Palisades Crest Tour
One of the most demanding and rewarding of our original Sierra Crest Tours, the Palisades Crest is a 6-day ski mountaineering tour-de-force with ever-changing views, spectacular positions, and epic ski descents every day!
Maximum guiding ratio for this itinerary is 2:1.
This tour has a minimum of 2 to run on the listed dates at this promotional price. We also offer this itinerary or similar on a custom private basis. This itinerary is not recommended for splitboarders, but a custom Palisade Glacier basecamp trip could be a perfect alternative. Click HERE to request custom options and prices.
This little gem idea for a 6-day high tour of the Sierra Crest was pioneered by IFMGA ski and mountain guide and SMG owner, Howie Schwartz, and has since become a modern ski mountaineering classic. The Palisades are the most definitively alpine group of peaks in the Sierra, containing the largest glacier in the range and 7 summits above 14,000 feet. What is incredible about the Palisades is the access to fall-line skiing in steep couloirs and wide open bowls, connecting each destination on route. We aim for the time of season when the snowpack is more stable and when we typically have powder on the shaded aspects and corn in the sun – usually March through early April. This tour finishes with a 7,000 foot descent from a 13,000+ foot summit all the way down to the desert sage. Designed for expert skiers and experienced ski mountaineers who want to enjoy some rowdy guided ski mountaineering in an outrageous itinerary. Get ready for the ride of a lifetime!
- 6-Day Itinerary
TRIP ITINERARY: Palisades Crest Tour
DAY 1 Meet your guide early in the morning at the SMG office in Bishop. We recommend taking a couple days to acclimatize up at Mammoth Mountain if possible, and to arrange with your guide to meet the evening prior to get gear and packing sorted out. The trip begins at Glacier Lodge in Big Pine Creek. Hike and then ski tour up the South Fork of Big Pine Creek. Ascent the south side of Contact Pass for an excellent descent beneath the towering East Face of Temple Crag, then up to camp near the Palisade Glacier. DAY 2 Leave our heavy gear behind and enjoy a day of fantastic ski mountaineering. Here we have the option of skiing on the flanks and couloirs of the mighty 14,000 foot Palisade peaks Mount Sill, Polemonium Peak, North Palisade, and Thunderbolt Peak. Return to the Palisade Glacier camp for the night. DAY 3 Climb to Glacier Notch, up to Apex Col and ski the famous L-shaped couloir on Mount Sill. Technical descent from Glacier Notch back into the Southfork drainage. A roller coaster ride lands us near camp beneath the north side of Norman Clyde Peak. DAY 4 Early start for the ascent up and over Scimitar Pass - not really a pass, more like a snow-covered shoulder of Palisade Crest. This is a spectacular and airy place to be with sheer rock faces both looming above on the left and dropping off precipitously to the right. We descend carefully down to the West and then North to take a side trip up the Southeast bowl of Polemonium Peak. In good conditions this is one of the longest moderate runs on the west flank of the Sierra Crest, and off of a 14,000' peak. Conditions will determine camp location, which is either at the big lake at the head of Glacier Creek or in the Palisade Creek drainage. DAY 5 Ascend over Cirque or Chimney Pass or continue up Palisade Creek, past Palisade Lakes to a camp on sunny slabs in the basin beneath Southfork Pass. With small packs we can either summit Balcony Peak and descend right to camp, or venture up to ski a grey steep line on the north side of Mt. Bolton Brown. DAY 6 The Grand Finale! Ascend in the early morning beneath Southfork Pass and up to the technical col (class 3-4 ridge traverse) that accesses the south face of the Thumb. Ascend the hanging cirque to a ski cache and a quick scramble that takes us to 13,356’ at the summit of one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the Sierra. From there we ski down a classic ski peak of the Sierra, ascend Kid Mountain back to Big Pine Creek, or continue down Birch Creek or where either way we ski over 7000 vertical feet down to desert sage and right to our vehicle in style.
- Advanced-expert downhill skiing skills
- Ability to control speed and execute fall-line turns in control and comfort in difficult snow conditions (deep powder, heavy and/or moist snow, breakable crust, firm or icy, etc.)
- Ability to execute hop turns on 40 degree+, firm slopes, coming to a complete and immediate stop at the finish of each turn
- Ability to sideslip forward and backward, with edge control, on steep, firm slopes
- Experience ski touring in the backcountry using ski touring equipment (boots, bindings, skins, transceiver, shovel, probe, etc.)
- Ability to make uphill facing kick-turns in an uphill track on a steep slope
- Experience in multi-day winter camping and/or mountaineering
- (Recommended) experience on multiday technical Sierra ski mountaineering tours
- Experience with the use of climbing ropes and technical competency in use of ice axe, crampons, and ski crampons
- Excellent fitness
- SMG Guide(s)
- Group camping gear and technical gear
- Meals (dinners and breakfasts)
- Use of avalanche rescue gear (beacon, shovel, probe)
- Wilderness Permits
- Travel to/from the Eastern Sierra
- Lodging in the Eastern Sierra
- Food or drink in towns
- Snacks/lunches or drinks on the tour
- Personal or rental equipment
- Trip Insurance and Mountain Rescue Insurance (recommended)