Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cathedral Peak + Eichorn's Pinnacle, September 22, 2011

Cathedral Peak's Southeast Buttress is one of the most popular climbs in Tuolumne Meadows. It offers over 700 feet (5-6 pitches) of easy to moderate climbing and has been considered one of the best 5.6 alpine rock climbs anywhere. Thus, there will almost certainly be a crowd. So start early (or late if you're fast).
Cathedral Peak and Eichorn's Pinnacle
Our day started around 6:30AM at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead and we made it to the base of the climb by 8:00AM. The approach is fairly straight-forward and easy to follow. You start by hiking south uphill for about 10 minutes on the John Muir Trail and then there will be an obvious sandy trail on the left normally blocked by logs. You follow this well-traveled trail for about 3 miles all the way to Cathedral Peak. Many cairns and boulders will mark the way and it should take about 1.5 hours.
Hike south for ~10min uphill on the JMT. Take this trail blocked by logs on the left to get to Cathedral Peak.
When we arrived at the base, there were about 8 other climbers who were still gearing up. We wasted no time and quickly geared up and started climbing the Southeast Buttress. I didn't want to wait in line, so I just ran up the first pitch without looking at my topo or really thinking about a line to follow. We definitely didn't climb the easiest route up, but it sure turned out to be fun. I think it was mostly sustained 5.7 climbing and we avoided all the 3rd/4th class terrain.
This is what the Southeast Buttress looks like from the base.
Our route took us directly to the chimney as if we climbed up in a straight line. It took just under 2 hours to make it here and climbing the chimney turned out to be a lot of fun. Our day-packs made it a little complicated to negotiate the chimney, but we figured it out. We started with our packs on our back until we got ourselves situated inside and then moved our packs to the front of our chest.
Jacquelyn following the pitch right before the chimney.
Me inside the chimney.
The view from inside the chimney.
After the chimney, it took maybe another hour to make the summit. We were there by 11:30AM and scouted our next destination: Eichorn's Pinnacle.
Almost at the summit.
Me at the summit. Eichorn's Pinnacle on the bottom right.
From Cathedral Peak, Eichorn's Pinnacle looks just amazing. It practically calls to you and if you're not low on time, you will want to climb it. It may also be one of the most photographed climbs in Tuolumne, so make sure to bring your camera for this awesome photo opportunity. You'll have to figure out on your own how to take the photo though.
Me on top of Eichorn's Pinnacle
The traverse to the base of Eichorn's North Face is only about 150 yards away and is mostly 3rd/4th class scrambling. The North Face route (5.4) starts on some exposed ledges and has 1 piton on the ledge and 3 more really close together later on. The climb then becomes awkward with a wide crack system going left and the rope drag is terrible! You might find that fighting the rope drag will be more difficult than the climbing itself. Although there is an optional belay you can set up to avoid this. It took us about 2 hours from the summit of Cathedral Peak to climb up Eichorn and rappel back down to the notch. This includes the amount of time needed to take our photos.
Signing the summit register on top of Eichorn's Pinnacle.
Unlike Cathedral Peak, Eichorn's Pinnacle has a summit register box. I became immediately saddened after looking through and signing the summit register. More than a year ago, Christina Chan, a Stanford student and climber, summited Eichorn's Pinnacle and fell while descending unroped. Her friends appeared to have made the summit register into a memorial for her. Although I have never met Chris, it almost felt like I have lost someone close to me that I've known for years. She was a fellow climber who shared the same passion for climbing as I do.
Eichorn's Pinnacle Summit Register.
Climb on, Chris...
From the notch, it took about 1 hour to descend the 3rd class slabs and reach the John Muir Trail by Cathedral Lakes and then another hour to get back to the car. We were on the road by 3:45PM, making it a 9.25 hour day car-to-car.

