|Cumulative climbing:||1410 feet|
An(other) Attempt on Lookout Peak, September 20, 2015 - After last year's truncated adventure on the flanks of Lookout Peak, we decided that another attempt would make an excellent warm-up for our week in the mountains. Today we expected to enjoy a full day of good weather, and as it turned out the weather couldn't have been nicer.
We started up the same way on the Mono Pass Trail, then to Ruby Lake. From Ruby Lake we hiked up the meadow to the talus field beneath the north face of the peak.
Last year we had gotten near the top of this talus but could see no obvious route higher that was easier than Class 3. I had wanted to traverse around to the east side of the peak to see if easier terrain could be attained, but weather turned us back. Today we satisfied our curiosity.
We worked our way around to the east side of the peak, but the terrain became no less steep, and we had to contend with bushwhacking our way through thicker clumps of whitebark pines that clung to the steep slope. Eventually we found ourselves facing a broad chute full of loose sand and rock. I could not tell if the chute extended all the way to the base of the peak or if it cliffed out. It appeared to get steeper as it descended.
Although our goal was to ascend, not descend, I did not wish to start an avalanche of rock that swept us over an unseen brink. While Frank and Stella waited on some stable rock at the side, I ventured into the chute and climbed about 30 feet up before concluding that the remaining 200 feet to the summit would cost us 600 feet of effort. The rock higher in the chute was larger but no more stable than the loose stuff I had started up. With three of us climbing, it was highly likely one of us would let one of these boulders loose onto someone climbing lower in the chute. At this point we began to consider whether pressing on was worth the reward.
In their guide books Secor† and Voge‡ both rate Lookout Peak as Class 2, and while that may be technically correct (assuming one travels in the chute on the northeast side), it is only suitable for descending, if you don't get caught in your own avalanche of rock and sand.
When I was younger and more compulsive I might have pressed on alone, if necessary, to the summit just to say I made it, but we decided to quit the climb while we were still having fun. Weather was still nice, views still grand, and since this was our first day of a week in the mountains we felt there was no point in taking any risks on a "warm-up" hike.
We stopped for lunch below a large erratic that we had passed on our way up.
Upon returning to the shore of Ruby Lake, we took a short nap on the only grassy patch we could find next to the lake. While we rested by the lake we gazed up at the west slope of Lookout Peak and considered that this side from Ruby Lake may have looked straightforward, its rock was probably lying at the angle of repose. Any travel would cause a slide, negating upward progress.
After our nap we returned to the trailhead.
†Secor, R. J. The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails. Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers, 1992: p. 263.
‡Voge, H. H. and Smatko, A. J. Mountaineer's Guide to the High Sierra. San Francisco, California: The Sierra Club, 1972: p. 130. Identified as "Peak 11898" or Ruby Peak.
|Cumulative climbing:||2120 feet|
Tuolumne Peak, September 21, 2015 - After being beaten back on Lookout Peak the day before we were looking for a goal today that had a high probability of attainment. This meant a hike that was no more than moderately long, even better if we had some first-hand knowledge of the route.
Last year on my way home I had gotten myself within 600 feet of the summit before rapidly building thunderstorms counseled retreat. That I knew the way but hadn't gotten to the summit increased our likelihood of success today and satisfied my desire to complete a hike I hadn't finished the first time. The only downside was the long drive from Mammoth, about 1:45, which includes waiting in the entrance queue at Tioga Pass and slowly driving the pothole-infested road to the May Lake Trailhead. Since the hike was not long, this was deemed acceptable, and I volunteered to drive.
We found plenty of parking spaces at the May Lake Trailhead, and after making our usual preparations we were on the trail to May Lake.
At May Lake several other parties were enjoying the lakeside. Crews were busy dismantling the May Lake High Sierra Camp as we hiked past on the trail to Ten Lakes.
A short distance past May Lake, before the trail begins a descent toward Murphy Creek, we turned off onto the old trail that leads to the base of the final approach to Tuolumne Peak. We saw no other people until we returned through the May Lake High Sierra Camp later in the day.
