Bishop Pass and the Palisades

This trip was done sometime between 1984 (when Alexander was born) and 1990 (when Paul was born), most likely in 1989. Alexander was old enough (5 years old) to hike by himself with a light pack (people we met on the trail were amazed). Three of us went. My wife Ingrid, my young son Alexander, and myself.

Day 1

We lined up early to get a first-come first-served wilderness permit at the "gate" going in to the Bishop Pass area. We scored, so we packed up and headed in, me carrying an absurdly heavy pack with Alexanders sleeping bag, a tent, and the stove, etc. I was young and macho back then and my knees showed no signs of giving out, although I worried what might happen if I fell with this huge pack. I never weighed my packs back then, so who knows, probably on the order of 70 pounds.

We start at the South Lake trailhead, and begin the hike in. Long Lake is pretty, but there are a lot of people camped here. We continue on past Timberline Tarns and Saddlerock Lake, camping somewhere just south of Saddlerock Lake at 11,200 feet. Beautiful views of granite and water.

Day 2

Up and over Bishop Pass. Alexander is amazed to find snow in the summer. Some of it has red algae growing in it. The climb offers nice views and an opportunity to marvel at the Inconsolable Range (what a name). it is a pleasant trail to Dusy Basin (but the heavy pack is a curse) We make camp at the north end of the basin near the first large lake. I don't want to carry this monster pack any farther than absolutely necessary. We wonder what these strange igloo like piles of rock are all about.

Day 3

It turns out that the igloo rock piles are about marmots! These furry critters that I have admired and enjoyed in the past have been transformed into pack and camp raiding pests, and the only hope above timberline is to hide packs and food under piles of rock! Dusy Basin is a heavily used area, and this sort of domestication is what comes of that. We use the rock piles as best we can, but still suffer some depradation.

This day it is up right at dawn, with the goal of climbing Mount Winchell via the East Arete. This route was recommended by Dave Baker, and the recommendation turns out to be a fine one. Ingrid and Paul stay at camp. (Actually, Ingrid climbed Columbine Peak (12662) via the class 2 route from Knapsack Pass while I was climbing Winchell).

I head back on the trail to Bishop Pass, then cross country to Jigsaw Pass, around the north side of Aperture Peak, across talus to the pass between Mount Agassiz and Mount Robinson and then to the base of the east arete of Mount Winchell. The route is pleasant third class climbing on clean rock. The route is the frosting on the cake, the hard work is the approach and talus. Mt. Winchell has a nice summit (13775), then it is back down the route and back to camp the way I came. This is my first really high quality sierra peak.

Day 4

Ingrid has again agreed to allow me a day on my own on the peaks and off I go. Todays goal is to climb North Palisade (14242). R. J. Secor calls North Palisade the classic peak of the High Sierra. My goal is the LeConte route. This will be my first 14,000 foot peak and my first class 4 route. I am on my own without rope or gear besides my pack and warm clothes. I travel across Dusy Basin clinging to the east side along the peaks, crossing the pass between Thunderbolt Peak and peak 12548. There is just no end of talus of all sizes. You would think looking at the map that this would be just a pleasant stroll (a common deception looking at High Sierra Maps, the contours don't show the talus!) It might have been easier to use Knapsack Pass and cross through Palisade Basin, taking the opportunity to get a close look at Barrett Lakes.

I carefully watch for the 3 white cliffs and the two chutes, and select with some uncertainty what I believe to be the rightmost chute. I head up the left branch and find the traversing ledge. There is some exciting exposure. I follow around to the third chute. There is ice filling the chute in a chimney like area, which gives me some concern (the ice that is), particularly with a view to the descent. There is a sling frozen into the ice, which can provide somewhat of a self belay. In any event, this obstacle is quickly passed and I find myself popping almost to quickly over a knife edge with a significant drop on the other side. Clouds have begun to build and there is a rumble of thunder. Lightning is the last thing I want to have to deal with, and I ponder whether I should head down, but it is only a few hundred feet to the summit. I press on, alert for any signs of electrical activity, and do not linger long at all on the summit, spectacular though the view is. The Palisade Glacier is a huge thing spread out below. A big route on a big mountain.

The descent is straightforward, and I get completely off the route and onto the talus before the rain starts. I retrace my route back to camp and find Ingrid and Alexander doing their best to deal with the downpour. They are in the floorless "megamid" and are inside pulling the sleeping bags up and away from water running in from the sides.

Day 5

Hike out and head home!
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