Palisade Crest, Temple Crag, Jepson Peak
By: Nile Sorenson
Co-led with Bill Oliver
Palisade Crest is a tough peak. It is a long way in from the trailhead with lots of cross-country. The approach to the summit is lengthy, along an extended knife-edge crest with difficult route finding. The summit is protected by a full 50-meter pitch class 4 slab that is not easily protected with anchors.
With this in mind we were fired up to go. Bill Oliver and I were leading a pretty qualified and FAST group, which included Erik Siering, Will McWhinney, Mark Adrian, Greg Gerlach, R.J. Secor and Ali Aminian. We didn't even shuttle the packs up the one mile from the hiker parking to the Glacier Lodge ruins. We walked it with full packs starting at 7:00 am on Saturday morning.
We decided to bushwhack the east side of the stream instead of taking the regular South Fork trail due to concerns about the stream crossing. As it turned out we probably could have made the crossing, but hindsight is always 20-20. The mosquitoes began pestering us well before Willow Lake. Each donned their protection of choice. We bypassed Willow Lake on the south with hoards of mosquitoes hovering at every stop. There are some use trails that can be followed crossing two streams on the south end of the marshy area around Willow Lake. They are a little difficult to follow but they are there. We reached Elinore Lake at about 1:00 pm. It is wise to follow the description in Secor's book about the approach to the lake going up a chute just west of the stream draining lake Elinore. There is a nice route on the east side of this chute. If you follow the stream, you will pay for it in the brush. We napped till about 3:30 when happy hour began with an assortment of all kinds of offerings. It ruined dinner for most of us. There are good camp spots on some bluffs to the northeast of the complex of lakes that form Elinore.
Sunday morning, Bill's wake up whistle went off at 5 am. We were walking by 6, following the route given by Secor to Scimitar Pass. It goes exactly like he describes. Scimitar Pass is really not a pass. You end up junctioning a ridgeline or crest. Here is where the knife-edge traverse begins. We gained the pass by 9:00.
Starting out on the right side (southwest), the climb begins with easy class 2 climbing. Stay on the right side rather close to the crest for as long as you can. When things begin to get very steep on that side you will need to gain the crest. Once this happens you will need to stay on the crest of the ridge back and forth from side to side searching for the easiest route. From this point on there will be lots of exposure. The climbing will be sustained class 3 or low class 4. It doesn't let up but it will go!!!! We never dropped down on the right side more than 15 or so feet. We had to drop down on the left (NE) side twice to lower ledges to work through.
The second of these times is when you are getting close to the notch. One must drop down into the notch, which is 50 to 100 feet below the ridge crest. Do this on the left side. We reached the notch a little before 11:00. The traverse had been long and exposed. It is easy to get off route.
The class 4 slab is not hard. Since Bill Oliver had led this before, I had the honors. It is a full 50-meter pitch, so don't bring a short rope or you will be hanging in the wind part way up on some questionable anchors. There are lots of cracks in the slab making the climbing easy, but they are shallow, not allowing any stoppers to sink in. I only put in 2 medium sized pieces for the entire pitch.
It took us quite awhile to move all 8 climbers up the slab. We had two ropes, making the rope work a little easier. Bill relieved me on the top rope belay about half way through. The summit block is only about 50 ft of class 3 above the top of the slab. As soon as we got a member of the team up the slab, they moved on their own to the summit. By the time we had everyone over the slab, we were ready to lower people down. This worked out quite well, and we were all back in the notch by 1:45 pm. We were the first group to have summited this year, this century and whoa!!, this millennium. I asked RJ if we get a 1st ascent for this for the SPS; he said no. The previous entry was August 1999, nearly a year ago.
The traverse back was the same-exposed and, as Bill says, "gnarly". We reached Scimitar Pass at 3:10 pm. Four of us decided to do Jepson Peak. It is right there near the pass. Ali, Mark, Erik and I took off for Jepson (this took exactly 1 hour round trip to the peak and back to our packs at Scimitar). The Jepson group pulled into camp at Elinore Lake at about 5:50, just under a 12-hour day, a big one but a good one.
On Monday the plan was to climb Temple Crag. Erik, Greg, and Ali signed out and headed home. Our remaining group packed up camp at Elinore and headed down the chute to the drainage below. Rather than drop clear to the stream, we traversed near the bottom of the chute to maintain elevation. This worked out quite well since we intersected the stream several hundred feet higher than we would have. We dumped our full packs near the streambed and headed off with day gear to Temple Crag at about 7:10 am.
We found the going easy up the southeast side to the class 3 chute described by RJ. It is very straightforward. The chute is low class 2 with only one class 3 move. It can be followed all the way to the summit block where the climbing goes class 3 with Big Time exposure. Will and I did the "step across." It is really a "jump across" and a one-way only jump across since one side is higher than the other. The view was great. We were signing in at 10:05 am. The descent to the packs was straightforward. We lunched, loaded back up and headed for Willow hole. We did a little bushwhacking on the way back to Willow Lake. We also decided to try the stream crossing on the South Fork trail. There was a rather wobbly plank extending between two rocks about 100 feet upstream from the trail crossing. We all made the crossing. Mark decided to just go for it and waded the stream, cooling off his feet. All were at the cars by 5:10 pm. And of course this group hiked all the way to the cars, deciding to forget the car shuttle. A great climb, and a strong group. Thanks to Bill Oliver for a great co-lead.
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