The old trail climbs then descends to a small meadow, crosses a creek flowing out through large boulders at the lowest point (where the trail is easy to lose), then climbs a higher drainage through trees. The quality of the old trail is apparent in several places where old stonework remains. Fallen trees cross the trail in a few spots, but these are easily gotten past.
As the trail climbs above the forest it becomes faint, and we lost it a few times. But even without a trail it was clear what direction we needed to go, so we didn't get lost.
The trail ends at a meadow in a saddle that offers a clear view of the final approach to the peak. In the old days visitors on horseback or mule must have left their beasts here to graze while camp was made and the adventurous pressed on to the summit.
Last year I made for the pass in the ridge below the south summit of Tuolumne Peak, and this year I saw no reason why we shouldn't do the same. This year we ascended last year's descent route, a route I found easier going as it spent much of its time in a minor drainage that was now mostly dry.
At the pass we stopped to eat a snack before commencing the final approach, the part of the hike I had missed last year. At this point, it was new for all of us.
I chose to head up through the trees, aiming for the higher north summit of the peak. The terrain was all Class 2 until the summit pinnacle that appeared to require a Class 3 move to continue. Surely there was an easier way. A brief investigation revealed a slightly easier approach by moving right and leaping across a gap between two large rocks, a move that I knew might present a greater challenge for someone with shorter legs. Later, Stella found an easier route up the pinnacle by traversing even further right.
After I got to the summit I waited for Frank and Stella. They appeared to have taken a route leading out of the trees into talus and reported over the radio that the higher terrain was becoming too difficult or dangerous to climb and were wondering where I was.
After some searching through binoculars I found them near the edge of the ridge on the more technical but lower south summit. I reported that I was on the north summit, then waved. Finally, they saw me and began to head in my direction.
While I waited for Frank and Stella I searched in vain for a summit register, so that we could document our accomplishment. I concluded that either the register had been removed—there's been a movement to do this on the more popular and frequently-climbed peaks—or it had been placed atop the more challenging south summit.
After we were all assembled on the north summit, we took our photos, I made radio contact with another HAM in Morgan Hill, California through one of the repeaters on Loma Prieta, we ate lunch, and then we just sat to enjoy the still air in the warm sun and listen to the cry of Clark's Nutcrackers that were feeding on nuts from the whitebark pines that grow on the peak. Although the air was smoky and hazy and the views less spectacular than they could have been, the wind was calm and the sun warm, giving us a rare opportunity to still ourselves and listen to the sounds of nature around us.
Our only discomfort was the lack of comfortable places to sit. The rocks at the summit were coarse granite flakes tilted edge-on that did not make for comfortable seats. In spite of this we remained on the summit for over an hour and a half.
On our way down I considered that if we hadn't remained as long at the summit of Tuolumne Peak we might have had time to climb Mt. Hoffman to the southwest, a shorter hike from May Lake. Stella and Frank had attempted Hoffman years ago and intend to climb it again someday. But, it was too late in the day now. We had yet a long drive back to Mammoth.
We took a break from our descent to enjoy the view just off the trail on one of the lesser ridges flanking Tuolumne Peak.
Our remaining hike to the trailhead went uneventfully, although the last mile seemed to go on longer than I thought it should have.
|Bike Ridden:||Power Gold Rush|
|Cumulative climbing:||4680 feet|
|Avg. Speed (moving):||12.1 mph|
|Max. Speed:||48.1 mph|
|Nominal System Voltage:||24|
|Battery energy capacity:||1200 wh|
|Battery energy consumed:||638 wh|
|Battery Amps-Hour Used:||24.2|
|Peak Current:||38 Amps|
|Motor energy to rear wheel:||447 wh|
Mammoth Tour, September 22, 2015 - After hiking for two days we decided to go biking today.
Stella hadn't yet ridden over to Reds Meadow, so we decided to ride there first. If we still had energy, we'd extend the tour up through Old Mammoth to Lake Mary Road, and optionally out to Horseshoe Lake and around Lake Mary. Nice thing about this ride is that we didn't need to drive anywhere in the car to do it, and there were good bail-out options for cutting the ride short.
Weather was clear and breezy, a contrast from the day before when the air was still and hazy. We enjoyed a razor sharp view of the Minarets and the Ritter Range from Minaret Vista.
