Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Palisades in Kings Canyon National Park

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

The name “Palisades” means posts or pickets but in the case of the Palisades of the Sierras, they form a jagged high ridge along the Sierra Nevada crest between Fresno and Inyo Counties. Water on the east side flows to the Owens Valley and on the west side, the water flows to the great Central Valley.

Three years ago I headed out for four days and three nights from Florence Lake to Road’s End in Kings Canyon. I was completing one of my last sections of the John Muir Trail. I picked up the JMT where it intersected with the Florence Lake trail as the JMT dropped down from the Sallie Keyes Lakes. Not far from there the JMT enters the north end of Kings Canyon Park, follows the San Joaquin River and then climbs up to Evolution Valley following Evolution Creek. My first day out was quite a push. I spent the first night camped at Evolution Lake. The next day I climbed again and topped out at Muir Pass. I then descended to a campsite in Deer Meadow along Palisade Creek. There was some rain overnight and I could hear distant thunder.

In the morning, I heated coffee and drank it in my tent to avoid the final raindrops of the light shower. I broke camp and headed up the trail in the mist following the overnight rain. As I began to climb the trail section called the Golden Staircase (a section added later to the JMT) I could see the Palisades begin to emerge above me to my left. It was a mystical view with the Palisades shrouded in fog. Although the climb to the lower Palisade Lake is over 1,500’, I had fresh legs, a cool morning and a wonderful view. The Palisades are in view all the way to Mather Pass (12,100’). When I arrived at Mather Pass, I sat for a bit and thought how nice it would be to see the Palisades from a closer perspective. I also thought about the fact that these mountains still towered above me even at Mather Pass.

 Lower Palisade Lake

 Looking Back To Upper Palisade Lake

Last summer, my older son Ben and I had an opportunity to do an overnight in Dusy Basin. This is less labor intensive with the trailhead coming in from the east side of the Sierras at South Lake west of Bishop. The trailhead is above 9,000’ and while there is a climb over Bishop Pass (just under 12,000’), It is an easy destination for one day to Dusy Basin. When you arrive at the Pass, there is not much of a view but following the trail south, the Palisades come into view east of the trail.

Mt. Agassiz (13,899’) is the northern end of the Palisades and comes into view first. There are four peaks above 14,000’ including Split Mountain, Middle Palisade and Mount Sill. North Palisade is the highest of the Palisades at 14,248’ and is the third highest of the Sierras behind Mt. Williamson (14’380’) and Mt. Whitney (14,508’).

According to Wikipedia, the Palisades “make up about six miles of the Sierra crest”.
There are other views one can get by going from Dusy Basin over Knapsack Pass or Thunderbolt Pass and dropping into Palisade Basin. Another route would be to take Glacier Lodge Road to the end and hike in to a view of the Palisades from the east. There are glaciers on the east side of the Palisades, including the Norman Clyde and Middle Palisade Glaciers. There are wonderful books about the legendary Norman Clyde and another mountaineer named Orland Bartholomew. Their stories are inspirational.

Mountaineers enjoy the challenges of bagging the peaks of the palisades. My hope for this coming summer is to have another opportunity to view this wonderful section of the Sierras from one of the latter perspectives.

Ben On Last Section Before Bishop Pass
Author At Bishop Pass

LTo R Agassiz, Winchell, Thunderbolt, North Palisade
Far Right Isosceles Peak

Columbine Peak To The Right Of  Isosceles Peak


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