Sierra Mountain Center

California’s premier mountaineering school and guide service – Bishop, CA

North Palisade, Le Conte Route, with John Kreutzer and Scott Taylor 7.20.07

with 2 comments

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.


Written by SP Parker

August 8, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Alpine Climbing

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Hello
    I am interested in doing this route. I would like to get more information about getting a guide to lead the way for me. I have climbed over 60 peaks in the high sierra, am comfortable on class III rock, but have only done one class IV route in the sierra, and only 3 class V routes (all in so. cal). I am familiar with this area, and have climbed Mt. Sill from the Palisade basin.

    dave hymes

    November 13, 2007 at 12:47 am

  2. Dave,
    Glad to see that you have checked out the blog.
    The route was climbed over a century ago and while not hard it does command respect. We generally climb via the original Le Conte route and descend via the so called Secor variation on the way down. This variation avoids the steepest parts of the Le Conte route and is a short cut back into the main gully. If Le Conte had known he would certainly have gone this way!
    One of the main things is fitness and then acclimatization to the elevation.
    The ascent is within the abilities of a a lot of people.
    As with a lot of Sierra peaks acclimatization to the elevation is a big part and we recommend that you come early and spend a day or two letting the body adapt
    It is a Sierra classic for sure and a great way to get to the top of North Pal.
    Do give me a call in the office and we can chat more and I can better evaluate if this route is a good choice for you.

    SP Parker
    IFMGA/AMGA Certified Guide
    Owner Sierra Mountain Center
    P.O. Box 95, Bishop, CA 93515
    office 760 873-8526


    November 17, 2007 at 3:21 pm

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