The descent to Reds Meadow is much the same as the last time. The road is narrow and in places bumpy, and even though it was late in the season we still encountered a surprising number of cars, trucks, and campers along the way.
We stopped for a while at the general store before returning up the hill again.
When we returned to the top of the hill Stella decided she'd had enough for the day and returned to the condo, while Frank and I continued down the hill into town and beyond to Old Mammoth.
Old Mammoth Road is a nice quiet climb, once you get past the condos and developments. The road steepens considerably and loses its centerline in the last mile before it reaches Lake Mary Road a short distance uphill from Twin Lakes.
When we reached Lake Mary Road Frank decided to head back to the condo, while I continued up to Horseshoe Lake and then back the long way around Lake Mary before returning to the condo.
|Cumulative climbing:||2110 feet|
Saddlebag Lake to Tioga Pass, September 23, 2015 - Today's hike was one that had been on my “to do” list since I read Steve Roper's book on the Sierra High Route†. I had envisioned hiking it with the aid of a car shuttle, starting at Tioga Pass, climbing to Gaylor Lakes and the Great Sierra Mine, then venturing beyond through trackless terrain to Hall Valley, and perhaps with enough time and energy over the east ridge of Mount Conness before circling back to the Saddlebag Lake trailhead.
Today we planned to hike one section I had never done from Hall Valley to Great Sierra Mine and back, so we did not set up a car shuttle, but instead carpooled to Saddlebag Lake trailhead.
At first we started down the trail that we had hiked in 2012 that led to Mount Conness. Once we got to the research hut in Hall Valley we followed a well-worn use trail up the north side of the Hall Valley until we were even with or a little beyond the outlet from Green Treble Lake on the opposite side of the valley.
At this point we had to leave the familiar trail and head south across a broad meadow. On this outbound trip we'd be hiking opposite the directions given in Roper's book, directions which lack detail. I had marked my own maps with dots rather than lines, the dots being places mentioned by Roper that the route passes through. The lines between the dots we'd make up as we went. That was part of the adventure.
We did find another faint use trail that led in our intended direction toward Green Treble Lake, and we followed this until it petered out in a broad loamy alpine meadow that even toward the end of this drought year was still soft and soggy under foot.
From the meadow we followed what appeared to be the nearly dry creek exiting Green Treble Lake, and shortly we were standing at the top of a moraine overlooking Green Treble Lake.
We crossed the narrow connection between the two lobes of Green Treble Lake and hiked around the south side of the smaller lobe. Continuing a short distance beyond we came upon Maul Lake that is much prettier than its unpleasant name would suggest.
Roper writes of passing Spuller Lake at its outlet, but we decided to take a more direct route along its western shore and up to a small valley to the south. During most years this north-facing valley likely has snow, making the eastern traversal that Roper advises easier.
At the top of this valley we saw that we'd have to cross a short stretch of talus before gaining easier terrain on the darker metamorphic rock.
In one of these slot canyons Stella stopped to eat some lunch and declared that she didn't want to go any farther through this trackless terrain. Frank and I considered leaving Stella with her two-way radio as it was warm and comfortably sheltered from wind, then rejoining her after returning from Great Sierra Mine. I floated a second proposal that she continue with us to the Great Sierra Mine, then take the Gaylor Lakes Trail, an official trail, from there back to Tioga Pass and await us to return in the car to collect her. We could remain in contact via radio while we were separated.
This meant a couple miles of real trail and some uncertainty over the route ahead that I assured her was only about 1 mile prior to our gaining the trail at Great Sierra Mine in exchange for the certainty of returning the four miles to Saddlebag Lake over the trackless terrain she had traversed just now after waiting an hour or more alone in this spot for us to return. Continuing allowed her to see and enjoy the remaining route to Great Sierra Mine and the trail past pretty Gaylor Lakes that hadn't been on our itinerary. I also felt it was better for us not to split up while we were hiking off-trail, and that if we were to split up, it would be better to do so when the solo traveler is assured of an established trail. It would be too easy to lose track of someone in the terraces.
