Ascent of Middle Palisade on 2020-07-25

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Date:Saturday, July 25, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Middle Palisade
    Elevation:14012 ft / 4270 m

Ascent Trip Report

Arriving at the trailhead Friday at 1:30pm, the plan was to start hiking by 2:30pm. The approach to Finger Lake with a loaded pack felt long (about 4 hours). I had read previous TR's saying parties sometimes spend an unplanned 2nd night out with this peak, so this mean carrying extra food. I also made the (stupid) decision to leave my rainfly for my tent in the car since there was no rain in the forecast in order to save some weight. Not much of a difference in overall weight and that thing would have come in handy.

Overnighted at Finger Lake, which is an absolutely incredible alpine lake. Probably the most memorable one I've encountered in the Sierra Nevada.

A late start (8am) after sleeping in the next day was ok in my book. After all, it was my birthday :)

From Finger Lake to the Summit took 5 hours. The most difficult aspect of this route in my opinion was the "red rocks" section. I would suggest hugging the inside of the "black rocks" on the red rock section, staying inside the couloir. I tried to check out the outside of the couloir which had an obvious route, but it is much more exposed and seems to have more loose rock than on the inside. Once clear of this section, the scramble up to 14,000 feet is very straightforward. Keep the gendarme directly above the red rocks in your rear view as you ascend the main route. It's a common error to end up in the wrong couloir by not hugging to the left as you clear the red rocks. Wear a helmet! There was a party of 5 descending and they were kicking rocks (it's almost inevitable). Also, a guy came flying by on his ascent - had started at the same time, only from the trailhead. Car to summit in 4 hours. Wow.

Once you top out and can see the other side of the mountain, you cut to the left about 30 feet to have an easier approach to the summit block. The legendary summit register is there waiting for you! The views on Middle Pal are almost unbeatable. Really cool summit. Freeze-dried backpacker's pantry ice cream sandwich on the summit for a birthday Earn Your Cream moment. A nice nap on the top was also enjoyed.

Descending was a lot easier than originally expected. It goes quickly. The time back to camp was about 3 hours from the summit. At this point, it was 5pm, and the thought of packing up the tent and returning to the car was exhausting in itself. I had no problem with camping a second night at Finger Lake. Simply beautiful.

The hike out in the morning was easy, but still took about 3 hours. For being the smallest and least mileage roundtrip 14er in the Sierras, Middle Pal is harder than I expected! Loved this peak - 8th CA 14er bagged.

Next on the list: Sill, Russell, North Palisade, Starlight, Thunderbolt... always more peaks to discover!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6912 ft / 2106 m
    Extra Gain:300 ft / 91 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.2 mi / 22.9 km
    Route:Northeast Face
    Trailhead:South Fork Big Pine  7700 ft / 2346 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3/4
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Classic Eastern Sierra weather - sunny and pleasant with some afternoon cloud cover

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