Peak(s):  Mt. Sill - 14153
Mt. Gayley - 13510
Palisade Crest - 13553
Mt. Jepson - 13390
Date Posted:  08/31/2017
Date Climbed:   08/14/2017
Author:  Furthermore
 A Return to the Palisades   


Mt. Sill 14,153'
Mt. Gayley 13,510'
Palisade Crest 13,553'
Mt. Jepson 13,390'
August 13-15, 2017
~23.0 Miles, ~12,500
TH: Big Pine Creek (2WD)
35-45 minutes drive from Bishop
Max difficulty: Class 5.7 â‘ Swiss Arete on Mt. Sill.



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Wanting to return to the Palisades for some technical routes was high on my list. A high camp in the basin of the Big Pine South Fork provided access to a few technical options. Traditionally, Mt. Sill is approached form the North Fork but camping at Elinor Lake would give us access to both Mt. Sill and Palisade Crest.

For my ârest❠day, Michelle and I packed and started the hot hike up the Big Pine South Fork. Due to the higher than average snow year, the river crossing at 8,600 was a little more sporty than I remembered from the previous year. The âtrail❠to Elinor Lake was complicated and not easy to follow. We stayed on the Big Pine South Fork trail until we hit a signed trail junction for Willow Lake. We followed the Willow Lake Trail (no obvious trail actually goes to Willow Lake) as it quickly dissipated. Occasional cairns assured us that we were on the right track. Fortunately, the rest of the river crossings were easy as there were several forks of the river.

Norman Clyde Peak from low on the approach.
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Middle Palisade before leaving the main trail.
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From the flat basin at ~9,600 we traveled west towards a large obvious granite buttress that towers above the northern most fork of the South Fork Big Pine river. We ended up climbing a few slabs to get on top of the buttress. There could potentially be a better path on the southern side as there was a short section where we lost the cairns.

Slabs getting to the top of the granite buttress.
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First view of Sill and Gayley.
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First good view of Palisade Crest.
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Near ~10,000 feet, we crossed the most northern fork of the river to stay on the north side of the river (well cairned). Staying on the south side of the river would have resulted in a very swampy trek. Once on the north side of the river, we continued west for 0.5 mile. Progress was slow as it was all boulder hopping. When we passed the outlet stream from Elinore Lake, we crossed back to the south side of the river and continued to follow the west side of the stream towards Elinore Lake. This area had horrendous mosquitoes, travel was miserable; swampy and slow.

When will the boulders end?
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The mosquitoes thinned out as we reached Elinore Lake where we had excellent views of the surrounding peaks and our climbing objectives. We had planned on an early start to Sill but that evening the wind had picked up dramatically.

Norman Clyde from Elinor Lake.
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Palisade Crest from Elinor Lake.
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When our alarm went off the tent was flapping violently from the wind and we decided to sleep in. Around 8 AM, we decided to try for Gayley and see if the wind would die down by the time we reached Sill.

A grassy slope on the west side of Elinore Lake guided us upwards. Quickly, the grassy slope disappeared and it was a long talus hop/slog towards the Gayley-Sill saddle. A cliff bars easy access to the saddle of Gayley and Sill. We climbed up a snow slope and then traversed on class 3 ledges through a weakness to reach the saddle. By the time we reached the saddle, the wind had died down so we felt comfortable continuing up the Swiss Arete on Sill.

Talus above Elinor Lake.
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Approaching Mt. Sill
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Neat Lake.
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Snow to reach Sill-Gayley saddle.
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Class 3 ledges to reach Sill-Gayley saddle.
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We did a variation of the direct start and enjoyed plenty of class 3-4 scrambling. Eventually, Michelle wanted a rope, so we did one long simul pitch at the start of the notch (most people start the climb at the notch from the âL❠shaped snowfield). Two pitches of 5.6 led us t the 5.7 crux pitch. The route finding didn't feel that difficult as we followed the path of least resistance up the ridge. After a short traverse right, we climbed the excellent 5.7 dihedral which led us to easier climbing. One long simul pitch after the crux led us directly to the summit.

View of Sill from near the saddle.
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Starting up the Swiss Arete.
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Starting up the Swiss Arete.
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Simul pitch to reach the base.
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On the arete.
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Nearing the top of the crux pitch on the Swiss Arete.
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They say some of the best views in the Sierra are on top of Sill and I do have to admit they were pretty good. For the descent we dropped about 200' down Sill's southwest ridge to the first easy ledge that would take us across Sill's northwest face. Due to loose gravel on ledges, we opted to rappel the short 4th class section along Sill's northwest face.

