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Mt Sill (14,153’) and Polemonium Pk (14,080’ or 13,952’) dayhike 8-6-06
Although I’ve been making steady progress on my attempt to day hike all the CA 14ers, I’ve always been concerned about the more technically difficult peaks in the Palisade area. So I decided to go after the 2 “easiest” peaks on the left side of the glacier. This was my first trip back onto the Palisade glacier in about 29 years. Whoa, has it been that long ago? Yeah my last time was ~1977 with Dennis Richards dragging me up the V-notch and then crossing over to Mt Sill. Dennis dragged lots of us newbies all over cliffs, crags and mountains. I remember this was my first experience hiking in stiff mountaineer boots and getting severe plantar fascist, ouch!
I got started from the Pine Creek TH 3:45 am and up to Sam Mack meadow by 6:20 am. Saw a beautiful big ol’ 5 point deer munching away in the meadow near the Sam Mack trail junction (double dang! the photo is too dark). A couple folks camping at Sam Mack meadows were brewing up their first batch of Starbucks and waiting for the warming sun to drench their camp site (it was cold, there was ice on the trail in the earlier morning).
Got up to the lip of the moraine field & Camp Gayle area on the SE side (left) of the glacial moraine field at 7:30 and then crossed high on the SE side of the glacier to the base of the class 2 slope that leads up to the Glacier Notch between Mt Gayle and Sill. Although I used crampons & axe to cross the side of the glacier & the morning frozen snow, there were good boot tracks that could be followed without crampons. So I used up 2 crampon on/off transitions to cross the side of the Palisade glacier, big deal. Crampons were stowed for the rest of the day.
The class 2 scramble up from the glacier to Glacier Notch is easier than it looks from below and got to the notch ~8:30. Then followed the good boot tracks up the snow slopes on the North Couloir to Apex notch (9:10) up between Apex Point (?) and Mt Sill. While stepping up the North Couloir, I noticed a couple of climbers on the classic Swiss Arete route (5.7).
From the Apex notch, I traverse slightly up and right to the SW ridge of Mt Sill. This also is easier than it looks, but it requires a good eye to spot the easiest line or have Bob Burb’s photo in your back pocket (work smart not hard) Burd Photo
From the SW ridge, it’s an easy scramble up the summit boulders & talus to the top (9:45).
While relaxing on top, I could hear the rock climbers coming up the final pitch of the Swiss Arete. It turned out to be Miguel Forjan and Sam Mill. It was a pleasure to meet these two big time SP posters and nice guys.
After hanging around the summit for about an hour (10:45) and a few photos, I headed over to Polemonium Pk. Getting to the base, or the false base, of Polemonium is an easy 40 min (~11:20) traverse across the talus slopes on the SW side of the Sill-Polemonium ridge. This traverse has one of the strangest trail ducks anywhere, a 5-point deer head posed on a boulder looking towards Mt Sill. It looks like something from Monty Python’s Holy Grail (what is your favorite color?) very strange indeed. Anyone know of the story behind the deer head trail duck :?: I can’t image anyone carrying this deer head and antlers up to ~13,900.
Once to the base of Polemonium, I realized that there is a false shoulder before getting to the final notch and the remaining 40-50’ class 3/4 scramble to the very top. Getting to the final notch, I messed up finding the easiest route. I went down the western chute for ~100’ to gain entry to 2 chutes that lead up to the notch. After trying a couple different lines, I just pushed it up one of the snowy chutes to the notch (crux of the day). This required some good ol’ Sierra class 4d scrambling to get to the final notch, followed by the scramble up the final ridge (classic Sierra class 3/4) to the summit at 12 noon.
After about 20 mins on top (no summit register to sign & no pen), I headed back across the talus slope to the shoulder of Mt Sill and the descent down to Apex notch (1:20) the North Couloir. On this traverse I meet up with good ol’ Tony and Jim who were descending after their successful ascent of Swiss Arete route on Mt Sill.
A quick glissade down the north couloir, scramble down the talus slope, and crossing the Palisade glacier got us to Tony and Jim’s camp on the central moraine field ~3:40. After a short visit at Tony and Jim’s camp, Tony gave me the beta on the quick route down the snow slopes that lead directly to Sam Mack meadow. This is a most excellent way back to Sam Mack meadow that avoids all the moraine field hassles. I got to Sam Mack meadow at 5 and returned to the car by 7:20. (CTC ~15.5 hrs)
Another great day in the Sierras
Here are some photos