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: