This condition report uses direct observation from the Palisade Range to make some general predictions for the current conditions in the High Sierra. Don’t use this as your sole source of information to trip plan!
This photo shows the Palisade Range from Polemonium to Thunderbolt Peaks. Clearly in view are the V-Notch Couloir, U-Notch Couloir, Clyde Couloir, NE Couloir on Thunderbolt, North Face of Thunderbolt, and an un-named couloir to the right of the North Face. Photo taken late July, 2009.
The alpine ice routes in the Sierra continue to be in the best shape I have seen them in 7 years. The L-shaped couloir on Mt. Sill is also still filled in with snow, and the Palisade Glacier is showing bare ice only in the lowest elevations closest to the tarn. While hiking out of Bishop Pass last week I noticed that the Smrz Coulior on Mt. Thompson appears to be almost completely connected, a condition I have never seen before in the summer. If I wasn’t getting ready for a rock climbing trip, this would be the summer to tackle ice routes. I can only assume that other routes, like the Mendenhall couloirs, are in good shape as well.
Otherwise, all of the rock routes are accessible without crampons and ice axes at this time, including the celestial aretes on Temple Crag and the chutes on the west side of the Palisades. Night time lows are mild, and daytime highs are pleasant. This may be the best time of the year to get after it!
Chris Simmons is an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and an Alpine, Rock, and Ski Guide for SMC. More about his adventures can be found on his personal website, Climb.Ski.Run.Sleep.Repeat.