After eating her lunch she agreed to continue with the second plan.
We pressed on up to the knoll immediately west of Roper's Mine Shaft Pass. The top of this knoll was the high point of our route and offered a sweeping view from north to south. The view was still blocked to the west by the Sierra Crest that loomed less-threateningly here—we weren't much lower.
From the knoll we could see the Great Sierra Mine and the start (or end) of the Gaylor Lakes Trail and Gaylor Peak rising sharply behind.
In hindsight I see that we traversed higher than Roper's route through most of this area. Lower terrain looked more technical and slower-going. Roper writes of “class 2-3 problems”, and it was clear as we traveled through the terraces that the terrain lower down was more highly sloped. I was trying to avoid this. The higher ground, free of snow, made for easier walking and allowed us to survey our surroundings and progress, even if it meant gaining and losing more altitude in the final tally. I don't regret the error.
At the Great Sierra Mine we collectively decided to remain together. The time was almost 1500, and although I expected Frank and I would take a bit over three hours to return to Saddlebag Lake if all went well, the time margin was tight with sunset not long after 1900. None of us had brought lights. And, we didn't want this hike to be our epic hike of the week, stumbling under time pressure back to the car in the dark while Stella waited for us in the dark at Tioga Pass, followed by a long drive in the dark and a very late dinner.
So we all decided to continue through to Tioga Pass via Gaylor Lakes and then walk back to Saddlebag Lake trailhead on the roads. We'd have four miles of hiking on the road. Services existed (rest rooms, water, Tioga Resort, etc.). Even if darkness caught us, we could manage. By not doubling back on our route, we could on some future date hike this traverse from south to north having had some experience on the route but not so much that it would feel like repetition. And, since we'd be going in Roper's intended direction, maybe we'd see if we could handle his “class 2-3 problems”.
Once we got down to Tioga Pass we had to be sly about exiting the park. Had we walked out on the road, we would have been charged $15 each (the price for walking into or out of Yosemite), even though I carried my $30 auto pass from our Tuolumne Peak trip that was still good for the week. It's possible the ranger in the kiosk would have accepted my auto pass for our group passage from the park on foot or even the tale of an altered plan, but I didn't want to take the chance that he wouldn't. And, once our intentions were clear we couldn't then credibly deny that we intended to leave the park to avoid the additional payment.
A few hundred yards above the Gaylor Lakes trailhead we exited the trail and traversed through the woods, coming out onto the road a couple tenths of a mile below the pass.
From this point we hiked down the road when it was clear of traffic, or onto the ballast rock on the shoulder when it wasn't. The going was easy compared to hiking cross-country or on a rocky trail. Traffic was light and came in bunches, so most of the time we had the road to ourselves. An off-season weekday helped.
Since the sun was getting lower in the sky the light was good for photography, especially the sun glistening on the foliage.
While not an epic hike, it still held enough adventure and scenery to make for a full and satisfying day.
†Roper, S. Sierra High Route, Traversing Timberline Country. Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers, 1997: pp. 191-194, pp. 227-228.
|Bike Ridden:||Power Gold Rush|
|Cumulative climbing:||3510 feet|
|Avg. Speed (moving):||16.2 mph|
|Max. Speed:||44.1 mph|
|Nominal System Voltage:||24|
|Battery energy capacity:||1200 wh|
|Battery energy consumed:||785 wh|
|Battery Amps-Hour Used:||30.1|
|Peak Current:||37 Amps|
|Motor energy to rear wheel:||549 wh|
Crowley Lake Tour, September 24, 2015 - After yesterday's adventure that had been longer than planned, we decided not to hike today. Stella wanted to do some shopping and to relax while Frank, who had started the week feeling as if he was not in as good condition this year as last, wanted to go riding. He suggested some variation of Crowley Lake Drive, perhaps with a side trip on McGee Creek and Owens Gorge Roads.
But Stella wanted the car, and Frank didn't want to ride from the condo as that would add a significant climb at the end of the ride, and we all wanted to be well-rested for our big hike of the week the next day.
I invited Frank to use my van, and I could meet him at his starting point on Crowley Lake Drive. This plan worked well.
