Saturday, October 11, 2014

08_2014 Sierra fun, part 2: Tenaya Peak and Tuolumne Meadows

The third day in the Sierra was my 54th birthday and another fine granite adventure was on the docket; the northwest buttress of Tenaya Peak. 

I had been camping in our top secret eastern Sierra bivy site, so after a simple breakfast of tea, granola and chocolate donuts :), I was ready to head to Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Peak.

The drive up Tioga Pass and into Tuolumne Meadows always gets me fired up to climb on the fantastic stone of TM.  I had never climbed Tenaya Peak and it looked like a great line, so I was psyched to get on with the birthday climb of choice:)

The approach is pretty straightforward and takes about 45 minutes from the parking area near Tenaya Lake. As I would find out on the climb, the views just keep getting better the higher you go!

The northwest buttress of Tenaya peak offers about 1500’ of quality climbing up to about 5.5 in difficulty. You need to be attentive in a few spots to stay on the line that offers the best quality climbing. 

Time to change into rock climbing shoes! 

I passed a couple of roped parties about 1000’ up the face where the climbing gets a little steeper and the exposure gets a little bigger.
Right near the top, you can choose an easy exit left or finish up a cool zigzag crack that goes right to the summit.  I chose the latter for more climbing fun and was soon on top admiring the views and perfect Sierra weather!  What a fun route!
Summit selfie at 54 years old!
After relaxing a while on the 10,311’ summit and sending out a summit text via the DeLorme Explorer, I took a series of photos which I later stitched into the panorama below – an amazing view in every direction!  You can see Half Dome and down into Yosemite Valley on the left (west) portion of the picture.

The descent off Tenaya Peak takes a little while and is a little tricky in spots, but soon enough I was back down at Tenaya Lake and enjoying a refreshing dip in the lake for today’s dirtbag bath :).   It was about 4.5 hours car to car.

I stopped at the Tuolumne store and got a cold beer to celebrate a fine birthday adventure, then headed down the hill to my dirtbag bivy site above Lee Vining.  After a quick clean up using the solar shower, I went down to the Mobil Station for their famous fish tacos – Eggzellent!!
A view of Tenaya Peak from the west. The route basically follows the skyline of the formation on the right side of the photo.
After a rest day, I spent two really fun days climbing high quality routes in Tuolumne Meadows.  I climbed with a local named Bill who was nice enough to drive down from the Tahoe area for a couple of days of climbing.

We started off with Lucky Streaks, a fantastic 5.10d on Fairview Dome.  This is one of the best routes in Tuolumne in my opinion, offering up about 750’ of super high quality climbing that requires an array of skills.

Looking down the first two pitches of Lucky Streaks. You can see Bill - the little black dot.

The climbing stays pretty sustained for the entire route with everything from thin cracks to face climbing on knobs to hand cracks.  Great stuff!

We had a quick rain and hail storm about half way up which forced us to take a breather and discuss philosophy.

Bill following the knob traverse on the fifth pitch. 

Although the weather was unstable, windy and a bit cool, we had a fun time and were on the summit by early afternoon.

After eating some lunch at the base, we went over to Daff Dome and climbed the uber classic Bombs over Tokyo, a great 5.10c thin crack climb.

Here is Bill following the route.

At the base of the West Face of Daff Dome.
Another day in Tuolumne, Bill and I started out climbing the amazing route OZ, a 5 pitch 5.10d on Drug Dome.  I think this may just be the best climb in Tuolumne, with steep and sustained climbing on beautiful cracks and face for 500+ feet.

It doesn’t get much better than OZ, and the weather was great, so another fine outing was in the bag! 
After OZ, we drove over to Lembert Dome and climbed the Direct NW Face, which is a really nice 3 pitch 5.10c.  Again, really fun climbing, great weather – just another day in Tuolumne!
Nice view of Lembert Dome. If you look closely in the very center of the photograph, you will see a Mountain Bluebird sitting on a branch.
A little bit wider view of Lembert Dome as a storm rolled through.
The super moon rising over the south shore of Mono Lake. Although a little hard to see, this is about a ten second time exposure and you can see the red blur of taillights from some cars on the highway in the lower portion of the photo.

