Norman Clyde Peak
By: Tina Stough, Doug Mantle
Five of us--Steve Bruley, Steve Eckert, Brad Jensen, and the leaders--left the end of the road near Glacier Lodge at the respectable hour of 8:20 for a leisurely stroll up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek, stopping for an early lunch at Brainard Lake before the final half hour's stint to our camp at Finger Lake. We found a surprisingly large number of people already camped there but were able to get one of the best areas for our camp. San Diego Search and Rescue was having a training session in the area and was camped there. After one woman cheerfully told me that they had twenty there, I pointed out that maximum group size was fifteen. Later Doug chastised them for having a trash fire in a no-fire zone. When someone explained that the fire ring was already there, he pointed out that that was no excuse. Unless they had special permission from the Forest Service to exceed the group size, rules were being broken. Clearly size limitation is important--the numbers were having a big impact on the area, and this lovely lake was far less pleasant than usual as a campsite. The quota for this trail--this was the last weekend for it--is twelve, and some of them had come in the day before (up to ten legally because Steve Eckert in our group had a permit for two). We had a permit for six, so somehow I suspect that rules were broken regarding permits as well. The sixth member of our group, Daryn Dodge, met us at dinner time.
Up at 5:00, off at 6:00 was the call for Saturday. We made good time up to the connecting ridge to Norman Clyde Peak, taking a break and leaving a few things there. Feeling the altitude, Steve Bruley signed out, fearing he might slow us down. Ahead of us on the connecting ridge, we saw another climber, but the mystery person disappeared. We climbed down to the east just back from the gap in the ridge and came back up, then crossed out onto the northwest face of Norman Clyde by dropping a bit from the bottom of Firebird Ridge. The ledges, slabs, cracks and all went well; and we were moving at a good pace and with great climbing. The bottom of the "lichen chimney" to the summit ridge has a large and suspiciously loose rock, just the kind of thing that looks perfect for a wonderful hold, but we all climbed around it as though it weren't there. We got out the rope only once for a belay up the chimney. A few pockets of snow on the ledges (from the storm a week and a half before that had flooded Red Rock Canyon and Little Lake) we were able to avoid or step around.
We were on the summit at 10:19, enjoying a view from Ritter to Whitney and over to Black Kaweah to the south. On the way down we rappelled (with one fifty meter/l65 foot rope) four times, starting at the top of the lichen chimney. By the last rappel two women caught us, following our route down--they had climbed the Twilight Pillar (5.8), and one of them was the mystery climber we had seen before and the niece of Lenora Wills! Amazed by Doug's rappelling, they had never see a dulfersitz before. Back in camp just after 4:00, we enjoyed more wonderful hers d'oeuvres (mostly supplied by Doug) and lots of dinner. We watched clouds blowing over Middle Palisade and bundled up against the wind, which, fortunately, hadn't hindered us on our climb.
Sunday morning we left about 6:15, Steve Eckert staying in to try Disappointment if the wind and snow weren't too bad. We reached the cars by 8:45 even with stopping to try some elderberries and gooseberries. Thanks, everyone, for a great trip!
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