A great intro to mountaineering for a competent trad leader. The route has all the attributes of a big Sierra climb: exciting exposure on easy terrain, a deep notch, a knife-edge arete, route-finding near the top, traversing to the summit on loose 3rd class ledges, tricky descent (3rd), and finally a glacier traverse to get back to the base.
HISTORY: Secor claims that the route, first climbed by the Mendenhalls, is "5.2, Grade I". My rating of "5.6, Grade II" is a more modern guess, and it is possible that the 5.6 is mostly due to our following the arete near the top rather than diverting to the north face. Either way, the route is long (10 pitches+lots of scrambling), the descent even longer, and so it is certainly not grade I.
Standard approach from Sam Mack Meadow as for the Palisade Glacier. The route begins above the last campsites encountered, in "Gayley corner".
Gain easy shelf (many options, topo shows an easy corner way), traverse up an left to a comfy ledge at the base of a curving arete, climb the arete (parts knife-edge) to small notch in three pitches. From the small notch, gain top of first tower by staying left of the actual arete, downclimb to a deep notch. From the deep notch, scamper to the top of block-on-top-of-block (lasso top block for pro), step left (psych crux, but easy), continue up and left (on the north-face) along a 3rd-class ledge. Climb up (several possibilities) sustained corners and grooves to a stance in L-facing corner. Sneak up a short slab with parallel cracks (technical crux), and follow the crest of the ridge up blocky but exposed 4th class terrain for two more pitches. Once technical difficulties stop, traverse right (west) to summit along loose 3rd class ledges.
Standard alpine rack, big hexes useful, large cams not necessary.
For many more photos from the route, see:
Photo Album from June 2008