Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.07000°N / 118.4692°W
Additional Information Elevation: 14012 ft / 4271 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Middle Palisade lies in the center of the highest continuous ridge along the Sierra Crest, stretching 10 miles from Mt. Agassiz in the north to Cardinal Mtn in the south (between Bishop and Taboose passes). This ridge includes seven of the California 14ers and some of the finest climbing in the Sierras. This region was the center of Norman Clyde's adventures, with the summit of Middle Palisade visible from his cabin on the Big Pine Creek.
Climbs on the northeast side are the most commonly used, originating from the South Fork, Big Pine Creek TH. The Middle Palisades Glacier lies on this side, an immense span of snow and ice that is split in two by a moraine attached to the Northeast Face. All routes on this side except the Northeast Face will require crossing the glacier which can be difficult in summers following dry winters. Note that for the standard route on the NE Face which uses a class 2 ramp at the start, a small portion of the upper glacier must be crossed to access the start. The southwest side of Middle Palisade has a number of generally snow-free routes, but they are notoriously loose and difficult.
Another option, difficult but rewarding, is the class 4 traverse from Disappointment
Peak. A fine loop can be made in climbing both of these peaks from the north side of the crest.

Getting There

Take US395 to Big Pine. Drive west on the Glacier Lodge Rd to the end. Overnight parking is clearly marked, and lies furthest from the trailhead, just before the pack station. Dayhikers can drive to the end of the road and park in any of the appropriately marked spaces.

Red Tape

Overnight permits are required and quotas for the South Fork of Big Pine Creek are in effect from May 15 to September 15. The South Fork is far less popular than the North Fork trail, so getting permits is not usually a problem.

Everything you need to know about permits and regulations can be found on the Eastern Sierra - Logisitcal Center page.

When To Climb

May to October are the usual climbing months. Early in the year there is much snow (and considerably more gear to carry).


Camping is allowed in most places of the SEKI and John Muir Wildernesses that surround Middle Palisade. For east-north approaches, there are two excellent camp locations within easy reach of Middle Palisade. The lower (and nicer) location is at the mouth of Finger Lake. There are some nice levelled pad areas on the east side of the creek, about 30 feet above the lake level. Further up, about 400 feet above the inlet to Finger Lake is a small bench with level areas and a source of water. No trees or other protection from the elements up here, but you have a grand view of the Middle Palisade Glacier and the surrounding peaks.

Mountain Conditions

Eastern Sierra Road & Trail conditions, permit information

Inyo NF online

White Mountain Ranger Station: 798 North Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514. (619) 873-2500


"The Palisades were named by the Brewer party of the Whitney Survey in 1864. '... along the Main crest of the Sierra, is a range of peaks, from 13,500 to 14,000 feet high, which we called "the Palisades." ... they were very grand and fantastic in shape.' (Whitney, Geology, 393.)
The first ascent of the Middle Palisades was made on August 26, 1921, by Francis P. Farquhar and Ansel F. Hall. 'With a shout we greeted the summit as its first visitors. ... The summit of the mountain is an extremely narrow knife-edge. We had to use great care in moving about, as there were many large blocks just poised on the brink.' (SCB 11, no. 3, 1922: 268)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada

External Links


Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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lavaka - Aug 28, 2007 4:16 pm - Hasn't voted

glacier crossing

Hi, Nice page! I think you could make it a bit better with some changes to the first paragraph. The page says "The Middle Palisades Glacier lies on this side, an immense span of snow and ice that is split in two by a morraine attached to the Northeast Face." I'm not positive, but I think the glacier to the NW of the moraine is actually a separate glacier, known as Clyde glacier. Also, I think there's a typo in "morraine". More importantly, I'm not sure the "except the NE Face" from the following sentence is always true: "All routes on this side except the Northeast Face will require crossing the glacier which can be difficult in summers following dry winters." I was on the NE Face route in Aug '07 (following a dry winter), and it required about 100' of glacier crossing, which would have been difficult to avoid if you wanted to gain the 3rd class ramp. We managed to make it across without ice axe or crampons, but if it's really icy, this might not be possible. So, even for the NE Face, climbers should at least consider bringing crampons and/or ice axe.

Bob Burd

Bob Burd - Aug 28, 2007 6:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: glacier crossing

The Norman Clyde Glacier is indeed a separate glacier, but it is much further west, separated from the Middle Pal Glacier by the North Ridge of Norman Clyde Peak. See this photo for an example. It is also possible to climb the NE Face without crossing the glacier by other means than the ramp. But you are correct that the ramp in the easiest and most common means, so I should comment on that. And apparently I never learned how to spell "moraine." Thanks for pointing that out - I'll have to correct it in quite a few places! :-) thanks, bob


lavaka - Aug 31, 2007 5:51 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: glacier crossing

Ahh, you're 100% correct about the glacier names. Thanks for keeping the page up-to-date! I saw a climber come up the north side of the Middle Pal glacier and scramble into the chute without any problem (I didn't see his exact line), but he went from glacier to summit in about 20 minutes, so his mountain experience doesn't apply to most of us. But I think you're right: avoiding the glacier probably isn't very difficult, even for the average climber.

Bob Burd

Bob Burd - Sep 21, 2020 10:37 am - Hasn't voted

2020 update

As the Middle Palisade Glacier has receded over the past decade, Secor's NE Face route has become more difficult except in early season. I climbed it in early August this year. The class 2 ledge is now left hanging above the glacier's edge and requires some very unnerving, loose class 3-4 scrambling to reach it. The safer route is to follow the snow-free red/white rock to the main chute right of the moraine. This seems to have now become the standard route followed by most parties.

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