An August Ascent of Mt. Sill by Dave Wyman
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It had been 30+ years since my last visit to the Palisade Glacier and the craggy, ancient Mount Sill, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The photographs in this gallery were made just a week later. Having failed the previous seven days in a try to reach the summit of Sill, which stands 14,162 feet above sea level, I decided to make another attempt. I'm glad I gave myself a second chance, glad I didn't decide to wait another 30 years.

I had traveled to the mountain the previous week with good - and ancient and craggy - friends who, after our trip, needed to return to their normal lives. This trip, I would by chance meet a party of three accomplished mountaineers high on the mountain.

I traveled light, carrying in particular memories and some recent thoughts about my life. Certain objects, small enough to carry in a pocket, were heavy with meaning, representing my past, the moment in which I found myself, and what might come. Some of those objects stayed on top of the peak, others came back.

For climbing gear, I brought just my ice axe and crampons. My feet were shod in lightweight boots. I brought my lightweight sleeping bag and pad, not much in the way of spare clothes, minimal first-aid (three band-aids, four gauze pads, some tape, and Ibuprofen), a ground cloth, several energy bars and some beef jerky (OK, a pouch of freeze-dried Chocolate Cheesecake, too), a water bottle (but no cup or utensils), a headlamp and my iPod. I carried no stove, nor a tent. Complete weight of my pack was about 27 pounds. It would be, I told myself, a quick trip - in on a Tuesday afternoon, out by Wednesday evening.

Some of my gear was modern. I carried lightweight Kahtoola crampons, and wore lightweight 5.10 boots. Some of my gear was old, like my sleeping bag and my ice axe, both purchased well over three decades ago. I used my beloved backpack, the amazing, frameless "Jensen Pack," which, like the Kelty frame pack, is still available for those who love classic technology which will never become obsolete.

Camera gear: A Nikon DSLR, with a couple of extra batteries (I turned the LCD auto-review off to conserve power; one battery was more than sufficient). I took one lens, an f/2 35mm, offering a "normal" rather than telephoto or wide angle view. A zoom lens would have allowed more visual choices, but would have weighed more and I'd have spent time deciding on focal lengths and compositions. I've stitched a few photos for a wide angle look, and the lens has good close-focus capability. Did I meet the challenge of effectively using just one lens? I think so.

Next time this might be the way to go
Last view of Mt. Sill - Pano
Mt. Sill is the second peak from the left.

I returned to my car at Glacier Lodge by mid-morning on Thursday, no worse for wear. I felt 30 again.
Sunset over the Palisades
Night was falling; it was time for me to say goodbye to my new friends and make fast trip down the rest of the mountain to my campsite, two thousand feet below. Traveling with Steve and Javier and Dan slowed me down a little, yet traveling with them meant I returned safely from the mountain, and I completely enjoyed their good company. Though I would walk out of the wilderness a morning later than I thought, I didn't mind the extra time spent with new friends and sleeping under the stars, beneath the legendary peaks of the Palisades.
Last Light - Pano
Dan and Javier head up to their high camp
There's no obvious route up this boulder field.
Steve relaxes
Above the lake at the base of the glacier
View up the way we had come
My turn to carry the rope
What was it like to try to climb a mountain when I'm almost 60, about 30 years after my last trip to Mt. Sill? I had thought I might not be up to the task. I was worried that I lacked the mental toughness required to force myself upward. I wondered if I would be too afraid to make the crux moves of the climb to the summit, even though I was up to the task three decades and more ago.

In a way, mountain climbing is a metaphor for life. It can make us ask ourselves what it means to push beyond the barriers we think are holding us back, ask what happens when we enter new territory.

My worries were groundless. I loved making the effort required to reach the summit, and I felt little if any loss of my strength or coordination.

I may never visit the Palisades again. I'm glad, though, that I made a return trip. And I'm glad it took me a couple of tries to reach the top of the mountain this decade, to gain the summit of Mt. Sill, for if I could climb every mountain on every trip, there
Coming off the Palisade Glacier
Palisade Glacier and mountaineer
Looking at the Palisades Glacier, Sierra Nevada Mountains
The glacier was in retreat in 2007, when I made this photograph. I'd like to go back and see what conditions are like, especially after years of drought in California, and rising global temperatures.
Water was in short supply
My new friends carried a lot of climbing gear
I was glad we were on the rope...
On the L Shaped Glacier, Mt. Sill, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
This was my second trip to Mt. Sill in a week, after an absence of perhaps three decades. The previous week, some old friends and I had failed to make the summit, because we didn't have the proper equipment.

Returning alone, I met three climbers near the top of the mountain, and we became instant friends. Here, after our successful ascent, Javier carefully makes his way down a steep and icy glacier on the east side of the mountain, roped to the rest of us for safety.

More photographs of the trip are in my "Mt. Sill" gallery.
On the L-Shaped Glacier
Dropping down the L-Shaped Glacier
Clipping into the rope for safety down the glacier
Putting on traditional crampons
Ice axe - tool of the trade
Steve is ready to descend
Mt. Galey in the background
Looking at North Pal and Starlight Peaks
Two small climbers, one large mountain
Somehow it seemed easier coming up
Palisade peaks and the Palisade Glacier - Pano
Javier photographs me photographing him - Pano
Summit Portrait (thanks, Javier)
Making the effort to reach the summit was a great high.
Summit Register
Many summits in the Sierra Nevada Mountains have a register, kept safely in a watertight box. Mt. Sill is no exception. As did my companions, I signed my name. I also wrote the same endearments to the same special people I'd had in my mind more than a quarter century ago, when I climbed my last big peak, and whom I keep in my thoughts still.
Javier on top
Javier tops out
A few minutes more climbing.....
Dan farther along the ridge
Advancing up the ridge to the summit
After making the crux move, we found ourselves on a narrow ridge leading to the broader, west-facing slope of the summit of Mt. Sill.
Dan is feeling good
Dan heads up the crux move, Steve belays
Steve anchors Dan
Safety items
Climbing can be a colorful sport
North Palisade and Palisade lacier in reflection
Javier, Steve and Dan
We four joined together and made our way across a series of ledges and up one short, vertical pitch
I meet Javier near the crux of the climb
At the top of the L-Shaped Glacier - and just below the most difficult part of the climb - I met Javier and two of his climbing friends. I was a little sorry to lose my solo challenge of the peak, yet I was also glad for the companionship and the sense of safety I suddenly encountered. Then again, I wasn't after safety, but it was nice to have it.
Looking down the L-Shaped Glacier
View up the L-Shaped Glacier
Mt. Sill, still several hundred feet above me, looms overhead. Some climbers scramble up the Class 3 boulder/rocks to the right; I kept my crampons on as long as possible and made my way straight up the quite steep ice. I'm not sure which would have been easier, the rocks or the ice, but I wasn't necessarily after an easy time.

It's difficult to get a sense of scale - the tongue of the glacier ascends for a few hundred feet. This was probably one of the more difficult parts of the climb, because it took some effort to put one foot in front of the other up the steep slope of the ice. And yet, despite my fears that my endurance, given my age, would be less than it was three decades ago, I felt good as I slowly kicked steps into the glacier and made my way toward the crux of the climb.
At the base of the L-Shaped Glacier
Ice on the left, Mt. Gayley on the right.
Moving up the Palisade Glacier
Yes, sharp!
The sharp points of the crampons insured that I would maintain traction on the ice of the glacier.
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