Ski Mountaineering

Palisade Crest and Norman Clyde

June 16-19, 2001

Reiner Stenzel

This was an early-season peak climbing trip sponsored by the SPS and attended by some SMS members. The trip was lead by Ron Hudsen and R.J. Secor and attended by Susan Livingston, Tom McDonnell, Terry Flood, Dot Reilly, Dee Booth, and your scribe, R.S. Ron Hudson's trip description was posted on and this is a shorter version with pictures, which sometimes say more than a thousand words.

The group started Sat, 6/16, at Glacier Lodge, followed along the South Fork Big Pine Creek trail to our base camp at the north end of the Norman Clyde Glacier.

On Sun, 6/17, we had an early start for the climb of the Palisade Crest. We headed for Scimitar Pass just north of Palisade Crest and climbed the cl3-4 ridge south toward the summit.

It is an impressive ridge! The crux is a 160' slab where Ron and R.J. set up a belay station. Since the high friction slab has the length of a rope it was not possible to throw down the entire rope from the top. A a second rope was brought up by each climber to pull down the end of the belay rope. After some initial delays this procedure got the whole group up and to the base of the summit block, which was easy to climb.

We enjoyed the great summit views on a warm clear day. Then we rappelled down and carefully traversed on the crest to Scimitar Pass and happily arrived back at camp after a 14-hour day. We discussed climbing Norman Clyde Peak next morning. The peak looks a bit intimidating. Most participants declined to do two demanding peaks in a row, but Ron and Reiner were willing to go for it.

On Mon, 6/18, we left at 4:30am and cramponed up the N.C. Glacier to the base of the mountain. After circumnavigating the bergschrund we started the rock climb along the NNE ridge route. The weather was perfect and the climbing went well. No rope was used on the uphill climb although there was plenty of exposure.

Once we reached the top ridge we continued on easier cl 3 terrain. By 10am we reached the 13,920' summit. Another fine view from this impressive peak! The peak register showed a picture of Norman Clyde. It was a pleasure to sign in as second party in 2001.

Again we were blessed with great weather and fine views. To the north we could look down on the Palisade Crest which we had climbed 24 hours earlier. The high peaks of the Palisade Range were all visible. To the southwest we saw the Palisade Lakes, Mather Pass and in the distance an ocean of partly snow-covered Sierra peaks. After an hour on the summit we climbed down. This took some attention due to the exposure. Some times we climbed facing the mountain, some times facing outward. We rappelled on three occasions, mainly for safety but not out of necessity. After about 4 hours we were back at camp. R.J. Secor and Tom McDonnell had climbed Gayley. Terry Flood had rested for the day, and Dot Reilly and Dee Booth had signed out and hiked to the cars.

We enjoyed happy hour in camp and celebrated a great weekend of climbing. I came closer to List finish with these two fine peaks which I could not or should not have soloed. It was a pleasure to climb with experienced mountaineers like Ron and R.J. whose guidance I greatly appreciated. By the way, R.J. got his 3rd SPS Senior Emblem on Gayley.

On the hike out along the South Fork of Big Pine Creek we encountered the most beautiful display of wildflowers. The Sierra Nevada even has pretty cactus flowers.

Back to Trip Reports
Back to SMS Home Page