I departed the condo while Frank was loading his bike and gear into the van. By the time I got down to US-395, I saw the van go by. I continued on at a brisk but not breakneck pace as I knew Frank would need to get his gear assembled before he could ride.
Frank was still getting ready to ride when I arrived at the spot where he had parked, near Crowley Lake Drive and US-395, where I found him fighting to get into his jersey that he admitted was a little too snug for him.
We set off on Crowley Lake Drive, passing the remains of the first ski resort in the area, then turned right onto McGee Creek Road.
McGee Creek Road climbs deceptively steeply in the first mile up the slopes of Long Valley. The road feels steep, yet doesn't look steep.
The road levels off and rounds a bend that offers a sweeping view of Long Valley and Crowley Lake below.
We pressed on past a spartan forest service campground and found ourselves shortly at the end of the pavement where we could glimpse up canyon a view of Mount Baldwin and its ridge.
We turned around and descended back to Crowley Lake Drive and turned right. We continued through Hilton Creek and over a low hill past Tom's Place where we found a small traffic jam due to construction on Rock Creek Canyon Road.
We managed to get past the construction by indicating to the traffic monitor that we were turning left to cross US-395 and get to Owens Gorge Road.
Owens Gorge Road took us past a small residential community where dwellings are perched or nestled among steep hills of pumice. The road climbed initially, then descended to Crowley Lake at its dam. We crossed the dam and climbed the opposite side of the gorge before turning around at the end of the pavement.
As we rode back across the dam I caught a whiff of sulphur fumes. The Devil must have been nearby.
We climbed out of the Gorge, rode back past Tom's Place where the same folks sitting 'round the cracker barrel on our outbound trip were still there, and continued back to the northern end of Crowley Lake Drive, this time with the aid of a nice tailwind. Frank got way ahead of me while I stopped to take photos.
I started back to Mammoth a minute before Frank, so it wasn't long before I saw him passing me in the van. I continued back into Mammoth at higher speed, taking the old highway into town and Forest Trail around the center of town.
|Cumulative climbing:||3660 feet|
Mammoth Crest, September 25, 2015 - At dinner the night before we discussed various possibilities for our longest hike of the week. The two that generated the most interest were Volcanic Ridge, a nondescript mountain at the center of the Minarets Crescent Frank and I had hiked in 2013 that offers a fantastic view of the Ritter Range and especially of the Minarets, a loop on the John Muir Trail and River Trail (or High Trail) to Thousand Island Lake and back such as David and I hiked in 2011, and the Mammoth Crest Loop hiked counter-clockwise, opposite the direction the three of us hiked in 2010. In the end the shorter Mammoth Crest loop, a route we had hiked before, won out.
We started earlier than usual and were out the door shortly after 0800 for the short drive to the Duck Pass Trailhead to drop off my van, then on to the Lake George trailhead where we would begin our hike. We were on the trail at 0900.
The first couple of miles of trail is a steady uphill slog, broken only by a pretty view over Lake George and from higher up the trail in the other direction over Horseshoe Lake. As the trail nears the top of the Crest it enters a Martian zone of red pumice where the first sweeping views can be enjoyed.
We continued climbing to the minor summit at the north end of Mammoth Crest before starting our journey toward the the high point on the Crest to the southeast.
On the morning of our climb, winds were breezy, and scattered clouds covered the sky, casting interesting shadows on the land. The air was crystal clear, making for good photos of scenery.
Mammoth Crest lies on the Sierra Crest, and to the west the land drops away into the Fish Creek and San Joaquin River Canyons, the nearest ridges of consequence being the Silver Divide to the south, The Ritter Range to the west, and far to the southwest the Chiquito Range that includes Shuteye Peak.
On this section I got some distance ahead of Frank and Stella as I was in short sleeves for the climb hiking at a speed that kept me warm in the cold air, and Frank was stopping to take photos. Waiting on the climb would have chilled me or required me to put another layer on, a layer that I'd have to remove upon resuming the climb.
I did stop to wait near the deep chutes and short sharp pinnacles that connect with the ridge as the high point of the crest was not far beyond, about 250 feet higher to our left.
