North Palisade U-Notch Couloir

Big Pine, California

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North Palisade is the third tallest peak in the range, and there is no easy way to its summit. J.N. LeConte, James Hutchinson, and James K. Moffitt made the first ascent of the peak in July of 1903 from a camp near the lakes to the southwest. An attempt to reach the summit from the south was halted at the deep gash of the U-Notch, so they made the first ascent of Mt. Sill as a consolation. Disappointed, the trio returned to their camp having seen no feasible way to the top of North Palisade. The next day, the climbers made a renewed effort to climb North Palisade by following the gully leading straight to the U-Notch. Already aware that the wall above the notch would be too difficult, they found a ledge system (today marked with a large cairn) that enabled them to climb the next gully and eventually reach the summit. LeConte described their final steps. “We worked up toward the knife-edge just to the south, and instantly the stupendous panorama of precipice, glacier, and desert burst upon us.” This Class 3–4 route is the easiest way to the top and is a fine climb in its own right.

North Palisade: U-Notch Couloir Professional Review and Guide

"North Palisade is the third tallest peak in the range, and there is no easy way to its summit. J.N. LeConte, James Hutchinson, and James K. Moffitt made the first ascent of the peak in July of 1903 from a camp near the lakes to the southwest. An attempt to reach the summit from the south was halted at the deep gash of the U-Notch, so they made the first ascent of Mt. Sill as a consolation. Disappointed, the trio returned to their camp having seen no feasible way to the top of North Palisade. The next day, the climbers made a renewed effort to climb North Palisade by following the gully leading straight to the U-Notch. Already aware that the wall above the notch would be too difficult, they found a ledge system (today marked with a large cairn) that enabled them to climb the next gully and eventually reach the summit. LeConte described their final steps. “We worked up toward the knife-edge just to the south, and instantly the stupendous panorama of precipice, glacier, and desert burst upon us.” This Class 3–4 route is the easiest way to the top and is a fine climb in its own right."

Activity Type: Climbing
Nearby City: Big Pine
Class: Class 5 - 5.5
Local Contacts: John Muir Wilderness; Kings Canyon National Park
Local Maps: USGS North Palisade, Coyote Flat
Driving Directions: Directions to North Palisade: U-Notch Couloir

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May 2018