Technical climbing skills are required: you should be able to comfortably follow 5.8. This is a physically demanding trip and you should have the ability to climb 5.6 with a multi-day pack.
Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not. Local accommodation is not included.
Feeling strong? Had some good solid alpine experience and wanting to done of the great Sierra traverses? Want to spend a couple of days above 13,000 feet and able to climb technical terrain with a multi-day pack?
If you can say yes to all of these questions then is traverse will be a great one for you. And along the way you will tag the summits of five of California's fourteen thousand foot peaks without having to descend down off the main Sierra Crest.
Itinerary The longer a trip is in the mountains, the more vague the itinerary need be. We have built some slack into the program to accommodate changes in weather etc. It is possible to complete the climb in a shorter time but in the mountains it is always to have more time than less. And if we have extra time there are other peaks to climb andviews to enjoy. But, in a perfect world, the trip will go as below.
Day One: We will meet at the SMC ofﬁce in Bishop, do an equipment check and head on up the trail to the west side of the Palisades via Bishop Creek and park at the Bishop Pass trailhead. Our packs are gong to be trimmed to the bare minimum and we should be able to head up the trail fairly easily.
Our goal will be to camp high below the Thunderbolt Couloir on the west side or if there is snow for meltwater, high up on the crest of the Sierra.
Day Two: We start climbing from the north end of the traverse, ascending Thunderbolt. The summit block on T’bolt (14,003') is the hardest rock climbing on the whole traverse but we do not need to carry packs up and over this so it will not be too bad. Then it is down the ridge to the top of the Underhill Couloirs. If the weather turns this also gives us a good point to get off the ridge. (No, we do not want to be here if there is any chance of an electrical storm). The ridge heads on up to Starlight Peak with a few sections of 5th class climbing, but primarily 4th class. The summit "Milkbottle" ultimate point of Starlight (14,200’) is also a little tricky to gain, but we know the tricks here. The summit of North Palisade looks not far off and it is not. But unfortunately we have to drop several hundred feet over technical terrain and then reascend to get there So what on ﬂat ground would be a one minute stroll will take us a couple of hours. North Palisade's summit (14,242’) is no problem at all and then we traverse, downclimb and spend the night in the west bowl of the peak where there often is water.
Day Three: We either rappel or climb back up to the col at the head of U-notch. We will be here early so the plan is to drop packs and head off over Polemonium to Sill with just day packs. Out of the notch gives us some 5.6 climbing and then we can drop packs and scramble to the exposed summit. (14,100’) Once again easy ground is ‘just over there” but we have to put in a lot of work to get "over there" by retracing our steps rappelling into a gully and re-ascending. The remaining terrain is easy. We traverse above the top of V-notch and over to the top of Mt. Sill’s North Couloir. We can drop packs again (since we will be back soon) and head up to the top of Mt. Sill (14,153’) This peak has perhaps the best view of anywhere in the Sierra and we can see from the Mammoth area to south of Whitney. But too soon it is time to go down so we pick up packs and head back to our overnight gear at the top of U-Notch. Then it is down the gully and we can stop wherever we feel like that has water.
Day Four: Head out back over Thunderbolt Col, arriving at the trailhead by late morning to early afternoon.
Notes The best guidebook is Peter Croft's “The Good, The Great, and the Awesome”. Get it from Maximus Press. (GGA photo and link to http://www.maximuspress.com )
We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000') just prior to the trip. Spending a night in Mammoth would do the trick or better yet, camped at an even higher trailhead, such as one of the campgrounds in Big Pine Creek for a night just before the trip. Glacier Lodge is also a good lodging option. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.