helmet. We talked about it for a bit, and then decided to spread out even further and continue on our way up the chute. The rest of the rocks that came down were further away and we finally reached the summit for a brief chat with the other group about what had happened.

It was 12PM and we were on the summit enjoying the view and eating snacks. We took the usual pictures and added our names to the registry, and then after an hour headed down. To me, I think the descent was more nerve racking than the ascent as you have to see all the way down, and you have to wonder about the occassional rock you let loose. Fortunately, now the group of six was far below us and there was only one climber above us. Anyway, we made it back to the moraine and headed down to our camp.

Back at camp I learned that while Brad had been repacking his knapsack, a Red nylon bag containing a Red North Face wind jack and a Black & White sweater of mine had tumbed down a talus slope and possible onto one of the glaciers. The stuff bag could not be found after an hours worth of looking.

LOST & FOUND. ATTENTION: if anyone going to Middle Palisade or Normal Clyde finds a RED nylon bag with a a Black Sweater and Red North face wind jacket inside, please give me Steve Landes or Brad Smith a holler as we would like the missing items back.

Back at camp we discussed staying and enjoying the views for another night or heading out. The vote for leaving had it, so we broke camp and hiked out.

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