Ascent of North Palisade on 2015-08-01

Climber: JT Newgard

Date:Saturday, August 1, 2015
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:North Palisade
    Elevation:14100 ft / 4297 m

Ascent Trip Report

Man was this a wild trip. I went over Thunderbolt Pass on the south side of the North Palisade. Despite poring over a few pictures + Secor's descriptions I accidentally climbed a good portion of the Putterman Couloir. Upon realizing my error (ie pulling down all kinds of loose rocks that would have been cleaned on a more well-travelled route) I rappelled out of there. At least I got some practice building anchors! I was about to give up and head back to camp when I met another party of three headed for the Southwest Chute. We decided to join forces and made good progress up the chute. Although we were attempting to follow the LeConte Route, I now believe we passed the LeConte ledge (which did have a cairn) and instead ventured onto Secor's Moore Variation higher up the chute. The Moore Variation is around 13,700 ft and requires a few short, very airy but easy moves to get into the chute adjacent to (or climber's left of) the main Southwest Chute.

We scrambled over a few more obstacles and found ourselves in the famous summit bowl right beneath the ridge. At this time the storm that had clearly been moving closer and closer all day finally got us. It got us real good. Huge chunks of hail and lightning strikes nearby. Being no stranger to this phenomenon I casually whipped out my rain pants, extra insulating layer, and rain jacket all conveniently stowed in my summit pack. While I remained comfortable, neither I nor any member of the party had a clue as to where the hell the summit was. Visibility was poor given the thick fog that moved in as the storm abated. Further the rock was extremely slippery making climbing unsafe. At this time we all wisely decided to descend.

However the fog proved relentless, moving in and out as we descended. The thought of blindly attempting to reverse the moves across the Moore Variation was unsettling to say the least. So we decided to rappel into 'terra incognita.' Thanks to some crafty 'anchor' building by the party of three leader we made it down, but only after great stress derived from rappelling into the unknown. It was completely dark by the time we left the Southwest Chute. We did a fine job negotiating the moraines in the dark and I said goodbye to the party to which I had grown close in a very short, intense period of time.

PS. Some extra advice I can give after this mess of a trip: The Southwest Chute is not quite visible from Thunderbolt Pass. In fact one must traverse eastward all the way around the corner of the large Southwest Buttress. The main Southwest Chute is much wider and open than all the others, with a large fan of till at the base.

PSS. We investigated the LeConte ledge at about 13,200 ft and had difficulty determining the way into the adjacent chute. Giving up on this option we continued upward and took the Moore Variation, which was also marked by a cairn. Ironically at the time we thought we were following the LeConte Route. Nonetheless I am nearly certain we ended up in the same chute leading to the summit bowl. Both of these chutes are really a mess with loose rock and a few tricky chockstones along the way. In this sense although many reports focus on negotiating the final ridge traverse to the summit, the loose chutes constitute the majority of the climb and should not be underestimated!!

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