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There are at least two 4th class routes to the summit of North Pal from the Southwest Chute. One is the original route used on the first ascent, which requires finding and traversing a narrow sloping ledge into an adjacent gully to the north of the chute, about halfway up the chute. Finding this ledge, sometimes called the Catwalk, is the crux of the route. The Catwalk actually slopes slightly downhill as it traverses left on the north wall of the chute to allow one to turn the corner and switchback into the gully. The gully itself is quite steep and narrow near its top, often filled with snow and ice. Even late in the season, crampons and ice ax may be necessary to safely ascend the gully. Once surmounting the gully, you enter a broad boulder-filled bowl with the summit ridge to the northeast. The other route departs from the chute about three-quarters of the way up the chute and consists of traversing leftward and upward on broken ledges. The start of this second route requires a sharp eye to spot, but should be obvious once you are on it. If you get to the U-Notch at the top of the chute, you've gone too far. This route avoids the risk of ice in the shaded gully, but has a bit more exposure and there are loose rocks on these ledges. This route arrives in the same broad bowl at the top of the gully of the first route. Once in the bowl, work your way northeast up through the boulders, staying to the right of the low, narrow ridge which bisects the bowl. After some 3rd and 4th class scrambling, you will reach the summit of North Pal. Allow about four hours to reach the summit after entering the Southwest Chute unless you have particularly strong legs to pump yourself up the steep and loose talus without frequent rests.
The Southwest Chute was the original approach for the first and other early ascents of North Pal. Above Barrett Lakes is this large, steep, talus-filled chute which leads to the same U-Notch seen above the Palisade Glacier on the east side of the Palisades. Most parties reach the Southwest Chute by hiking over Bishop Pass (12,000+ ft elev.) from the South Lake trailhead, turning south to skirt the west flanks of Mt. Agassiz and Mt. Winchell, and then passing through Thunderbolt Gap. The Southwest Chute leading to the U-Notch is about one mile further south from Thunderbolt Gap. It is the largest chute on this west flank of the Palisade crest.
A rope, harness and rappel device are recommended for a secure descent on the crux sections. Bring long slings and rappel rings. If there is any snow or ice, crampons and ice ax may be needed. Bring excerpts from Porcella and Burns "Climbing California's Fourteeners" to help you find your way.
A view on the left of the irregular and sloping le...
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