2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

National Parks Hall of Fame: Best Peak

No crowds. No frills. No cakewalk. This hang-on-for-your-life climb is not for the meager-hearted.

by: Jim Gorman

North Palisade, King Canyon, CA (Larry Carver)
North Palisade, King Canyon, CA (Larry Carver)

North Palisade, Kings Canyon, CA

Guarded on all sides by soaring granite walls, knife-edge ridges, and icy couloirs, North Palisade (14,242 feet) is the adventurer's answer to Whitney: a gorgeous challenge, but without the conga line of climbers. The approach alone keeps even the hint of a crowd away. The route up the dizzying east side starts with a seven-mile, mostly off-trail trek that ascends 4,500 feet from the trailhead at Big Pine Creek to the high camp just below Palisade Glacier (the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada). Summit day's 2,000-foot climb goes like this: Head out around 4 a.m., in crampons, and traverse the glacier to reach the U-Notch Couloir; ascend 10 pitches of 40-degree snow and ice to the top of the U-Notch, then several pitches of 5.6 rock climbing; reach the summit block with a final class 4 move. None of it, not even the scrambling, is a "gimme," says Bela Vadasz, owner of Alpine Skills International. This is you-fall-you-die terrain: Go guided unless you have solid climbing skills on snow and rock.

Want to go it alone on a less technical ascent? A class 4 route leads all the way up North Palisade's west side, but you'll need peakbagging experience, solid routefinding skills, and a stomach for exposure. West-side climbers typically backpack over Bishop Pass from South Lake trailhead and travel cross-country to a basecamp in Palisade Basin (or higher, by a small tarn south of Thunderbolt Pass). The entire trip covers 19 miles, ascends 6,000 feet, and includes talus-filled chutes, exposed ledges, and a final squeeze through a tight keyhole to stand on the summit. Pack a rope and slings to ease the descent.

Season Late June to early October
Permits Required
Map Tom Harrison
Maps The Palisades ($10,
Guide Alpine Skills International for the east face ($795,
Contact (760) 873-2483 (Inyo National Forest permits),

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -


Andrew Pfeffer
Sep 30, 2012

Has anyone recently done the Palisade Traverse in the Sierra Nevada's? I'm wondering about the snowpack, as well as where you made camp to make the attempt.

D Swaney
Apr 18, 2010

Sounds beautiful - Lesser mortals, however, will love Wheeler Peak in Great Basin NP, Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic NP, and Guadelupe Peak in Guadelupe Mountains NP!


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Burger King moving headquarters to Canada
Posted On: Aug 27, 2014
Submitted By: Ben2World
Trailhead Register
Knee Defender Caused Airline to Divert Flight
Posted On: Aug 27, 2014
Submitted By: retired reddog
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions