Deciding to make what would normally be a 3-day weekend out of a 2-day one was the how it all started (I don't know why anymore). Leaving the Glacier Lodge trailhead @ 14.41 on Saturday, August 25th, we hiked easily in beautiful weather, and arrived at our decided-upon campground of Brainerd Lake at 18.10, going for a nice, brisk swim in the twilight, before dinner.
The next morning we were up early, and departed camp at a seemingly alpine 5.40. We arrived at the base of Middle Palisade at 10.00, much later than we'd hoped, however. After thoughtful deliberation, we decided to ditch our Ryan/Mendenhall route (III, 5.5) plans to (we hoped) ensure a safe and timely return. While this gave us the opportunity to go up the exceptional (one of my favorite class 3s) E-face route (note: route names are those used by Porcella/Burns), we ended up stowing the (at least) 20 lb of unneeded climbing crap (rope, pro,' quickdraws, etc.) which we'd lugged all the way up (*#@^!!) at the base of the climb.
Once we started up, though, the route was amazing- exposed position, solid rock, UP UP UP (we chose the R gully towards the top [4th class]), pretty much the entire way!! We summited at 12.36 and chilled there awhile, taking in the magnificent surroundings.
Finally leaving the summit at 14.00, the descent down the mountain itself was fun. At the base, though, Sebastien broke through a thin part of the glacier near its edge (where it met the mountain) into the fairly deep moat, being more treacherous than first suspected. Following initial unsuccessful attempts, we finally located the stowed gear. Then while walking atop slabs that sloped steadily more and more downward, finally turning into cliffs, Sebastien dropped his prized trekking poles (planned to be retrieved at the bottom), only to have them disappear upon an unsuccessful search attempt. I then cursed at the topsy-turvy unsettled scree/talus slopes which we then descended. Amazingly, neither of us sprained an ankle down that horrible section. Upon reaching Finger Lake, the correct way to circumnavigate the small cliffs bounding its N-side then became a matter of constant debate, Sebastien taking the low road & I the high. Finally attaining the far side of the lake, my judgement and route-finding skills were redeemed. The rest of the way back to Brainerd Lake was smooth sailing.
We got back to camp at a late 18.55. Still needing to pack up all of our stuff, we didn't depart Brainerd Lake until 20.10. A looooong (at least to me) return ensued, being particularly wretched while descending the prominent, multi-hundred-foot-high rock buttress (still miles from the end), where the 'trail' consisted of awful somewhere-between-scree-and-talus sized rocks, making for miserable hiking. We didn't arrive back at the trailhead until 22.50. Walking to the car (parked a ways down the road), we weren't on 395 until after midnight. Dropping Sebastien back off in Sac-town afterwards, I didn't get back to the Bay Area until 5.30 the next morning, or so- Another epic California 14er weekend!
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