various last-minute problems,
we were down to a group of
three with the hope that
one more, Ed Cottone, could
join us Friday night. He
couldn’t. So at 6:00
a.m. Friday morning, I ferried
my co-leader, Nile Sorenson,
the lone participant, Scott
Sullivan, and our packs to
the end of the road and went
back to the hiker parking
lot. I met up with them again
at a break just beyond the
fine log bridge crossing
of the South Fork of Big
wonderful wildflowers we had!
So many mariposa lilies, white
lupine, various paintbrushes,
gentians, pride of the mountain,
pennyroyal, columbines, larkspur,
rain orchids, and more.
did pretty well beating the heat,
but as we finished the switchbacks
below Willow Lake, we hit the
mosquitoes. Nile led us on to
Finger Lake, which still had
some icebergs in it at the outlet
end by our camp. We arrived before
11:00, taking three generous
breaks on our leisurely walk
in. Two other people were camped
at finger Lake; we saw them that
afternoon after their climb of
Middle Palisade and before they
headed out to their steak reward.
practically felt guilty just
lying around camp most of the
day, but I did revise some quizzes.
I wasn’t pleased to see
snow in the gully up to the south
notch of Disappointment, fearing
it would not be safe for climbing.
On the other hand, the snow to
the east ridge of Balcony looked
good from camp.
morning we left camp just before
5:00 a.m., Scott and Nile still
having their headlamps on for
a short time. We put on crampons
because that was easier than
kicking steps, though the snow
wasn’t hard. We steadily
worked up and easily onto the
Middle Palisade Glacier, then
over the filled-in bergschrund
to the right-hand tongue of snow
up to the ridge. The angle was
moderately steep, but the snow
still good, except for the ice
along the rock margins.
a nice break where we topped
out on the ridge, we traversed
toward Balcony. I remembered
a large cairn at the start of
the traverse across the face
of Balcony, but we found a normal
size duck. Of course, my memory
was probably shot since it had
been thirteen years since I was
there. To us it also seemed more
than three hundred feet below
the summit of Balcony. We went
up snow and rock to the summit
of Balcony and looked for the
chute down to the southwest chute,
thinking we might find something
better than we’d seen already.
I worked down several ledges
but had the feeling that that
route was just going to disappear.
Back we went to that duck on
the east ridge. After a break,
we were ready to start the traverse,
probably having lost two hours
since we were there before.
of the traverse went well. We
were able to go below some snow
patches between the second and
third ribs. Just beyond the third
rib, when we got to the broad
chute up to the notch between
Balcony and Disappointment, we
had snow to cross, about a dozen
steps wide. Since Nile is the
LTC snow chair, I turned over
the lead to him for this. The
snow, fortunately, was in good
shape, and Nile made great steps
for us. It was a bit awkward
to get back on the rock, but
not bad. We had a smaller but
icier bit to cross a short distance
later. Again, Nile helped us
with this spot. The best luck
was that we were able to stay
right of the snow I didn’t
like the looks of from camp,
getting all the way to the notch
on rock. We ended up spending
a fairly long time trying to
find the best way to the summit.
Coincidentally this was #225
for Scott and 2 x 225 for me.
Nile didn’t know what number
it was for him—amazing!
We came down along the ridge
leading to the notch at first,
which had one rather awkward
open book spot for down climbing
that Scott and I rappelled, the
only time we used the rope I
carried all day.
led the way for the descent,
going lower at times on the traverse
than we went on the way up. Having
decided to return via South Fork
Pass to avoid the steep snow
we climbed in the morning, Nile
gave us excellent steps yet again
going down the steep part of
the pass. Then we started glissading.
We had a number of fine glissades
and made great time getting back
to camp, which we reached late,
just at dark at 9:00. Scott headed
straight for his tent, leaving
Nile and me to fend off the mosquitoes
while we had dinner.
luxury of getting up without
an alarm to prompt us! How unusual
on an SPS trip. Still, we were
packed and on our way out just
after 7:30, fleeing the mosquitoes.
We met a group coming in with
enormous packs, planning to fish.
With several long breaks we were
still back to the cars before
11:00 and soon on our way after
a successful trip. We all very
much “needed” Disappointment
and were so thankful not to have
been disappointed. We all claimed
we would never go back. We’ll
by Tina Bowman. Click on
images to see enlarged photographs.