The U Notch Couloir, like all the gully climbs in the Sierra that don’t melt off, is hard ice during the fall months. In the spring time Sierra gullies are filled with snow and make for excellent steep snow climbs. Over the course of the summer many melt freeze cycles turn the snow into ice. The U Notch had been “set up” for ice climbing back in July. By October we now had solid ice with a coating of fresh snow from a recent storm that was up to a foot deep in places. These varied conditions made for a challenging and rewarding climb.
After topping out on the U Notch we turned south to Polemonium Peak. Named after the famous Sierra flower that only blooms above 12,000′ in the Sierra, Polemonium Peak is one of five 14ers along the crest above the Palisade Glacier. At the U Notch we took off our crampons for the couple pitches of low 5th class rock climbing that lead to the summit of this very enjoyable climb.
This climb also would mark the final California 14er for Ben to climb.
Here are a few highlights. The entire photo gallery is here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2009-Sierra-Trips/Polemonium-Peak-October-2009/9942984_pYKqM/1/678654937_HwWqs
The U Notch Couloir on the right rising above the Palisade Glacier. The left couloir is called the V Notch.
Crossing the bergshrund where the Palisade Glacier separates from the cliff above creating this crevasse.
Ben climbing on the hard ice on pitch #2
Ben still looking strong near the top of the U Notch
Ben finishing up the first pitch of low 5th class rock climbing en route to the summit of Polemonium Peak
Ben near the summit of Polemonium Peak with Barrett Lake and the Palisade Basin far below.
Congratulations Ben on finishing all the California 14ers!!
In the midst of the first cold snap of the fall season in the Sierra we returned to the East Ridge of Mt. Russell. Temperatures got so cold at higher elevations it left frost on the route. The weather remained clear and the route was enjoyable even with the frost providing an added difficulty with finding solid foot and hand holds.
Here are a couple photos of the trip. The entire photo gallery is here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2009-Sierra-Trips/Mt-Russell-East-Ridge-Oct-2009/9898120_JhPrj/1/674512393_nVPJR
The team ready to begin at Whitney Portal
Temperatures dipped well below freezing each evening leaving ice at every water source
Whitney Falls already looks thick enough to climb
Climbing on the East Ridge required negotiating careful foot and hand placements with the frost coating the rock
Pausing in the sun in the middle of the East Ridge
Summit success on a clear crisp fall day in the Sierra