Ascent of Norman Clyde Peak (North-Northeast Ridge, class 4), with Mike Callen, October 6-8, 2019.


October 6, 2019. We left Mammoth Lakes around 9:00 and started from the overnight hikers parking lot at Glacier Lodge at 10:50, going at a leisurely pace. We stopped for lunch above Willow Lake and were at Finger Lake at 15:23. We reached our camp at the tarn just below the Middle Palisade glacier at 16:40. We spent the evening eating, playing cards, drinking Scotch, and making a dent in a jar of Nutella. (A 5:50 hour day, 7 miles, 3,500 feet of elevation gain).

October 7, 2019. We got up at 5:15 and left camp at 6:15 after a big breakfast. We approached the base of the NNE ridge using headlamps, and enjoyed the incredible sunrise over Middle Palisade and Norman Clyde Peak. The 3rd class ascent up to the crest of the ridge was uneventful and we crossed the Firebird Ridge onto the NNE face of Norman Clyde Peak at 8:02. Things slowed down considerably after that as we decided to rope up and simulclimb the whole route. The face was in the shade all day and a recent thunderstorm had dumped some powder on the ledges, making the routefinding even more treacherous than usual, and the climbing more difficult than otherwise. We went too far right at some point, encountering harder terrain which forced us to backtrack and cost us some time. The general rule on that route is to stay quite close to the Firebird Ridge when climbing the face to its right (perhaps no more than 200 feet to the right of the ridge crest). We then climbed a lichen-covered 4th class pitch on the upper portion of the face and again moved a bit too far right over easy 5th class terrain for a pitch or two. This led to the crest of the West ridge, about 50 feet right of the proper exit (marked by rappel slings).

It was now 13:27. Clouds were gathering but not enough to be of concern. We left the climbing gear on the lower West summit of Norman Clyde Peak and proceeded over 3rd class terrain to the summit proper. This looked far but took only 20 minutes – we were on the summit at 13:48. We signed the register, took lots of photos, and departed the summit after about 10 minutes. For the descent, we decided to remain unroped, except for about 6 rappels down the steeper parts. We were back on the NNE ridge at 17:45, with about one hour of daylight to spare. We stepped off the 3rd class portion as the sun was setting, and returned to camp over the easy 2nd class talus by headlamp. We were back in camp at 19:48, relieved to have returned safely from a hard alpine adventure. We had a big dinner, played cards, had more Nutella and Scotch, and had a restful night of sleep. (A 13:33 hour day, 2.5 miles, 2,750 feet of gain).

October 8, 2019. It was a cold morning, which turned into a beautiful day in the high country. We got up late and waited for the sun to hit our camp before packing up. We departed at 10:27, making our way very slowly toward Finger Lake (12:08), where we took a break. No matter how often I do the hike from Finger Lake to the upper tarn, I can't seem to figure out the optimal way. We proceeded to the rocky corridor above Willow Lake, where we took another break (13:25). The descent into the drainage of the South Fork of Big Pine Creek was faster. The fall foliage there was outstanding, as seen in the pictures below. We were back at the trailhead at 15:18, and at our vehicles at 15:34. We drove back up to Glacier Lodge where we had a nice lunch (pulled pork and barbecued chicken sandwiches). We then each went our own way, Mike to San Diego and me back to Mammoth Lakes. (A 5:07 hour day, 7 miles, negligible elevation gain).


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