Matthes Crest, September 21, 2011

Matthes Crest is an amazing 1-mile long knife-edge ridge just south of Tuolumne Meadows. It is commonly completed as a traverse from South to North. However, most climbers only complete the southern two-thirds of it and rappel off the North Summit. The traverse is rated 5.7, but 90% of the ridge line is really class 3. The class 5 sections are at the beginning south end, right before the North Summit, and after the North Summit (if you choose to complete the entire traverse).
Matthes Crest as viewed from the west side.
We started this day at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead around 7:00AM. The hike begins on the John Muir Trail heading south towards Cathedral Lakes. You will hike uphill for about 10 minutes before you make a left turn on an obvious sandy trail that is normally blocked by logs. You follow this trail for ~45 minutes or 1.5 miles until the trail wants to you turn right and head toward Cathedral Peak. Instead of going right, make a left and cross Budd Creek over logs. Continue following this trail until you arrive at Budd Lake where the trail will eventually disappear. You will then hike cross-country south-west around Echo Peaks and once you pass Echo Peaks, Matthes Crest will come into view. Descend a few hundred feet and head straight to the south end. It took us about 3 hours to arrive at the south end from the trailhead.
Hike for about 10 minutes uphill on the JMT until you see this trail on the left blocked by logs. Take this trail.
After 1.5 miles, cross Budd Creek over this log (now broken).
Budd Lake.
Approximate route on Matthes Crest.
The climbing starts off with 3 short pitches of easy class 5. Once you gain the ridge, you are quickly greeted with 4th class terrain. You may or may not want to remain roped in for this short section. We put our rope away as soon as we arrived on the ridge. The rest of ridge is mostly exposed 3rd class with a couple 4th/5th class moves here and there. Remaining roped in is mostly unnecessary, troublesome, and time-consuming if you are comfortable in this type of terrain.
Jacquelyn leading the start of Matthes Crest.
Me following.
Free-soloing the 4th class right after gaining the ridge.
Traversing Matthes Crest.
Some exposed ledges.
Making some occasional 4th/5th class moves.
The South & North Summit comes into view.
I'm not sure whether most people choose to climb the South Summit or not, but to save time, we skipped the South Summit and just traversed straight to the notch from the east side of the ridge. From here, I led a 5.7+ pitch on the west face up the North Summit. Honestly, I don't know what the grade was, but it wasn't easy. If anything, I might have been off route.
Me at the summit of Matthes Crest.
We made the North Summit by 2:00PM and thunderclouds were right in front of us. The forecast has been terribly inaccurate all week. It predicted "sunny and clear" and then a day before our climb, it changed to 20% chance of thunderstorms after 2:00PM. Our intention was to complete the entire Matthes Crest Traverse, but unfortunately the thunderstorms forced us to bail. It began to rain, hail, and snow on us as soon as we made our first rappel off the North Summit. After a few more rappels, lightning and thunder started.
Thunderclouds heading our way.
Rappelling off the North Summit.
The hike back to the car was long and dreadful, maybe because we did Half Dome the day before, but I was definitely tired, miserable, and wanted the day to end. We basically just retraced our steps and finally made it back to the car around 5:00PM, making it a 10 hour day car-to-car.
This is what Cathedral Peak looked like on our way back.
I mostly made the decision to attempt the complete traverse after reading descent beta from multiple sources stating that you need two 60m ropes for the rappel off the North Summit. The complete traverse would avoid rappelling as it would just be a walk off after you finish. Well, after bailing off the North Summit with only one 60m rope, I can safely say that you don't need two 60m ropes. There were already plenty of rappel anchors built at single rope lengths and if there isn't, you can just bring your own bail gear and easily build one anywhere. Why carry the extra weight for something you will barely use? The other gear we brought with us for protection included Black Diamond C4 sizes .3 to 3 and 8 alpine draws. We barely used any of it.

Overall, Matthes Crest is indeed an incredible ridge line with stunning exposure and scenery all around. If you are expecting spectacular climbing, you might be disappointed, unless of course you complete the entire traverse. After all, the best climbing is rumored to be after the North Summit. As for the approach, it's long, boring, and I hated it. I think if I were to attempt it again, I would just backpack to the Cathedral Lakes area and spend a few days bagging all the peaks around the vicinity instead of day-tripping everything.