Stay tuned for part 3 - Mt. Conness and Mt. Emerson.

08_2014 Sierra fun, part 3: Mt. Conness, Mt. Emerson

For the 3rd and final blog about the Sierra trip, I’ll highlight ascents of the North Ridge of Mount Conness and the Southeast Face of Mt. Emerson.  Both of these climbs are technically easy/moderate, but offer incredible position and fun climbing.

I started the approach to Mt. Conness from Saddlebag Lake at about 7:30am.  The approach winds it way up the beautiful Conness lakes valley for a few miles, then you do a somewhat nasty scree ascent up onto the ridge proper.  I came across one part of two going to climb the same route, but there were no other people, so it was nice and quiet!

A really pretty cascade on the approach hike.

The North Ridge of Mount Conness offers about 2000’ of quality ridge climbing with a very cool curving aspect to the ridge as you can see in the photos.  The weather was stable and sunny, but a little cool and windy, not an issue just crisp alpine conditions.

The climbing along the ridge is generally easy, but there is huge exposure off the ridge towards the Conness glacier, making for a memorable ascent. 

The arrow points to a party of two in front of me.  

Contemplating the exposure! :)

The “crux” of the route comes at a corner system about 2/3 of the way up the ridge where roped parties will rappel or unroped ascents down climb a 50’ section of 5.6.

After this steeper corner down climb, the majority of the climbing is 4th class or easy 5th class to the summit.

The view from the knife edge - looooong way down!

The views from the 12,648’ summit are really great in every direction.  Another great Sierra climb!

A four frame panorama from a couple hundred feet below the summit on the descent ridge.
Signing the summit register.
You can see the approach I took - it is marked by the yellow line in the photo.

After hanging out on the summit for a while, I started the descent across the plateau and then down into the valley which leads back to the Saddlebag lake road.  The descent takes a while, but was very quiet (no other people the entire way) and is also quite scenic.

It was about 7 hours car to car and after the climb, I went back to camp, grabbed a solar shower and ate more fish tacos at the Mobil station :)  Photo shows post-climbing anti-inflammatory items. :)
The final adventure of the Sierra trip was the southeast face of Mt. Emerson.  Mt. Emerson lies west of Bishop, near the north lake of Bishop Creek.  The outing starts with about one hour of on and off trail approach hiking to the base of the route.

The pink line shows basically the entire route up Mt. Emerson which is approximately 3,000 feet.

The start of the route is quite obvious as it follows a black streaked chimney/corner system for about the first 1000’.  (see pink line). After that, fairly obvious gullies and slabs lead another 1500’ or so to the final series of knife edged ridge to the summit.

The climbing on this route was pretty cool, more fun than expected.  Again, I saw no other people once I left the main trail for the entire ascent/descent – amazing.  If this peak were in Colorado and as accessible, it would be packed with peak scramblers!
Another surprise the climb provided was length – this gully and ridge climb is much longer than it appears.

Perhaps the coolest thing about this climb is the final knife edge ridge to the summit.  This ridge is quite spectacular and has tremendous exposure on both sides at times – very cool!

Part of the long and dramatic knife edge ridge that leads to the summit.
Straddling the pointy summit of Mt. Emerson. The summit of Mt. Emerson is 13,225’.

A five frame panorama from the summit. Quite a view!

After enjoying the summit, you have to negotiate 2000+ feet of loose talus and scree to get you down to the lake, but after that it’s a pretty quick jaunt on good trail back to the parking area.

It was about 6 hours round trip and after arriving back at my car, I took a nice bath in a pool of Bishop creek, packed up and started the long drive back to Boulder.  It was a great trip with excellent weather overall and lots of great climbing adventures!  I love the high Sierra.