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!