Half Dome via Snake Dike, September 20, 2011

Yosemite's Half Dome is one of the most iconic peaks in the world as it attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The easiest route to the summit is a 7-8 mile hike from the Happy Isles Trailhead and involves ascending metal cables for the last 400 feet. In 2010, the National Park Service implemented a permit system for Half Dome to address congestion and safety concerns on the cables. There are 400 permits available per day and are often fully reserved months in advance. Permits were only required Fri-Sun in 2010, but this year, it is now required 7 days a week. Several deaths have already occurred on Half Dome this year.
Half Dome.
Half Dome permits are now required 7 days a week.
I first completed Half Dome in 2006, before I started (or even knew anything about) rock climbing. It took me 10 hours car-to-car and it was brutal. I was astonished watching climbers carrying ropes and summitting from the other side of the dome. I could not imagine myself doing that.

Three years later, in 2009, I returned and completed Half Dome again. This time, it was via Snake Dike at night during the full moon. We decided to climb it in the dark to avoid the crowds and the heat and sure enough, we were the only ones on the wall. It took 12 hours car-to-car and it was also brutal.
Climbing Snake Dike at night during the full moon.
Earlier this week, I decided to get on Snake Dike again. This time, during the day so I can experience the exposure, scenery, and big runouts. The climb is rated 5.7 with the crux sections being friction slab climbing (moving your feet with no positive hand holds) on pitches 1 & 3. The rest of the climb is extremely runout, but very easy. Climbing Half Dome does not require a permit and after reading several trip reports stating that there were 10 people on the wall during weekdays, I was not thrilled and contemplated climbing something else instead, but we ended up doing it anyway.

We started at 7AM from Curry Village and were at the base by 10AM. The approach is approximately 6 miles long and gains ~2,500 feet. You hike past Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and right after you get to the Little Yosemite Valley Junction where the sandy trail flattens out with logs on both sides, you make a left onto a climber's trail and head towards the South Face of Half Dome. The rest of the hike isn't very obvious and it's quite easy to lose the trail. Luckily, there are plenty of cairns that may or may not mark the way. It starts off on an actual good trail heading west (left), so make sure you find it first. Stay on this trail and you will eventually hike over several fallen trees, pass Lost Lake, do some bushwhacking, climb up 3rd class slabs, and traverse exposed ledges before you arrive at the base of the climb. 
Vernal Falls.
Nevada Falls
This is where you will want to make a left turn to get on to the climber's trail.
Hiking up the slabs.
Traversing exposed ledges. Lost Lake in the background.
When we arrived at the base, there were 4 climbers already on the wall and 5 more at the base getting ready. I was not psyched at all. It appeared that we would have to wait about 2 hours before it would be our turn. There is no easy or safe way to pass people on this climb, so you're pretty much forced to wait. After 45 minutes of waiting around, I asked the party of 3 ahead of us (who were taking their time gearing up) if we could go ahead of them and they didn't have a problem as long as we run up it. 

I remembered the start of the first pitch being quite terrifying due to the 5.7 friction traverse under the roof, so this time I started left from where most people normally start. It was slightly easier and you can sling the tree for protection. After the roof, it's easy climbing to a bolted belay. If you use a 60m rope, all belay stations are bolted except for 7 & 8. 
Approximate Snake Dike Route as seen from the base.
Pitch 2 is a traverse towards the right and is fairly short from the bolted belay, but can be a little scary as there isn't very much protection and you definitely don't want to fall. Once you clip the bolt over the roof, you'll feel much better.
Pitch 2, almost at the bolt above the roof.
Most people consider pitch 3 the crux of the climb, but it wasn't as bad as I remembered. The single bolt during the 5.7 friction traverse provides much relief and once you gain the dike, you're home free. Although the remaining pitches are extremely runout, climbing the dike felt very secure and easy. It was more of a "hike" than a climb as you're mostly using your feet instead of your arms. After pitch 6, we pretty much just simul-climbed / free-soloed until we got to the 3rd class slabs, which was where we put our climbing gear away and had our hiking shoes back on. The last 1,000 feet of 3rd class slab is definitely gruesome.
Pitch 3. That single bolt provides much relief.
Jacquelyn leading pitch 4. She just clipped her first bolt where she is in this photo.
Endless 3rd class slabs after pitch 8.
Being at the summit of Half Dome was nothing new for me. I hiked it again last year as part of a backpacking trip and this became the 4th time on it. We made the summit by 2:30PM, took pictures on the Diving Board, and descended the cables. Surprisingly, there were very few people on Half Dome and the cables, so we were able to get down pretty fast. We took the shuttle from Happy Isles to Curry Village and were back to the car by 5:45PM.
Cairns at the summit of Half Dome.
Me on the Diving Board.
Looking down from sitting on the edge of the Diving Board.
Here's our approximate time log:

Curry Village: 7:00AM
Little Yosemite Valley Junction: 8:45AM
Base of Climb: 10:10AM
Starting Pitch 1: 11:00AM
Finishing Pitch 8: 1:30PM
Summit: 2:20PM
Sub-dome: 3:00PM
Curry Village: 5:45PM

Total time car-to-car: ~10:45 including 45 minutes waiting in line at the base and 30 minutes at the summit.

As for the gear we brought with us, it wasn't much. Since I already did this climb once before, I knew exactly what we needed. For protection, I only brought Metolius Ultralight Cams 2, 3, 4, and 6 alpine draws. I placed a cam during pitch 1 & 2 and didn't place anything else for the rest of the climb, mostly because you can't really place anything. If you really wanted to, you could "sport climb" the entire route.
This was the gear I brought with me.
After climbing this route twice now, I think I'm done with it. If I had climbed it during the day the first time, I'm not sure I would have returned to climb it a second time even for a full moon ascent. The nickname "Snake Hike" has become clearer than ever. 
A rainbow in front of Vernal Falls.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Trip Report: Mt. Sill, North Palisade, & Polemonium Peak, August 29 - September 01, 2011

Two months ago, I attempted the Palisade Traverse from Thunderbolt to Sill, but was only able to bag Thunderbolt and Starlight Peak. North Palisade, Polemonium Peak, and Mt. Sill remained unfinished and were the last of the California 14ers that I have yet to complete.
Mt. Sill, Polemonium Peak, North Palisade, Starlight Peak, Thunderbolt Peak, Mt. Winchell, Mt. Agassiz, and the Palisade Glacier
Mt. Sill, Polemonium Peak, North Palisade, Starlight Peak, Thunderbolt Peak, Mt. Winchell, Mt. Agassiz, and the Palisade Glacier
Last week, I headed back to the East Side and made another attempt at these peaks. Before then, I have spent much time pondering which approach and which route I would take. I decided that this time, we would approach the Palisades from the glacier side instead of the basin side from Bishop Pass. We would then ascend Mt. Sill first via the North Couloir and return back down to camp and then bag North Palisade and Polemonium Peak via the U-Notch the next day. That was the plan. We didn't know how long it would take us, but we allowed 3-4 days for this trip.

Day 1 (First Falls Walk-in Campground)
We left the Bay Area around 10AM and headed for Bishop to get our permits for the North Fork of Big Pine Creek. There are 10 permits available for walk-ins each day and we didn't have any problems getting a permit for same day or next day. We then ate dinner and headed to the Big Pine Creek Trailhead.

As I mentioned previously in my Middle Palisade Trip Report, there are two Big Pine Creek Trailheads. Since we are taking the North Fork this time, we started from the trail at the hiker parking lot. This trail leads you straight to the First Falls Walk-in Campground and then onto the North Fork.
Big Pine Creek Trailhead by the hiker parking lot.
Big Pine Creek Trailhead by the hiker parking lot.
The First Falls Walk-in Campground is approximately 1 mile from the parking lot and is a great place to stay if you are arriving late your first day or want to acclimate at ~8,300 feet. It is a free campground with picnic tables, fire rings, a bear locker, and pit toilets. You can also get water from the creek right next to it. We spent our first night here arriving at about 7:30PM.
First Falls Walk-in Campground.
First Falls Walk-in Campground.
Our campsite for the night at First Falls.
Our campsite for the night at First Falls.
Day 2 (Mt. Sill)
We knew this day was going to be be a long day covering approximately 10 miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain. So we started hiking at 5AM and headed for the Palisade Glacier. From the First Falls Campground, you will notice that there are two trails leaving the area, a high trail, and a low trail. Both trails will eventually join, so it doesn't really matter which one you take, although I prefer and suggest taking the high trail.

