John first contacted SMC a few years ago about doing the Le Conte Route but it took a while to get it together and actually make it happen.
John and Scott hiked in a couple of days early to acclimatize and SP hiked in and met them there late. This is not the usual way we do our trips, but it worked out well here.
Camp was in Palisade Basin at one of the small tarns high up under Thunderbolt that we often use for the Fourteeners Camp.
We left camp at first light and hiked across slabs towards the gully that leads to the top of u-Notch. We often refer to this as “The U-notch Analog” since it does not really have a commonly used name. The Le Conte Route is devious and the start of the infamous traverse into the main gully is not obvious. It was first climbed in 1903 by Joe Le Conte, James Hutchinson and JK Moffitt and was surely one of the hardest climbs of its day in the Sierra. Even now it will get the heart skipping a few beats on the traverse pitch, which starts as a five-foot wide downsloping ledge and narrows to about two feet with not much in the way of handholds. However there is a great belay directly above the traverse that gives perfect protection for the followers. Sometimes there is snow in the gully above, but this year it is very dry and there were a few meager bits of snow and ice. The technical crux is probably the big chockstone, but someone has hung a fixed rope here and you can monkey up this. But remember that Joe Le Conte did not need it and this was over 100 years ago. We got to the top before 12.00 and on the way down too the so called “Secor Variation” which avoids all of the hard parts of the Le Conte route and drops straight down into the gully.
This was Scott’s first big peak time and he did great and John achieved a goal he had been thinking about for a long time.
Evening light on North Pal and Starlight from camp Camp in Palisade Basin The infamous traverse ledge on the Le Conte Route Above the crux chockstone Just below the summit. Is climbing serious or fun? On the top of North Palisade Descending the lower gully with lots of loose rock.