What to do on a "rest day"

31 Jul - 6 Aug 2005 - by John Mclean

For the past several years, I have been combining peak-bagging with wilderness service trips. This year, Wilderness Volunteers (http://www.wildernessvolunteers.org) included a week-long backcountry project up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek, right at the base of the Palisades. I quickly signed up, and started preparing for a climb up Sun Ribbon Arete on Temple Crag for the mid-week rest day.

About a week before the trip, my conscience got the better of me, and I asked the trip leader whether technical climbing could be considered an appropriate rest day activity. After a suitable rant about our litigious society and the corresponding decline of western civilization, our leader regretfully informed me that liability concerns precluded technical climbing on service trips. Not to worry, says my son (James - 17) and climbing partner. We can free-solo the route: if we don't use a rope, it isn't technically technical. While I applaud his logic, free soloing an exposed, committing, and difficult route (according to Roper) is beyond my pucker factor. Not to mention the fact that the Tyrolean traverse is a little tricky without a rope.

Temple Crag from Third Lake

The service trip started Sunday, with a short hike to Second Lake (base camp). Monday was breaking big pieces of granite into little pieces of granite to eliminate the worst of the muddy sections on the trail. Tuesday and Wednesday, we built a new bridge across the creek from Sam Mack meadow.

Thursday (aka rest day), James and I decided to hike up past Sam Mack to the Palisades Glacier, and scope out a future climbing trip. The call of the Palisades was too strong to ignore, and with a wink and a nod we decided that Sill must surely be a non-technical climb. Off we went across the snowfield to Glacier Notch. Crossing in tennis shoes was a little more sporty than usual, but it went without a hitch. At the notch, we were rewarded with some prime booty a pair of rusty crampons. After some experimentation, it was determined that crampons aren't meant for tennis shoes, but we packed them out anyway.

Temple_Crag_from_Third_Lake.jpg Sill looked rather intimidating from the notch, so we opted for Gayley. (I later learned that there is a class 3-4 route up Sill from the notch something to try on the next trip). There are many options to climb Gayley, and route finding is challenging due to the sea of cairns (I have heard of grid-bolting on rock faces, but this is the first that I've seen grid-cairning). The best approach seems to be to ignore the cairns, and pick a line that looks promising. A fairly straightforward and enjoyable scramble leads to the top. Views of the Palisades from here are outstanding.

Palisades Crest from Mt. Gayley

From the top, we surveyed the headwaters of the South fork, and picked a route around to Contact Pass. We stayed high to avoid the snow, but encountered rather unpleasant talus (the snow would have been a better choice). The lakes to the west of Contact Pass were snow-free and beautiful. With the exception of the cairns on Gayley, there was no sign of human presence between Glacier Notch and Contact Pass, a true wilderness experience in a beautiful location. Contact Pass to Second Lake was a quick glissade, and provided great views of the routes on Temple Crag. This rock is beautiful, and begs to be climbed. Palisades_from_Gayley.jpg

Glissading from Contact Pass

Glissading_from_Contact_Pass.jpg Overall summary: loop around Gayley through Glacier Notch and Contact Pass is a great trek, with superb views of the Palisades. More ambitious mountaineers could easily add Sill and/or Temple Crag for a more strenuous experience.

Finally: please check out Wilderness Volunteers. This is a wonderful and dedicated group. You will find great satisfaction in giving something back to the mountains we all love.

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