Palisade Glacier High Camp – 5 Days

Climb the Palisades from a basecamp near the Palisade Glacier in a 5-day format! This approach takes you to the most rugged and glaciated part of the High Sierra for classic, technical alpine climbing. This itinerary is more for mountaineers than peakbaggers, but does present the opportunity to climb 3-5 iconic fourteen thousand foot Sierra peaks. We include roundtrip porter support on this trip – in our experience this makes a huge difference in success and enjoyment.

Minimum of 2 to run at this price on scheduled dates with a maximum guiding ratio of 2:1. There are many ways to climb in the Palisades and we encourage you to consider booking a custom private itinerary that best suits you and/or your group.


Due to COVID-19 this trip is only being offered on a Custom Private basis. Click HERE to request a custom program reservation and get more information.


Palisade Glacier High Camp - 5 Days


Palisade Glacier High Camp!

The Palisades are the most rugged and “alpine” ridge on the Sierra crest. The complete Palisades region spans from Taboose Pass in the South, up over Split Mountain (once called South Palisade) to the mighty peaks like Mt. Sill and North Palisade that cradle the Palisade Glacier, the largest glacier in the Sierra, and on to the north to Bishop Pass.  This area has a rich and storied climbing and guiding history. The Palisades have inspired climbers since Joseph Le Conte’s first visionary ascent of North Palisade in 1903 and on to the golden age of climbing there in the 1930’s, led by the great Norman Clyde. In 1959, the first guide service, called Mountain Guide Service, (as Sierra Mountain Guides you may be able to see why we love the simplicity of that name) was opened and located its primary operations in the North Fork of Big Pine Creek, the eastern access point to the Palisade Glacier and surrounding peaks. Eventually that guide service became the Palisade School Of Mountaineering (PSOM) run by the likes of Smoke Blanchard and the recently departed legendary guide John Fischer. SMG guides have in recent years continued to climb and guide new variations in the Palisades to discover new ways to appreciate these spectacular mountains and to feel a sense of connection to the feelings that the pioneering climbers may have experienced long ago. Whenever we go to the Palisades we consider ourselves part of a special tradition and spirit of Sierra mountaineering cultivated for over a century. We hope you will enjoy experiencing the Palisades with us.

On this five day program, we plan to climb several of the ranges breathtaking peaks using skills and equipment for classic alpinism. This side of the mountains usually requires use of crampons and 1 or 2 ice axes, in addition to the use of the standard climbing safety equipment (ropes, harness, helmet, rock protection, ice screws,  other hardware, etc.). There are 10 major peaks that surround the Palisade Glacier and 5 of them have summits above 14,000 feet: Mt. Sill, Polemonium Peak, North Palisade, Starlight Peak, and Thunderbolt Peak. Each climb has distinctive challenges but all of them require good all around skills (rock, ice, snow), and good physical condition. We will have 3 full climbing days to climb as many quality routes and summits as possible.

The Palisades 5-day approach pack is a heavy one because 5 days is a relatively long period of time, and because we go prepared with a full kit for rock, ice, and snow climbing, which includes lots of heavy metal. The approach takes a full day of significant effort over 7 miles and 4600 feet of elevation gain to establish camp near the glacier. For this reason, we include 1 roundtrip porter per person in the cost of this program. In the old days, guides had an established summer basecamp near Third Lake. This was a good base of operations that helped to lighten loads for guided climbers. The Inyo National Forest no longer allows this type of established camp in the Palisades, but we have found that assistance from SMG porters gets us to high camp with plenty of energy and much better acclimatization for 3 days of subsequent climbing.


TRIP ITINERARY: Palisades Glacier High Camp
DAY 1 Meet early morning at the SMG office in Bishop. Gear check and final packing. Give loads to the porters and transport to Glacier Lodge and the trailhead. Hike 7+ miles with 4600+ ft. of elevation gain to camp at either Gayley, Fischer, or Thunderbolt glacier camps, depending on the group and conditions.
DAY 2 Climb Mt. Sill, Thunderbolt Peak, or Mt. Winchell.
DAY 3 Climb Mt. Sill, Thunderbolt, Starlight, North Palisade, or Polemonium Peak.
DAY 4 Climb one of the peaks we haven't yet climbed.
DAY 5 Porters meet us at camp. Pack up camp, hike down to the car, celebrate a successful trip and collect our things when they arrive to meet us in Bishop.


  • AMGA trained and/or certified SMG alpine guide
  • Group camping and cooking equipment
  • Breakfasts and dinners
  • Wilderness permits and permit fees
  • 1 roundtrip porter per climber


  • Prior wilderness camping experience
  • Prior multi-pitch rock climbing experience to 5.6, and comfortable climbing up to 5.9 at altitude
  • Excellent physical fitness and stamina
  • Ability to climb steep snow and ice with ice axes and crampons, up to 50 degrees in steepness


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