TR of the ascent of Mount Sill, via the Swiss Arête,
June 7, 2002 – Alberto Alesina and Romain Wacziarg
June 5-6, 2002 - The Approach. We started hiking from the overnight parking lot at the trailhead of the North Fork of Big Pine Creek at 4:30 PM on Wednesday June 5, 2002, and reached a comfortable camp just below First Lake around 7 PM. On June 6th we had a leisurly hike up to base camp, above Sam Mack Meadow. After lunch and a nap in the meadow, we hiked higher up for a couple of hours and found a nice sandy flat ledge with a view of Mount Sill to pitch our tent. Later that afternoon two exhausted climbers who had hiked in from the trailhead decided to set up camp just above us. A clear violation of Sierra etiquette.
June 7, 2002 - The Climb We woke up at 4 AM and left camp at 4:40. By 6:30 we were at the base of the gully leading to Glacier Notch, which was a much easier scramble than we had expected. At 8:30 we had ascended the lower part of the L-shaped Couloir and were gearing up to traverse left across class 4 terrain to gain the Swiss Arête. Alberto led this first pitch and was soon on the arête. I took over the lead for a long pitch of 5.5-5.6, leading to just below the "step-around move" - or at least we thought so. Alberto tried to surmount a 5.9 roof to the right before realizing this could not possibly be the step around move! A short pitch later, we were at the correct location. Alberto led around the arête to the right, and up a 5.6 chimney. Nowhere did the route seem harder than 5.6 to us, and the guidebook rating of 5.7-5.8 is clearly exaggerated. After that we were on easier terrain - two pitches of hard class 4-5 rock later we were standing on the summit, at 2 PM. A marmot was waiting for us.
The descent via the North Couloir. Around 3 PM we proceeded down the ridge leading from Mount Sill to Polemonium Peak. After a couple of hundred feet of class 2 rock we angled right towards the West Face of Mount Sill. The cairns were helpful with routefinding. We reached a rappel station and with one short (30 meter) rappel had reached the ledges leading across the West Face. We were soon at the notch separating Apex Peak from Mount Sill, and proceeded to posthole down the soft afternoon snow to where we had left our crampons and ice axes. From there it was down from Glacier Notch, onto the glacier and towards the lake that lies at its toe - a pleasant glissade. We took our time, and were back in camp at 7 pm.
June 8, 2002 - The Hike Back - On June 8 we woke up late and took our time packing up camp. We left around 9 am and slowly made our way down the snowfields to Sam Mack Meadow. Just below the meadows we met some people who were hiking up to the glacier in sneakers - they were not going to make it very far. A short while later, around Third Lake, we caught up with the clueless climbers who had camped near us - they had left our camp area an hour before us and were obviously taking their time even more than we were. We stopped numerous times to enjoy the views, and were back at the car at 1 PM.
More photos can be found here.