Posted on August 27th, 2010 No comments
After returning to Bishop from a successful ascent of Middle Palisade Peak Ed and Lori took a couple rest days then were back on the trail with Kurt Wedberg headed over Bishop Pass to Palisade Basin. The goal was to climb four “California 14ers”: Mt. Sill (14,153′/4314m), Polemonium Peak (14,080′/4292m), North Palisade Peak (14,242′/4341m), and Starlight (14,200′/4328m). These were the last four 14ers Ed had not yet climbed.
Ed and Lori elected to hire the folks at Rainbow Pack Outfitters to help haul our gear up to Bishop Pass (11,972′/3649m). This would allow us to carry a light daypack over the 6 mile / 2300′+ distance. We met at the Rainbow Pack Outfitters headquarters 1.2 miles / 1.9 km below the South Lake Trailhead for a hearty breakfast then we were off to the trailhead to begin our trek on August 20.
Weather was clear and warm making for a very enjoyable hike up to Bishop Pass.
Here we put on the big packs and hiked cross country over Thunderbolt Col and down into our camp at Palisade Basin where we met up with another SMI group led by our guide Zach Schneider. He was with Chad Buelow and John Walsh. They had just returned from the summit of Thunderbolt Peak (14,003′ / 4286m) and were preparing to climb North Palisade Peak in the morning. We set up camp, had dinner, and prepared for climbing North Palisade Peak as well.
We got a predawn start on August 21 headed for the LeConte Route on North Palisade Peak. The day dawned clear and cool as we began ascending the chute leading to the start of the route. We reached 13,100′ / 3993m where the start of the route is located and took a break to refuel and prepare for the class 3/4 climbing above. While we took our pause we watched as Zach and John began the traverse across a wide ledge that marks the first moves of this fun route.
Ed and Lori then turned to me and indicated they just weren’t feeling ready for climbing this route today. Those decisions are always difficult to make but all of us as mountaineers have had those gut feelings and it is usually wise to listen to them. We decided to turn back and return to camp to rest and regroup. As the day moved in to mid afternoon we spotted Zach and John returning from their successful ascent.
We also noticed an unseasonal chill in the air and clouds building up covering the tops of the peaks. Bundling up in all our clothing we ate dinner and decided we would look at the weather in the morning to see if a summit attempt would be possible in the morning. Clouds and cold temperatures remained all night long and were still settled over the mountain tops in the morning so the decision was made to hold off and wait for improving weather.
We had enough time built into our itinerary to wait and an extra day at our camp at 11,950′/3642m would only add to our acclimatization. As the morning gave way to afternoon the clouds dissipated and the temperature warmed back up significantly. Kurt’s altimeter also indicated a solid rise in barometric pressure. All indications were saying this weather disturbance was passing and favorable conditions were going to prevail.
On August 23 Ed and Kurt left camp wearing headlamps. Lori elected to stay behind favoring a relaxing day of The goal was to climb North Palisade Peak then traverse south following the ridgeline, rappel into the U Notch Couloir then climb up to the summit of Polemonium Peak. From there we would continue along the ridgeline to Mt. Sill then return to camp via Potluck Pass. We accomplished all of this on a warm sunny day that allowed us to wear only short sleeved shirts once we hit the sun.
After a very rewarding day of climbing three 14ers Ed elected to leave the last remaining peak on his list for another trip. Starlight Peak is considered the most difficult of all the California 14ers and he wants to savor that experience all by itself.
We decided to pack up camp and return via Knapsack Pass and camp in Duzy Basin for our last remaining night in the backcountry. On August 25 we then hiked cross country to the Bishop Pass trail that led us back to the parking lot. A celebration dinner in Bishop capped off an amazing, fun, and rewarding 6-day trip!
Ed and Lori dedicated these climbs to helping two worthy causes: Friends of Frankie and the Widows’ and Orphans’ Aid Association. Friends of Frankie is an organization founded to help out Frankie Shouldice who is a young boy currently suffering from leukemia. Widows and Orphans Aid Association is a San Francisco based organization founded to help out families that have lost a parent who worked as an officer for the SFPD by providing financial aid and scholarship support.
If you would like to donate to these worthy causes you may do so by sending checks made payable to “Friends of Frankie” or “Widows’ and Orphans’ Aid Association” to:
Officer Ed Saenz
C/o San Francisco Police Dept
301 Eddy St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Some pictures from our traverse of the Palisades are below. Ed and Kurt’s photos can be found here:
Posted on May 18th, 2010 No comments
On May 14 Kurt Wedberg met Bill Simon and Dana Emberson for a climb of Mt. Sill. Clear warm sunny weather greeted us on this trip. We were also surprised that we never crossed paths with anybody save for a lone hiker 10 minutes from the parking lot on our way out on Monday. The trail is dry to Lon Chaney’s cabin then becomes increasingly patchy snow. Snow is more continuous from the trail fork for Black Lake.
On May 14 we hiked to Third Lake where we set up camp. First and Second Lake were still frozen and Third Lake is about half frozen. It’s outlet is completely covered. We were treated to a beautiful night camped in the trees near Third Lake. On May 15 we donned crampons and ice axes for our climb to high camp near the base of Mt. Gayley at 11,800 feet. We ascended the snow to the right of Temple Crag that offered us a spectacular backdrop to our climb. Snow conditions were excellent with a 6-9″ layer of new snow on top of an older consolidated snowpack. Setting up camp we had some time in the afternoon to relax and enjoy the spectacular views this area is famous for.
On May 16 we woke early and made a pre dawn start for Mt. Sill’s North Couloir. As we passed the base of Mt. Gayley and entered into the basin where the Palisade Glacier lies the snow conditions changed from nice cramponing on firm snow to an unconsolidated pack that would not support our body weight. Our progress slowed as the sun rose and cast an orange glow on many of the surrounding peaks including Polemonium, North Palisade, Starlight, Thunderbolt, Winchell, and Agassiz. This made for a truly exhilarating setting as we slowly made our way to Glacier Notch. Climbing up to Glacier Notch also proved challenging as we encountered a large deposit of faceted depth hoar that required us to retreat and find an alternate route to the notch. Once on Glacier Notch we basked in the sun that was obscured from us until this point. Ascending the North Couloir we again found excellent cramponing on 9-12″ of new snow over a more solid snowpack.
From here the route traverses back into the shade where a couple 3rd class rock pitches lead to the final ridge and the summit. Entering into the shade revealed more weak unconsolidated layers of snow and the decision was made to call this our high point for the climb.
This climb was serving as a training climb for Mt. Elbrus in July. This trip served our purposes well. We employed many mountaineering skills during the four days and our round trip time on summit day was 14 hours offering us the opportunity to test our stamina. This will all come in handy for Mt. Elbrus and many other peaks in the future.
Thanks Bill and Dana for a great four days. A few pictures are below. The rest of the pictures are here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2010-Sierra-Trips/Mt-Sill-May-14-17-2010/12220926_JofhW#870471533_uUJre
Dana, Bill, and Kurt saddled up and ready to start our trip.
Dana and Bill at frozen over Second Lake with Temple Crag in the background.
Camp at Third Lake
Bill getting water at Third Lake
Bill and Dana walking next to Third Lake
Bill and Dana at our high camp at 11,800 feet
Dana and Bill geared up and ready for summit day
Traversing the Palisade Glacier. Above left is Mt. Sill. Above right is the U Notch Couloir and North Palisade Peak.
Bill and Dana topping out on Glacier Notch
Bill and Dana high on the North Couloir of Mt. Sill
Dana and Bill enjoying the view at our high point of the climb.
Kurt, Bill, and Dana packed up and ready to descend. Thanks guys for a great trip!
Posted on May 25th, 2009 No comments
March 23-25, 2009
We were treated to clear weather in the Sierra backcountry over Memorial Day weekend this year. Chuck Raper, Patricia Twomey, and Dustin Wunderlich joined guides Rick Poedtke and Kurt Wedberg for a classic climb in the Palisades region of the Sierra.
Mt. Sill is one of the few Sierra peaks that was named by the indigenous Piaute indians who inhabited the Owens Valley. Their name for it was “Nee-na-mee-she” which is translated “Guardian of the Valley”. Today it is a classic 14er in Californa and the view from its summit is considered one of the finest in the entire Sierra.
Our route was the Apex Couloir on Mt. Sill. This route is also called the “North Couloir” but since there are so many couloirs that go by that name I prefer calling it the Apex Couloir. The snow conditions remain excellent in the Palisades right now. We were treated to four pitches of climbing at 40 – 45 degrees. We then exited the route to the right where we climbed a pitch of 3rd to low 5th class rock that led to one more pitch of 50+ degree snow. One final 4th class pitch led to the ridgeline on Mt. Sill where we scrambled up to the summit.
Here are a few pictures. The entire gallery can be viewed here: http://kurtwedberg.smugmug.com/gallery/8329693_LrcYi/1/545818744_wQKSG