Finish the Swiss Arete.
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Views of North Pal.
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View south from the summit of Sill.
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Continuing on ledges, we reached the top of âL❠couloir and bucket stepped back to the Sill-Gayley saddle. âThe Yellow Brick Road❠route on Gayley is pretty obvious as there is a band of orange rock leading to the summit from the saddle. Easy class 3 scrambling up this orange band (excellent rock) led us to the summit where we could bask back at the Swiss Arete. Now, back to the saddle where miles of talus led us back to camp at Elinor Lake.

Bucket steps down Sill.
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Gayley from our descend. The Yellow Brick Road can be seen.
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Traversing from Sill.
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Summit view from Gayley.
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Yellow Brick Road scrambling.
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Sill from the summit.
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Middle Pal, Norman Clyde and Palisade Crest from Gayley.
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Palisade Crest from Gayley.
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Route shown to reach Sill-Gayley saddle.
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Temple Crag on our descent back to Elinor Lake.
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Returning back to camp.
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Thinking Palisade Crest was going to be an easy half day was a mistake. We woke up early and starting hiking towards Scimitar Pass before the sunrise. The route to Scimitar isn't obvious but there is a buttress of rock descending from the Jepson-PC saddle. We hiked/talus hopped south until we could get on the south side of this buttress through a noch at ~11,800. Once on the south side, more talus, along with a snow field led us to Scimitar Pass.

Sunrise on Sill and Gayley.
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Sunrisde on Palisade Crest.
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Snow enroute to the Scimitar Pass.
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Our objective was to proceed to a notch before the true summit which according to Secor, âThis traverse is class 3, with diligent routefinding.❠Secor's book also mentions to stay on the west side of the ridge initially which almost immediately, became near impossible. We opted to stay on the ridge crest direct. Enjoyable, exposed class 3-4 scrambling led us towards the prominent notch before the true summit (we simuled due to the unknown class rating). At the high point in the ridge before the notch, the climbing became much more difficult and not straightforward. If I had read Bob Burd's report more carefully, I would have known to descend significantly off the ridge crest (to the east) ~2/3rd of the way across the ridge. Burd even admits his route wasn't class 3 with exhilarating exposure and some loose rock.

Sunrise on Sill and Gayley.
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Sunrisde on Palisade Crest.
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Snow enroute to the Scimitar Pass.
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From the highpoint in the crest before the notch, I spent quite some time looking for an âeasy❠path forward. I wasn't very lucky. More likely, I was too lazy. Michelle ended up doing a short rappel from the highpoint while I did an awkward, exposed 5.6 down-climb to a ledge on the east side of the ridge. We ended up locating and descending a narrow ramp which took us to the notch. Class 3? Wtf.

About half way through the traverse.
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Angling crack to notch.
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Downclimbing the angling crack.
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Our route to reach the notch.
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Just out of the notch, was the routes' crux - 160 feet of class 4 slab. At least the route finding up the slab was easy but I felt the climbing was a little stiff for class 4 (5.2?). We belayed up this section. Once at the top of the slab, we descended back down on the west side of the ridge and wrapped around to the southeast side of the true summit. A nice class 3 gully system led us to the summit. Near the summit, I felt the climbing was a little closer to 4th class and quite exposed.

Class 4 slab.
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Class 4 slab.
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View south from the summit.
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True summit and the 4th class slab.
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Traversing back.
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Now we had to return back to Scimitar Pass but at least we knew the route. The awkward 5.6 down-climb was more difficult on the return. Michelle wasn't interested in Jepson so she started the descent back to camp while I did a quick out-and-back from Scimitar Pass. From Scimitar Pass, Jepson is easy class 2 talus hiking. The views of Mt. Sill and Palisade Crest are excellent from the summit of Jepson.

View from Jepson.
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I quickly returned back to Scimitar Pass and caught up with Michelle on her descent. We arrived back at camp. We were debating on staying another night but the mosquitoes were horrendous and beer awaited at the car. A quick refill on water and we started the hike out. The mosquitoes on the hike out were some of the worst I have ever experienced and they didn't let up until we were below 9,000.

Reaching the car just after dark, we enjoyed our beer and celebrated a successful, technical Palisade adventure.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Vadim34
User
Impressive
09/03/2017 08:21
Great report supported with excellent pictures. Impressive route selection to get those peaks! Nice job Derek!


Jay521
User
I just shake my head...
09/05/2017 08:58
... at the stuff you do, Derek. Absolutely incredible pictures.



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