Northwest Face

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 37.09440°N / 118.5019°W
Additional Information Route Type: Snow/Rock
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 3 & 4
Sign the Climber's Log


Follow the North Fork of the Big Pine Creek trail approach. Hike up past the first three lakes, past Sam Mack Meadow, and then up to the glacier moraine. Several cairns will lead you up to the moraine. It may appear to be shorter to just head directly up to the moraine but this will be a mistake. Follow the cairns up along the north side of Mt. Galey over several granite slabs.

Water can be found during the year in pools along the slabs. It is a good idea to fill up now since the hike down to the glacier lake is tedious and the silt of the lake will quickly clog most filters.

Several campsites ranging from tent size to bivy size will be found along the slabs. Several sites will be found near the top of the slabs, but this area is very exposed to the elements. Excellent views of the Palisade glacier can be found from this location.

The approach can be anywhere from 1 day to 2 days depending on your desires and how you handle altitude.

From the moraine camp hike over the boulders or snow (earlier in season) along the west side of Mt. Gayley. This hike can be very tedious finding the correct route through the moving boulders. Once on the snow ice axes and most likely crampons will be needed. Gear up and continue on the glacier following the same route as the North Couloir. Go past the North Couloir and continue on to the next Couloir. This is the couloir between Mt. Sill and Apex Peak. This is the beginning of the Northwest Face (as named in Secor's guide).

Route Description

From the base of the couloir continue up steepening snow until reaching the bergschrund. Finding a route through the bergschrund can be the difficult part of the climb. Once past the bergschrund continue up steepening snow. Depending on the season, this can continue up the couloir as snow, or change to ice then rock. Depending on the amount of snow, the angle can get over 35 degrees and if it is ice, protection and a rope might be wanted. Conditions will dictate when you can traverse, but at some point traverse to the left side of the couloir.

Steep broken rock will continue up the couloir. The left side seems to offer better protection from the loose rock within the couloir. Pick your route up the broken rock for several rope lengths. This will be class 3 in difficulty, but due to the loose nature of the rock, some may want a belay. Protection will be difficult, but opportunities will appear for protected belay locations. Continue up the couloir until reaching the notch between Mt. Sill and Apex Peak.

From here this climb will join the North Couloir at the 3rd class traverse below Mt. Sills west face. After the 3rd class traverse comes the short 4th class section. Several possibilities are present as the rock becomes steeper, but the holds are large. At the top of the 4th class pitch, the route reaches the southwest ridge. Continue up the ridge (exposed 3rd class rock) to the summit. Just before the summit picking the route becomes more difficult as several steep blocks are reached. The easiest route seems to be going towards the right when reaching an impasse however other routes are possible.

For the descent, either retrace your steps, back to the notch between Mt. Sill and Apex Peak. From here either continue down the route you came up or head down to the "L-shapped snowfield" and follow the description on the North Couloir route.

Essential Gear

Gear needed up to the beginning of the climb will be ice axes, crampons, and helmets. Gear needed on the climb will depend on skill and comfort level of climbers on loose, steep, 3rd and 4th class rock. This may range from no gear to ropes, slings, and a minimum rack. The couloir is filled with loose rocks, so helmets are greatly desired.

Descent in this loose rock filled gully would not be desireable. It would be best to descent the North Couloir route unless under very good snow conditions.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.



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