This trail will then take you past the Second Falls, First Lake, Second Lake, and Third Lake. After the Third Lake, you will eventually make a left and head south onto the Glacier Trail, which takes you straight to Sam Mack Meadow and the Palisade Glacier. From First Falls, it took us ~3.5 hours to get to Sam Mack Meadow and another 2 hours to get to the Glacier. There are many bivy spots right before the Glacier, so we made base camp here. Water was scarce, but luckily some other climbers pointed out a source underneath boulders that we could use to refill with.
Third Lake and Temple Crag in the background.
Third Lake and Temple Crag in the background.
Creek crossing by Sam Mack Meadow.
Creek crossing by Sam Mack Meadow.
Our campsite before the Palisade Glacier.
Our campsite before the Palisade Glacier.
After making camp and refilling our water bottles, we headed for the North Couloir of Mt. Sill. We started at about 11:30AM and made the summit at 3:00PM. The route was fairly straight-forward and crampons were definitely required. Although we brought along our ice axes, we did not need to use them. The snow ended at Apex Peak and the rest of the climb became a class 2/3 scramble. Some online resources have rated this section to be class 4, but I did not find it very difficult at all.
Our approximate route from the Glacier to the summit of Mt. Sill.
Our approximate route from the Glacier to the summit of Mt. Sill. We had to put on and take off our crampons several times.
The North Couloir, Mt. Sill (left) and Apex Peak (right).
The North Couloir, Mt. Sill (left) and Apex Peak (right).
Our approximate route to the summit after passing Apex Peak.
Our approximate route to the summit after passing Apex Peak.
3rd class climbing on the North Couloir.
3rd class climbing on the North Couloir.
We spent about 45 minutes at the summit, the longest we have ever stayed on top of any 14,000 peak. The summit register placed by the Sierra Club is no longer bolted to the rock and has broken latches. It also appears that the last person to summit dropped the only writing tool (a pencil) in between some rocks and didn't put it back in the register. Therefore, when we summited, we had nothing to write with. I ended up signing the register with an Ibuprofen until I found the pencil.
Mt. Sill summit register.
Mt. Sill summit register.
Signing the register with an Ibuprofen.
Signing the register with an Ibuprofen.
Me at the summit of Mt. Sill.
Me at the summit of Mt. Sill.
We descended Sill via the Northwest Face, which appeared to be an easier descent with more consistent snow, meaning we didn't have to put on our crampons and take them off during dry patches. The bergschrund was not open the entire way, so it was easily passable. From the summit, it took about 3 hours to return to camp.
This is what the Northwest Face descent looks like.
This is what the Northwest Face descent looks like.
The bergschrund on the Northwest Face. You can easily pass this on the left-hand side (not visible in photo).
The bergschrund on the Northwest Face. You can easily pass this on the left-hand side (not visible in photo).
As soon as we returned to camp, the winds started to pick up. Sleeping in our tent proved to be difficult and we had to wake up at 3AM the next day. After attempting to sleep in our constantly flapping tent for 2 hours, we finally decided take it down and move into a sheltered bivy spot enclosed by rocks and boulders. This ended up being much better and we were able to get at least a few hours of sleep, for our toughest day was yet to come.
Our sheltered bivy spot that we moved into.
Our sheltered bivy spot that we moved into.
Day 3 (North Palisade & Polemonium Peak)
Some climbers may tell you that North Palisade is the most difficult 14er in California. I would have to say that's quite accurate as it's certainly not a hike up. The West Chute is the easiest route to the summit, but even then it's 4th class and technical climbing abilities would be helpful if not required. Since we approached the Palisades from the glacier side, the U-Notch would be the easiest route up.
This is the entrance to the gully leading up to the U-Notch.
This is the entrance to the gully leading up to the U-Notch.
I've read several trip reports stating that it took 12 hours just to summit North Palisade from the glacier. After bagging Sill, I watched some climbers descend the U-Notch during sunset and they were moving very slow. Someone else stated that they watched a party take 3 hours to climb half way up the gully from the bergschrund. That's roughly 100 feet per hour! I became quite puzzled and a bit concerned as to why it would take so long, but nevertheless I remained confident that we could complete these remaining peaks.

