Last weekend, Kostas and I went to explore the West Face of Polemonium on the Palisades crest. After a lot of hiking from South Lake and a ton of talus scrambling, we managed to put up a pretty fun route that tops out on Polemonium Peak.
After some time/energy costly errors on the Saturday morning approach, we gained Thunderbolt pass and dropped down a few hundred feet to a nice base-camp site (~400 ft above the lake). We then went on a “reconnaissance mission” up the U-Notch gully, where we stashed our gear and busted out the binoculars to check out the various headwalls. We retreated back to camp, looking forward to a quick climb the following day.
Sunday morning we left camp at 5:40 AM and within an hour were at our gear stash. As we proceeded further up the gully we saw a number of long ridges that began all the way down from the Palisade Basin (we had not been able to see these during our previous day reconnaissance). We had however already scrambled quite high up on the U-notch gully to loose that elevation. Our decision was to climb the featured headwall right in front of us.
The climbing on LeConte’s Revenge follows discontinuous cracks and features and tops out on the summit of Polemonium. A couple of hours into the climb, clouds began to build overhead and while standing on the ledge after the rappel (pitch 6) we were faced with a decision. Do we rap down or do we continue to tag the summit? We waited 10 minutes to see what the clouds would do. They did nothing, looking as gray and menacing as ever. We thus made the educated decision to blitz the remaining two pitches to the summit. With thunder sounding above we raced down the three rappels all the way to the U-Notch gully.
1) This trip involved miles of hiking and talus hopping!
2) We called the route LeConte’s revenge because we were suckered up the U-Notch gully which marks the start of the LeConte Route. Also, with the building thunderclouds and the giant block in the middle of the route (see topo), we couldn’t help but imagine LeConte flipping us the bird.
LeConte’s Revenge Topo
Approach the route by going up the U-Notch gully from the West (between 2nd and 3rd white buttresses). Follow the path of least resistance which will lead you up and over a small ridge and under the pointy spire like summit of Polemonium. Scramble up the slabs and belay at the base of two low angle splitter cracks (see photo).
Pitch 1: Climb up the splitter cracks (5.6) which eventually lead to a small left facing dihedral. Step right and climb up a handcrack splitter (5.7 exposed). Belay at a big ledge with lots of blocks.
Pitch 2: Climb up and left on discontinuous cracks/broken terrain angling towards a right facing dihedral above you. Climb the dihedral and then proceed on the left side of LeConte’s Bird. Continue up broken terrain and belay on a ledge.
Pitch 3: Downclimb a bit and traverse left (a bit loose) towards a fun right facing dihedral (5.7). Gain a big blocky ledge and proceed up and right towards a sloping ledge on the ridge.
Pitch 4: Face climb up and left towards the dihedral then up to the big flake/dihedral. Belay on a ledge.
Pitch 5: Go up and left on broken terrain and then traverse left towards a gray slab with a crack on the right side of it. Belay on a ledge.
Pitch 6: Walk 15′ left and rappel down
Pitch 7: Climb up a left leaning ramp with a handcrack and follow the path of least resistance up and left. Belay on a ledge when the climbing becomes less than obvious.
Pitch 8: From the ledge go up and right on good face holds and then angle left over a roof. This takes you to the summit.