Sill & Polemonium Dayhike 8-6-06

Sill & Polemonium Dayhike 8-6-06

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 6, 2006
Seasons Season: Summer

Add Heading Here

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
graham's photos


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-1 of 1

gswanson - Oct 4, 2012 7:49 pm - Hasn't voted

mystery of the buck solved...


Your picture of the Big Buck on Summit Post made my day!!! URL:

2005 or 2006 my buddy and I were climbing Sill and Polemonium from Sam Mack Meadows. (Side note: My buddy & I climbed all the 14ers, climbing only one or two peaks a year so we had an excuse to get in the high country at least once a year.) We climbed Sill and Polemonium and then on our way back along the ridge, my buddy who was hiking ~50 feet higher on the ridge then myself yelled, "Gary, You will not believe this - get over here!" Down in the rocks, between two giant boulders was this hung dead buck. Apparently, he had been dead two or three years, but because of the elements at 13.9k elevation he hadn't disintegrate or dissolved very much. Our guess was... 1) the buck may have been trying to cross over the pass late in the Fall(maybe in the snow) and couldn't make it due to the drop on the other side. He may have gotten under the rocks for protection during the night or during a storm but because of the cold, lack of food/water, high altitude elements he died.(he may have been very old as well). 2) He could have been trying to cross the pass (possibly running from something) couldn't cross and then slipped on the ice or a rock broke a leg then died. (??? best guesses)

Anyway, my buddy John took a picture and said, "let's go". I told him, Hey, I got an Idea! I wanted to share this incredible find(mystery story) with others and maybe SHOCK a few unexpected climbers waling by and get a few priceless looks..even if I wouldn't be around to see them. (LOL) We dragged the head & neck ~ 30 feet down the ridge along the marked trail and propped his head up (& yes, make a one-of-a-kind trial duck) along the trail from Sill to Polemonium.

Currently, I have another friend who started climbing the 14ers and needed a guide to help him climb both mountains next weekend (Oct 13 & 14th 2012) weather permitting. As I was glancing through Sill/Polemonium articles/web sites to refresh my memory, I came across your posting w/ the picture and instantaneously recognize my Buck! (I love it!)

Thank you,

Gary Swanson
Colfax, CA

Viewing: 1-1 of 1



Related objects are relevant to each other in some way, but they don't form a parent/child relationship. Also, they don't necessarily share the same parent.