Polemonium Peak (14,080 feet)

Frozen lakes abound in the Palisade Basin

The views from the top of North Palisade were stunning. Frozen lakes, snow-covered peaks as far as the eyes could see. It was June 2006, and Rick Kent and I had enjoyed a fabulous climb up the U-Notch Couloir (with Chimney Variation) to reach the summit of this classic Sierra Nevada peak.
Classic views from the Palisade crest

But my eyes were repeatedly drawn to the unassuming little peak just to the east. It was called Polemonium Peak, and at 14,080 feet above sea level, it was the last of the California 14ers I'd yet to do.

I asked to look at Rick's route description. Problem was, he hadn't remembered to bring one. And neither had I. So with our eyes we traced out a line up the short west face that looked like it might go.
Our approximate route up Polemonium Peak from the U-Notch

Descending from the summit of North Palisade, Rick and I worked back to the top of the Chimney Variation (5.4) and prepared to rappel down the two pitches we'd only recently climbed.
CP preparing to rappel back down to the U-Notch

Straightforward, and with good anchors already in place, we dropped back down to the top of the U-Notch.
CP rappelling down to the U-Notch

Beginning with a short traverse around a corner, we started climbing up easy but sometimes steep, convoluted terrain on Polemonium's west face. Piecing it together, we thought three short pitches was the way to go.
Starting up Polemonium Peak

We called it 5.6, and it eventually put us on the summit! And I was done with the pesky yet delightful list that is the California 14ers. I was elated!
The summit, looking toward Mount Sill

Rather than retrace our steps down the U-Notch, a gesture that might have required quite a few rappels down the steep snow, we opted to traverse over to Mount Sill and then drop down to Gayley Camp via Glacier Notch.
The initial downclimb off the summit block

I lowered my pack for the steep but easy downclimb from just below the summit. From there, we rappelled down a chute then traversed left to climb up another chute to gentle terrain near the top of the Polemonium Glacier.
CP heading up a snow chute toward the Polemonium Glacier

Working through heavy snow, we passed antlers and the other curious remains of a deer around the 14,000 foot level on the ridge between Polemonium and Sill.
Antlers at 14,000 feet

Reaching the top of the snowy, class 4 headway below Mount Sill's standard route, we set up a rappel that would deliver us to scrambling terrain near the Mount Sill-Apex Peak saddle.
Almost to Mount Sill

Once at the saddle, I knew from a prior visit to the spot that the return to camp would be easy.
Looking down Mount Sill toward Mount Gayley

A simple romp down the L-snowfield would take us to Glacier Notch, where class 3 scrambling would bring us to the Palisade Glacier. Gayley Camp is at the edge of the small glacier.
Passing below Apex Peak

Plunge-stepping and glissading for short periods on the way down the L-snowfield, Rick and I triggered a small avalanche that we were able to ride down to the mellow terrain below Mount Gayley. Woohoo! Now, just a walk to camp, the snow having done a bit of the work for us!
Just above Glacier Notch

Back in camp, I slept for a comfortable 12 hours, while Rick, deciding he'd head home, hiked out in the evening. Feeling great in the morning, I hiked out alone, admiring the substantial scenery that is the North Fork of Big Pine Creek.

Oddly enough, at the time, I was on some weird medicine for Lyme disease. Some tick found my mom while she and I had hiked in the mountains of Connecticut the weekend before. She'd suggested I be proactive and get on some meds for the disease, just in case.

Well, the medication I'd consumed reacted to the brilliant sun on snow on the glacier and gave me a horrible, burning rash on the backs of my hands. I suppose I should have heeded the doctor's advice to stay out of the sun.

"But Doc, I'm headed to the Palisades..."

*Photos courtesy of Rick Kent