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[TR] Eastern Sierras - U-Notch / Chimney /North Palisade 7/14/2012

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Trip: Eastern Sierras - U-Notch / Chimney /North Palisade


Date: 7/14/2012


Trip Report:

Following a few days of thunderstorms and a stretch of warm days, we threw judgment to the wind and headed up the 395 towards glorious alpine ice routes in the Palisades, just west of Big Pine, CA. Stories, gear, and bodily fluids were exchanged at the overnight parking lot around 7700 feet or so. Intended goal was North Pal by way of the U-notch couloir and the 2 pitch chimney. Lazy morning led to a 12 mile schlep up the north fork of the Big Pine creek. Water was plentiful all the way up to the glacier.


We passed the turquoise waters of the lakes below temple crag around 10,000




headed up the Sam Mack Meadow around 11,000 and decided on the standard route to the glacier after inspecting the snow in the chutes at the southwest end of the meadow.




We left the trail above Sam Mack and headed across mounds of Moraine and snow up to the flat boulder just above the glacial lake at 12,200ish.




Water was gathered (and treated upon discovery of an odd film on the water and the bug-corpse-floatilla ), dinner was consumed before sweating the night away in my 32 degree bag.




We'd heard tales of rock coming down the U-notch, but hadn't heard a peep out of it all afternoon or through the evening. Up at 1 am, we decided to give it a shot, hoping the early morning would afford the cooler temps to stave off rockfall, and we'd be down before the possible t-storms that hit this area in the summer afternoons.




The mile or so and 800 feet to the mouth of the U-notch passed more quickly than we anticipated, even with the sketchy boulder slope traverse above the lake before you reach the toe of the glacier. Water ran over the surface into trenches scored by the running melt on its way to the lake. We found a flattish spot about 75 feet below the U-notch, flaked ropes and racked gear before we headed up to the bergschrund. At that moment, in the mostly-dark of the early morning, we heard a far off rumble to our right and way up high. It grew into a deafening rattle of rock down the Clyde Couloir, boulders sparking off the sides of the chute, landing in the snow and ice and setting off a huge plume of white that we could just make out in the dark.


The chute above us leading to the U-notch and North Palisade sat silently, waiting on us to make a decision. We decided this route wasn't worth the risk - it was too warm and the recent rains high up probably loosened up some treats above us. We packed it up and headed back down the glacier to camp - short nap and some snacks made the 11-12 mile hike out that much more bearable.



V-notch, U-notch, and Clyde Couloir above the Palisade Glacier.





Gear Notes:

Didn't use it: took 60m half ropes, stubbies, draws, handful of nuts and cams. 2 tools.


Approach Notes:

11-12 miles to the notch from TH. Water plentiful.

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FWIW: Feel free to contact Mammoth Mountaineering, Sierra Mountain Center, or Sierra Mountain Guides for the latest conditions. They're happy to share. When I lived in Bishop, that big dark streak down the U-Notch was the sure sign that its season was over. If you absolutely want to climb ice, send me a pm and I'll recommend a few routes to you.

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Hey Chris, thanks for the feedback. I know a guy at SMG - their website/condition reports are handy. PM sent.

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Man, thanks for the TR and info, we were debating on making the pilgrimage all the way to the Palisades, but it looks as though the season on the Notches may be over earlier than later this year! Is early September an average 'in condition' time to attempt these routes?

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Berg, this is really the first season I've even paid attention to alpine ice, so I can't speak for other years other than the research I've done. This was a pretty dry year, so the ice came/went pretty early. My understanding is that late Aug/early Sept is about average, as you say.


I'm still holding out some hope for early fall and the V-notch...keeping my eyes on it, but not holding my breath.

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Conditions on a couple other great climbs (pics courtesy of Wes - 7/29/2012)


Gilbert is chopped in half by the sun




Harrington is in on Thompson, but looks like there isn't a ton of nice ice









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