We decided to try the short detour to the summit of Mammoth Crest at 3480+m.
Having studied the topo map I could see that the true high point at 3500+m was at the next high point to the south on a more inaccessible pinnacle towering directly above the northernmost Deer Lake. But, the nearby high point was easy enough and the view surely good enough that it would be worth the additional modest effort to attain it.
I left the trail near its high point and headed directly for the summit, arriving a few minutes before Frank and Stella. We explored the two points that jutted out over the abyss, and I even found a summit register tucked inside two interleaved rusty cans near the highest of these.
On past trips I had always stopped at Deer Lake to pump water, but today with the colder air and on/off sun, I hadn't drunk as much and felt I had enough water to see me to the end. No one else seemed interested in pumping water, so we pressed on toward Deer Pass.
Climbing from the west last time I had started too early up the rock pile at the head of the valley, and this time was no different. After I had already climbed a bit, I could see a nice use trail leading to the southern side of this slide, a trail that would be covered by snow earlier in the season. I gradually worked my way over the this trail, and from there the climbing was easier.
At the top of the rock slide one is still short of Deer Pass, but before heading over Deer Pass, one must walk the 0.5 km length of the stark alpine valley one finds improbably in this mostly vertically-oriented terrain. At the north end of this valley one is afforded a grand view of the Mammoth Lakes, Mammoth Mountain, Sherwin Crest, and other points of interest in the Coldwater Creek watershed.
I first walked a short distance over the northern lip of this valley to peer down toward Sky Meadow and an unsuccessful approach to the Crest the three of us had attempted in 2012. I could clearly see the spot where Stella and I had turned back not more than 200 meters below (where Frank is pointing).
We then climbed up to The Perch, an outcropping of rock that leans over the abyss and offers several good places to sit, where we ate lunch and enjoyed the view.
After lunch we started back across the valley to resume our hike over Deer Pass. But, again as I gazed toward the pinnacles on the western side I considered that some of these pinnacles did not look too difficult to climb. Climbing to the low pass between the pinnacles looked easy enough. Frank was eager to explore them with me, but Stella chose to remain in the valley and watch our progress as best she could.
Frank and I started up to the lowest point on the western ridge where we could peer down at Deer Lakes below. Then without discussion Frank headed for the southern pinnacle and I headed toward the northern. The tallest pinnacle to the north was nearly as high as the high point along the Crest we had reached earlier in the day and looked to be too technical or loose. Even if there was an easy route, making the attempt would surely have taken too long, given that Stella was waiting for us below. But the intermediate pinnacles looked climbable.
I found a spot to sit atop one of these, then searched for and found Stella in the valley and Frank on the southern pinnacle. Frank snapped a photo of me, but because my clothing matched the color of the rock, I am difficult to see. Hint: Look for the sunlight on my hat as I sit atop one of the pinnacles. Here's another one where I'm standing more visibly, talking on the radio.
At Duck Pass we stopped for another group photo before heading down to the trailhead.
On our way down the headwall we passed a group of backpackers, one of whom was carrying two backpacks, and one of whom was carrying no backpack. Fortunately (for the two-backpack hiker), the group was heading to Pika Lake for the night, only a short distance beyond the pass.
We stopped again at Barney Lake to take yet another group photo in front of the lake and Duck Pass in the late afternoon light. We stopped again further down the trail atop a large rock overlooking Skelton Lake.
The late afternoon light turned to sunset light, lending a shimmering glow to the pine needles and the Sierra willow that was mostly brown and yellow.
After the obligatory group photo at the end of the hike, we returned to Lake George Trailhead to collect the other car, then returned to the condo a short drive away, giving us plenty of time to prepare a hearty dinner that evening.
|Cumulative climbing:||640 feet|
Tenaya Peak Explorations, September 26, 2015 - Since I still had a good Yosemite pass I decided to return home through Yosemite. And, as usual, unless I'm absolutely exhausted from the preceding week, I like to plan a short to moderate hike in Yosemite to break up the drive. This time I chose to explore and possibly to climb Tenaya Peak, the peak that rises over Tenaya Lake, immediately off Tioga Road.
