Norman Clyde Peak
By: Nile Sorenson
Friday morning, August 28, 5 eager climbers (Rich Gnagy, Mario Gonzales, Bob Bruley, Matt Richardson, and Erik Seiring) joined Bill Oliver and me to make an attempt on Norman Clyde Peak. We left the parking lot at about 7 am in good spirits. We decided, based on reports from 2 weeks prior, that we could ford the South Fork of Big Pine Creek, so we had our Tevas and tennies. Within an hour we were at the stream crossing. Before trading our boots in for sandals, a nice rock was found where we could jump across and shuttle the packs. During this procedure it became immediately apparent that Matt Richardson had the heaviest pack with Bill Oliver's running a close second. We jumped across the rocks without incident and found ourselves on the other side hiding the sandals and tennies in the brush for the return trip. The normal crossing point over the wooden beams was still at least 4 inches under water (and this was the end of August!!).
We switch backed up the slope toward Willow Lake ready to "Dawn the Deet" for the mosquitoes. Bill Oliver had loaded up with Vitamin B6 as his method for combating the critters. Apparently it worked, not only for him, but his "aura" encompassed the entire group. We hardly had any mosquitoes the rest of the trip. Either that or the heat had finally burned them all off. We wandered into finger lake in the early afternoon spending the next few hours soaking up the karma of the palisades with beautiful views of The Thumb, Disappointment, Middle Pal, and hopefully our quest to be, Norman Clyde Peak. Mario wrestled with a goofy tent fly that he was supposed to sleep under, Matt had brought a full blown 4 season tent, Bill was complete with his bivy sack and tidy little mosquito netting, while Erik and Bob had cozy little bivy sites nestled amidst the trees. Wake up call was 5:00 am, and hiking by 6:00. We made relatively good time up the ridgeline toward the north face of Norman Clyde. About a quarter mile from the north face, there is a notch in the ridge, which cannot be crossed without some 5th class climbing or dropping down one of the sides and climbing back up. One can descend either the east or the west side to get around it. We found the east side to be the easiest with least elevation lost. By mid morning we had crossed out ont the north face of Norman Clyde Peak. RJ says to stay fairly close to the ridge running up to the false summit. We found the climbing easier out on the face to the west but we paid for this later. About 300 feet from the top we came upon a beautiful lichen chimney. We were not close to the ridge on our east. It was a nice class 4 crack system with a small 5th class move, which put me through a notch right to the top of the ridge. Only one problem, when I reached the top, there was no where to go. We were confronted with large faces with no route short of 5.5 or higher. We had found the wrong lichen chimney. So we had to back track down and work closer to the ridge. A full hour had been wasted. After another dead end "chimney", we did find a route, which went to the false summit. It resembled a lichen chimney, and had to be the right one. It was. It pays to follow RJ's advice as one climbs closer to the false summit. Stay near the ridge on the east side of where you are. The climbing may be easier out on the face lower down, but as you approach the top, work back easterly toward the ridge.
After the traverse to the true summit we found all 7 of us signing the register at about 3:00pm perilously late in the day considering the long descent that lay ahead. We had with us two 8mm ropes, one 50m long and the other 60m long. We tied them together for full-length raps back off the same route we had come up. It was starting to get dark and there were thunderstorms to the north. By the time I came down the 4th rap, it was completely dark. I coiled the ropes by headlamp. Bill had already settled Erik and Matt on a nice ledge near a ridge, while Bob, Rich, Mario and I worked across a gully and out of the fall line toward a nice bivy spot. We spent the night on the north face. Everyone was fairly well equipped. Erik slept in a trash bag, Bob Bruley was the most prepared and had the most warm stuff. Man even snored a couple of times. We were spread out fairly evenly so if anyone knocked off rocks, no one would be in the path. During the night a big one cut loose in the vicinity of Erik or Bob and rumbled down the face about a thousand feet. Fortunately, the thunderheads we had seen at dusk, stayed to the north.
Needless to say, at the crack of dawn, no one was sleeping in. We immediately started down climbing. No one had slept very much, but we were rested. We arrived at camp at Finger Lake in about 4 hours, and packed up. By early afternoon we were at the cars drinking sodas from Bob's cooler. Everyone was in good spirits having climbed one of the more difficult peaks. Several in our group had made multiple attempts of this one without success. We had made it. ~ ALL seven of us had made it. We had climbed safely, and we were all down without casualties. I think everyone was glad to have this one in the books. We knew that we hadn't overpowered this peak.
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