MIddle Palisade - East Face RouteMiddle Palisade North East Face Route (14,012 ft); Day Hike 8/28/05
Wanting to get another CA 14er and check out Croft’s suggestion of the “Great” 3rd class route up the East Face of Middle Palisade (Secor describes it as the NorthEast Face), I started at the Big Pine Creek TH at 5:15 am on a mild and clear morning with warm and clear sky expected (no clouds). A bright quarter moon provided a little bit of moonlight but I still used the headlamp for the 1st 30 mins. Watched the sunrise light-up the spectacular Balcony, Disappointment, Middle Palisade, Norm Clyde, Mt Sill ridgeline. Hiked up the south fork of Big Pine creek trail to Brainerd Lake and then took the use-trail that leads out of the west end of the lake and up to the beautiful Finger Lake. Got water and a snack at Finger Lake and then headed up the glacial benches to the west of Finger Lake and directly towards Middle Palisade. Has anyone taken Croft’s suggestion of going around the east side of Finger Lake Is there a use-trail? Crossed the lower part of Mid Pal glacier (no crampons needed on the shallow slopes with lots of sun-cups, but I did used an axe just to be safe) to reach the rocky peninsula that separates the glacier and leads to the start of the East face route. A party of 3 people had just stepped off the glacier and crossed the ledge system that gains access to the main East Face gully when I had reached the top of the rocky peninsula (9:30). After a few minutes to put on the helmet, get a GU and some water, I also followed the ledge system. Jumping off the glacier and onto this ledge system provides very nice and surprising sidewalk-like entry into the main gully and I would highly recommend it over the red-white band route. The classic red-white band route looks awfully loose and since both route lead to the same gully after the 1st gendarme I’d recommend the ledge variation.
Once around the corner and into the main East Face gully, I saw that the party of 3 were about halfway up the gully, moving pretty fast and clean climbing as not even a pebble came down the gully. It took me about 50 minutes to ascend the gully to the summit blocks (10:30). Just before I reach the summit the party of 3 were starting their descent, so they only stayed on top for about 5-10 mins and didn’t bother to sign the summit register, surprising on such a perfect day. Since it was such a beautiful day with no clouds and just a light wind, I stayed on top for about 40 minutes taking lots of pictures, eating & drinking, checking the map for neighboring peaks & landmarks, reading and signing the summit register (I forgot to check how far back the register went, there where multiple notepads in the summit register can).
Descended (11:15) by the same route that I came up and was careful about knocking any loose rock down the gully. About half way down spotted another solo climber coming up the East Face route. After chatting with him for a few minutes, I continued down to the ledge system. Descended to the rocky peninsula (12:15) and crossed the north Mid Pal glacier just as I had come up early that morning. Got a little lost going down the maze of glacial benches above Finger Lake but eventually got down to the Finger Lake for a snack and water (2:00). I wonder if going directly down to the inlet of Finger Lake and then traversing the eastern shore as indicated in Croft’s book would have been quicker and easier? Then down the use-trail to Brainerd Lake and down the South Fork trail to the Big Pine Lodge TH by 4:00. Total time 10 hours and 45 minutes, then cleaned up, drank up, gassed up and drove back to Irvine by 9:30 pm. Overall, a great day trip that I would highly recommend.
Here’s some pics;