We agreed upon a 4AM alpine start. It wasn't easy getting up after only having a few hours of sleep and waking up to a cold and windy morning. We were slow getting ready and started closer to 4:30AM. We made the bergschrund by 6AM and put our harnesses on, roped up, and watched the sunrise behind us. Climbing the bergschrund was a new experience for me and it turned out to be a lot of fun. You can definitely avoid the bergschrund by climbing the 5th class rock to the right of it, but it didn't look as interesting and we wanted to avoid taking off our crampons.
At the bergschrund and getting ready to climb it.
At the bergschrund and getting ready to climb it.
Me roping up.
Me roping up.
Alpenglow on Thunderbolt Peak. Sun rising behind us.
Alpenglow on Thunderbolt Peak. Sun rising behind us.
Almost over the bergschrund.
Almost over the bergschrund.
Jacquelyn following and climbing over the bergschrund.
Jacquelyn following and climbing over the bergschrund.
The gully leading up to the U-Notch is normally an ice climb in August, but this year, it was mostly a snow climb, which made it very easy to ascend. Hiking or climbing up firm snow in a 40 degree gully was nothing new to us. We remained roped together and simul-climbed, but it certainly wasn't necessary.
Hiking up the gully.
Hiking up the gully.
Looking back down at the Palisade Glacier from the gully.
Looking back down at the Palisade Glacier from the gully.
At about 200-300 feet below the U-Notch, the firm snow suddenly became solid ice and our pace slowed significantly. Now I can understand why some people took 12 hours to summit this peak. If the entire gully was ice, it would have surely taken forever to get up to the U-Notch. As I do not have any ice climbing experience and our snow axes weren't ideal for this situation, we decided to avoid the ice by scrambling up the 3rd/4th class rock on the right-hand side. After 2.5 hours in the gully, we finally made it to the U-Notch and the 5th class chimney climb awaited us.
Doing some ice climbing before deciding to scramble up the rocks.
Doing some ice climbing before deciding to scramble up the rocks.
Scrambling up the 3rd/4th class rock in the gully leading to the U-Notch.
Scrambling up the 3rd/4th class rock in the gully leading to the U-Notch.
We left our crampons, ice axes, and other gear we didn't need at the base of the chimney. The chimney variation is a 2 pitch, 200 foot, climb and has been rated as low as 4th class to as high as 5.6. I say it's low 5th class. It took us about an hour to climb it. The gear we brought with us included a 30m 10.2mm dynamic rope, medium sized stoppers/nuts, .3, .4, .5, .75 Black Diamond C4 Camalots, 6 alpine draws, ATC belay device, and a bunch of slings. I think I only used a .3 C4 on the first pitch of this climb. The second pitch had some pitons and other fixed protection that I used.
Here's what the 5th class chimney climb looks like as viewed from the U-Notch.
Here's what the 5th class chimney climb looks like as viewed from the U-Notch.
Looking back down at the U-Notch from the top of the chimney climb.
Looking back down at the U-Notch from the top of the chimney climb.
Once you top out the chimney, it isn't very obvious where to go. After the belay/rappel station, we climbed a little bit higher and towards right side (north) of the ridge. We then traversed a short slab section and then stuck to the left side (south) of the ridge. This is where you will drop down a bit and climb back up on easier terrain. We did not rope up at all on the ridge. The last section before the summit involved many exposed 4th and maybe even 5th class moves. There may have been an easier way up, but we didn't find it. It took us about an hour to traverse the ridge and gain the summit.
Our approximate ascent and descent routes.
Our approximate ascent and descent routes. I decided to take the right hand side on the way down just to see how difficult it is and it turned out to be quite doable, but is still harder than the left hand side. You do avoid the loss in elevation though.
Me at the summit of North Palisade.