I had done some research and learned that the approach from the east side of Tenaya Lake is the usual Class 2/3 approach for Tenaya Peak. But, I wanted to explore an approach from the west side, one that offered a consolation summit if I chose to cut my adventure short as I was fatigued from the preceding week, and I still had a long drive home.
I parked near the Sunrise Trailhead and started on the Sunrise Trail with the idea to look for a use trail leading up to Mildred Lake, on the east side of Tenaya Peak where a use trail is said to continue to the summit.
That plan failed when I could find no use trail leading off the Sunrise Trail near its crossing of the creek flowing from Mildred Lake. In fact, the going looked difficult along the creek bed that was chock full of large boulders.
After abandoning that plan, I backtracked toward the trailhead and then veered off the trail at a local high point where the trail crosses a broad slab. This slab appeared on the map to connect to the Tenaya Peak massif, and perhaps it would offer easy travel to its southwest ridge.
At first the going was easy. But I was fixated on finding a route up the creek to Mildred Lake. My thinking was along the following line: if a use trail climbed from the lake to the peak, then a use trail must descend somewhere from the lake, and a reasonable descent route was along a drainage. For some reason the absence of any evidence of a use trail at or near the Sunrise Trail crossing of this creek did not dissuade me from the idea. So I headed down off the slab toward the creek. It wasn't long before I found myself in more difficult terrain of deep slots and low cliffs, typical of this part of Yosemite.
I managed to hike up one of these slots until I could climb out onto the slab to the east. This time I climbed toward the saddle between Tenaya Peak and a prominent sub-dome to its west.
Meanwhile I had been studying the terrain on the south slope of Tenaya Peak above the creek and decided that it was too steep for easy travel. There may have been a ledge higher on the slope that I could traverse and bushwhack around to the south side, but the ledge could just as easily end before reaching easier terrain, and then I'd have much back-tracking.
I wondered briefly who would use a trail to Mildred Lake if there is no way to exit Mildred Lake but over Tenaya Peak. Tenaya Peak was too close to a trailhead to require an overnight bivouac. The topo map shows Mildred Lake hemmed in by cliffs to the north and east. Only the drainage suggests the possibility of an exit by trail.
I took stock of the situation. I was fatigued and alone. A mishap even this close to the trailhead could have consequences as my cell phone had no reception, and the ham radio would not be useful here unless I knew the PL code to open the park service's Mount Hoffman repeater (and then to use it only in an emergency). Although I was able to open the Mammoth Mountain repeater from Tuolumne Peak earlier in the week, my current elevation was too low to get a signal over the Ritter Range that stood between me and Mammoth Mountain, ignoring that nearby terrain was also in the way. And, rendering the whole idea moot, I had left the ham radio in the van, not expecting to need it.
Although the weather was perfect, I did still have a long drive ahead. What appeared now to be the easiest approach from my position would require 200 feet of climbing up a highly-sloped (Class 3) slab, a climb I'd only want to attempt with fresh legs or with company.
I decided to head for the sub-dome to enjoy its excellent view, eat lunch, then descend through the forest on the western slope of the peak. The summit would have to wait for another trip when I had company or fresher legs, preferably both. With the time I saved by cutting my hike short I could enjoy one more exploration on my way home.
I was not disappointed in the view from the sub-dome, and this alone made the short hike worthwhile. I see now that the easiest routes up Tenaya Peak are either the Class 3 slabs that start not far above the sub-dome, or a route across the western face that climbs diagonally along a tree/shrub line then continues into talus that rests precariously atop a low cliff before reaching the southern ridge that leads easily to the summit. I think I'd try the slabs first.
After lunch I headed down through the steep forest to the north of the sub-dome and to the west of Tenaya Peak. The climb up my descent route would be short and strenuous but would probably be quicker than the roundabout approach I took from the Sunrise Trail.
When I finally emerged onto the east side trail, I discovered I had collected a number of sap samples on my clothing, no doubt from brushing against trees and branches on the forest descent, something to remember should I wish to make a future attempt from this direction.
|Cumulative climbing:||8900 feet|
Cherry Lake Variation, September 26, 2015 - Since my hike to explore routes up Tenaya Peak only took a few hours, I figured I had enough time to return home on an indirect route that visits Cherry Lake.
