The plan was to hike in one day, summit Middle Palisade the next, Norman Clyde Peak the third, and hike out the 4th.
Early fall weather the weekend prior left the mountains dusted with snow up high, and scrubbed clean of dust and mosquitos down low. We enjoyed the first hint of autumn on the valley floors, and reflected on the possibility of snow affecting our scrambling up high.
|Checking things out at Finger Lake. Chad B. photo.|
Days 1 and 2 went as planned: A wonderful hike in and a smooth ascent of Middle Palisade’s classic East Face (big and tall, class 3-4). We did encounter some snow near the top, but it was engaging rather than an obstacle.
|Just a couple of Sconnies keeping it real|
|John and Chad up high on Middle Pal. Chad B. Photo|
As we rested in camp in the afternoon of day 2, we got a visit from a pair of returning Norman Clyde Peak aspirants. Incidentally, one of these guys had taken an SMG avalanche course this past winter. SMG folks are all over the mountains. These two guys delivered a less-than-rosy description of the snow covering Clyde’s North-Northeast route. Our own misgivings, plus this report, prompted a change in plans.
That’s when the trip really got good, believe it or not. There is a very real satisfaction in taking marginal conditions, and making a killer experience out of it. Chad and John had that spirit. “Things aren’t as we had hoped. How can we make things even better?” John suggested hiking out the morning of day 3 and doing Crystal Crag (in the Mammoth Lakes Basin. Ca. 1000 ft, 5.7.) on Day 4. Chad’s fascination with Pine Creek rock climbing inspired a visit to “Racing Lizards” (5.7, 3 pitches) on the afternoon of day 3.
We shifted gears, pigged out on the leftover camp supplies, and executed the new plan. At the end of day 4 John mentioned that this was his “best trip to the mountains” and Chad mentioned that, while we (Jed and SMG) had a big reputation to live up to, we more than exceeded that. All I did was “roll with it.” These guys had the flexible attitude that takes climbers and adventurers of all kinds to more than they ever expected. Speaking of expectations, Chad has shared that his “ticklist” of High Sierra routes has “doubled or tripled” as a result of the rock climbing skills and demystification we covered this weekend. As the seasons (and perhaps the climate of the High Sierra… I mean, what’s up with this weather?) change, this flexibility and openness and willingness to grow will reap great rewards for Chad and John, Sierra Mountain Guides, and all mountain travelers!
|Some well-traveled adventurers race lizards on their first rock climb. Chad B. Photo.|
|The “Crystal Pitch”|