Me at the summit of North Palisade.
North Palisade Summit Plank.
North Palisade Summit Plank.
From the summit, it took the same amount of time to return back to the chimney and then another 30 minutes to rappel back down to the U-Notch. Since we only had a 30m rope with us to save weight, we brought along 30m of 6mm cordage to use as a tagline or pull-line. Tying the two ropes together allowed us to have full 60m rope length (100 feet) rappels.
This was our rappel system. 30m of 10.2mm dynamic climbing rope and 30m of 6mm cordage (tagline) tied together.
This was our rappel system. 30m of 10.2mm dynamic climbing rope and 30m of 6mm cordage (tagline) tied together. It allowed us to save weight and avoid the bulk of a 60m rope in our packs.
Rappelling back down to the U-Notch from the chimney.
Rappelling back down to the U-Notch from the chimney.
Getting to Polemonium Peak from the U-Notch quickly started off with a 4th/5th class traverse and climb towards the right. After that, you can see the obvious line you will want to take to gain the summit. It's mostly 3rd class until 50-100 feet from the summit where it becomes 4th/5th class. It took us about 1.5 hours to get to the summit from the U-Notch. We brought the rope with us, but didn't use it until the descent.
Our approximate ascent and descent routes going to Polemonium Peak.
Our approximate ascent and descent routes going to Polemonium Peak.
Jacquelyn almost at the summit of Polemonium Peak. Palisade Basin in the background.
Jacquelyn almost at the summit of Polemonium Peak. Palisade Basin in the background.
Polemonium Peak summit register.
Polemonium Peak summit register.
Me at the summit of Polemonium Peak.
Me at the summit of Polemonium Peak.
From the top of Polemonium Peak, we down-climbed a short bit towards the U-Notch taking the path of least resistance until we were able to find a clean rappel line. We made two rappels and were quickly back down to the U-Notch. From the U-Notch, we made about 4 rappels into the ice chute until we were back onto the firm snow. You also have the option of rappelling off the rock on the right-hand side, but it appears to be more dangerous as there are an abundance of loose rock that can fall on you while you rappel. Once on the snow, we were able to down-climb and hike back down, which went much faster than rappelling. We got back down to the bergschrund in 2.5 hours, about the same amount of time it took to get up. One last rappel got us over the bergschrund and another 1.5 hours later, we were back at camp at almost 8PM, nearly 16 hours from when we started. What a long day. We made dinner and went to bed. It was yet another windy night, but it didn't bother us as much as it did the night before.
One of the many rappels we made off the U-Notch.
One of the many rappels we made off the U-Notch.
Back at the bergschrund and preparing to rappel over it.
Back at the bergschrund and preparing to rappel over it.
If I had to do this all over again, I wouldn't descend the U-Notch. Instead, I would have done the traverse from North Palisade to Mt. Sill and descend off the Northwest Face of Sill. It would have been much easier and faster as well. Rappelling is very slow and if your rope ever gets stuck, you waste a lot of time.

Day 4 (Back to the car)
We finally got out of bed at 7:30AM and started hiking at 8AM. It was just as cold and windy during this time as it was at 4AM the day before. We didn't waste any time and just headed straight back to the car. It took about 3.5 hours to get back to the car and we were in Bishop by 12PM. We enjoyed lunch at the Mobil Restaurant in Lee Vining and then headed home.
Waking up in our bivy site to a cold and windy morning.
Waking up in our bivy site to a cold and windy morning.
BBQ Chicken Sandwich and 1/2 lb Cheeseburger from the Mobil Restaurant in Lee Vining, CA
BBQ Chicken Sandwich and 1/2 lb Cheeseburger from the Mobil Restaurant in Lee Vining, CA
It took us a little more than a year, but we finally bagged all 15 of the California 14ers. We are done! Now I wonder what's next?

More Photos