The Cherry Lake Variation, as I call it, is a route I am planning to ride on a Sierra bike tour when returning west on Tioga Road. One can see from the map that significant climbing exists along this route, and on a trans-Sierra segment, this would be additional to climbing the east side of Tioga Pass and all intermediate climbs in Yosemite.
The route starts near the Hodgdon Meadow entrance station in Yosemite, leaving CA120 at Evergreen Road and heading initially toward Hetch-Hetchy.
Evergreen Road gets traffic heading to Evergreen, Mather, or Hetch-Hetchy—most of it heading to or from the Evergreen Lodge resort—to be a mild nuisance for a bicyclist, though not nearly as much as CA120 with its too-high speed limits west of the park (perhaps to make up for the ridiculously low speed limits at various points inside the park). Drivers get manic here and always drive too fast, especially on the downhills, so to find an alternative for a bike tour is welcome.
The road descends a short distance to the South Fork of the Tuolumne River, then climbs over a low hill to Ackerson Meadow before crossing the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne. Surface quality is newer patchwork. Some of the forest shows evidence of having burned in the Rim Fire in 2013, but the Evergreen Lodge and the small community of Mather appear to have been spared.
In Mather the route heads west on Mather Road that spends half it's distance clinging to the brink of the Tuolumne River Canyon, some 1400-1600 feet below. It is along this section that one glimpses the devastation of the Rim Fire but also signs of new growth bringing green to the land.
At Cherry Lake Road the route plunges down to a crossing of the main fork of the Tuolumne River at 2300 feet elevation. What follows is a relentless climb up the north canyon wall, crossing Cherry Creek and Granite Creek before topping out just under 5200 feet. If on the bike I find my energy (both kinds) or time running short I can cut off Cherry Lake by taking Forest Route 31 that joins Cottonwood Road near the latter's crossing of Reed Creek and save myself some climbing and distance. Near the top of the climb the Rim Fire appears to have done its worst damage as the land still looks ashen.
After topping out the road enters living forest and traverses, then descends slightly to Cherry Lake.
On this trip I continued across Cherry Lake Dam (4700 feet) to the opposite side before heading back to Cottonwood Road that leads to Tuolumne and Sonora beyond. On a bike tour I might skip the dam crossing on its coarse gravel surface.
I noticed that no services exist anywhere along this route. Even a public phone near Cherry Lake has been dismantled, and cell phones don't work. Few travel these roads, so while one can enjoy peace and quiet, should one find oneself stuck by the road, a long wait for help could ensue.
Cottonwood Road climbs out of Cherry Lake to about 5600 feet as it enters the burn zone where the fire appears again to have burned hotly. The road surface is rough asphalt with gravel that hasn't seen enough traffic to completely sweep the loose rock to the side of the road. Unlike Cherry Lake Road, Cottonwood Road does have a center line most of the way, losing it briefly just outside of Tuolumne.
Cottonwood Road crosses two major drainages as it heads west, dipping as low as 3500 feet at the Clavey River crossing before climbing alongside Cottonwood Creek to 4900 feet, then leaving the burn zone for good before descending again to 2250 feet alongside the North Fork of the Tuolumne River, then climbing up to 2800 feet where it enters the town of Tuolumne, where I saw no commercial services other than the casino north of town.
On a bike tour I'd probably take Tuolumne Road directly into Sonora as by that time I'd be pretty tired and ready to stop, but in the van I explored a bit through the sleepy town of Tuolumne and although I intended to take Wards Ferry Road to Old Wards Ferry Road before heading into Sonora, I took a right turn too early and ended up back on Tuolumne Road. The sun had just set, and I didn't see much point in touring country backroads in the dark, so I continued directly into Sonora rather than backtrack to regain my intended route. I then stopped for a quick meal in Jamestown before continuing home on the main highways.
Mammoth Miscellaneous, September, 2015 - These are photos from our trip that were incidental to the planned activities.
Frank and Stella's Mammoth 2015 web pages - For a different perspective see Frank and Stella's web pages of the same holiday.
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