Mt. Sill and Polemonium peak


Mt. Sill and Polemonium Peak are the easiest (it's all relative, right?) of the five 14ers in the North Palisade range. With ten of the fifteen 14ers done, these were the first two in this range that I wanted to take a shot at (not counting that attempt on North Palisade two years ago that ended just a couple of hundred vertical feet from the summit!) on July 9th, 2016.
View of Polemonium pk, North Palisade, Starlight and Thunderbolt pk above the Palisade glacier
Route description: Use Scaruffi's description of the Glacier notch route from the South Fork of Big Pine Creek (Glacier Lodge Trailhead)
GPX: Use the GPS coordinates from here. Use hillmap.com or caltopo.com for accurate maps.

Peaks of this section of the Palisades seen fairly early during the hike

Brief Trail description: Glacier Lodge trailhead -> South fork of big pine creek -> Willow lake -> creek down from Mt. Gayley -> Glacier notch -> L-couloir/north couloir -> Mt. Sill -> follow the ridge to Polemonium pk.
Approximate route till Glacier notch seen from above Willow lake

The route followed the descriptions linked above very well. I started (maybe a couple of hours too late?) at 5 am and reached Willow lake at the top of the switchbacks by 6:30am. I then had to cross a couple of small creeks to reach and follow the creek coming down from Mt. Gayley on the south side till the pond and move over to the north side. Continuing on on this side till both the waterfalls are crossed, there was a lot of snow and water in the gully directly towards Mt. Sill till glacier notch is visible. From there, the path to glacier notch, the L-couloir and the (barely) class IV wall upto Mt. Sill are fairly obvious. It's a nice fun scramble all the way to the top of Mt. Sill - and you'll most likely see some climbers on the classic Swiss Arete route. 

View from the top of Mt. Sill
From the top of Mt. Sill, the ridge leading up to Polemonium peak is very clear and is Class 2/3 depending on the line you take and snow on this side of the ridge.

Wide-angle view on the ridge between Mt. Sill and Polemonium

From the false summit of Polemonium, you can descend a steep chute towards the Palisade basin and climb back up to the ridge leading up to the true summit. 
View of the Palisade basin from the false summit of Polemonium
Alternately, you can traverse a class 4 section to reach the same place (which I did on the way back - and was much more pleasant considering the snow in the chute).

The classic Class-4 climb to the summit of Polemonium

The summit ridge is only around 25 ft - but has steep exposure on both sides. A very fun climb though! 

Looking down on the summit ridge towards the Palisade glacier from the summit

And this panorama from the top of Polemonium makes it all worth it!
The Palisade glacier, Mt. Sill, the Sierra ranges, Palisade basin and North Palisade as seen from the Polemonium summit
My hike down to the trailhead took way longer than planned - I hadn't budgeted for 3 hours for the Sill -> Polemonium -> Sill traverse. Down-climbing the class 4 wall and the L-couloir took quite long too. In hindsight, it might have been faster if I had planned to expect snow in the couloir. I ended up on a class 3 descent route around the 2nd waterfall and consequently the sun set while I was still close to the 1st waterfall.

Sunset .... and still a while to go .....
I did navigate using the many cairns setup on the trail and I ended up crossing the stream too early (at clearly marked cairns!). The next few hours were spent bushwhacking over shrub, stepping into marshes, (almost) giving up and deciding to spend the night under the stars - and finally powering on to the section of trail that I used in the morning (thanks to the GPS waypoint). And when I reached Willow lake past midnight, I see two other hikers (who had summited Split mountain) trying to find the trail! Ain't this place notorious for folks losing their way! What say, AZ?!


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