southern yosemite


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 41 - 60 of total 2609 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Dingus Milktoast

Feb 5, 2009 - 11:13am PT
My latina hottie friend Joann makes a mole to die for. And to top it off she hand fries chunks of tortillas into her own piping hot chips. I LOVE hot, fresh fried FLOUR chips (I really detest corn tortillas, I'd never last in Mexico).

I'd make the salsa and the whole Milktoast clan would dig in.

Joann also introduced into the world of Mexican grocers. I love those little places. Anyway, one down the street here sells fresh carnitas by the pound - we do that pretty much once a week.

I'll give the crockpot a whirl. My wife's attempts at carnitas have been, ah... unfortunate.

(She makes Za Za Gabore coffee too)

Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 5, 2009 - 11:35am PT
Hey Neebee,

So obsessed with salsa here we kinda blew past your question. Sorry, cuz it's a good one and there isn't a simple answer.

The heart of Southern Yosemite is a big plateau that sits off to the east as you're driving through Oakhurst going from Fresno into Yosemite.

If you look really closely from that grade on hwy 41 as it descends into Oakhurst, you'll see a few granite outcrops off to the east. Kind of underwhelming because they're far away, and anyway not recommended since you might drive right over a dropoff. What you see from the hiway is the tip of an iceberg.

The most obvious boundary of Southern Yosemite is the gorge of the San Joaquin River to the south and east. Though everyone allows a blip of land on the other side of the river because it happens to include Balloon Dome, the Half Dome of the area only bigger and a lot more mysterious. At least one Balloon Dome climb ropes up with the San Joaquin licking at your heels and goes some 3000 feet to the summit.

On the north the plateau rises to a ridge of peaks that form the southern boundary of a local park you may have heard of, Yosemite.

So here we have an area bigger than Tuolumne and with every bit as much climbable rock, crisscrossed by dirt roads and the odd bit of pavement, with one tiny store and a 20-year-old guidebook that is so far out of print you'll never find one.

I started to summarize the climbing history for you, until it began to feel eerily familiar and I realized I had written a bit of it out to go with a Climbing Magazine article on Shuteye. Since this new thread needs some photos, try these:

You'll recognize shots of the Ditch and Hetch Hetchy and Buttermilk, but the whole middle of this great slide show is all Shuteye Ridge, the New Wave heart of Southern Yosemite.

Here's the piece that includes highlights of the climbing history:

Hinterlands Expeditions

By Doug Robinson

Royal Robbins first turned me on to the Hinterlands. In the early 70s when he had taken to soloing in tennis shoes, Royal veered south from Yosemite. Between the park boundary and the deep gash of the San Joaquin River lay two hundred square miles, or probably more, of rolling forest sequestering the occasional granite dome. Like the South Platte country in Colorado, with dirt roads meandering through. Twenty-five domes cropped up in just the first few years. But Robbins wasn’t the first to get there. Not quite.

A few of the faces stretched up over a thousand feet, especially on Fuller Buttes and Balloon Dome. Fred Beckey – who else? – had started sniffing around the western Sierra’s 400-mile “dome belt” in 1970. How did that guy do it? Here he was, a thousand miles from his home range the Cascades, running down the western Sierra bagging the first ascents of whole regions. In 1970 he opened up the Needles, not a bad coup, then pioneered Charlotte Dome for good measure. That put the heat on for Sierra locals. The next spring – April in fact, long before snow usually melts enough to make the dirt roads passable – Galen Rowell grabbed the first major Hinterlands route, the Eagle Dihedral on East Fuller Butte. Galen was motivated, working hard to escape being forever branded as “a former second of Fred Beckey and Warren Harding.” But on the virgin face of Fuller Butte, Galen hit a blank spot right beneath an overhang that forced his aid climbing to get creative. He began throwing a nut on a rope up past the overhang. Over and over he tossed it up out of sight. When it stuck, he went up the cord and – chuckling at the bewilderment of the next party – called it A3+.

You can sense the grapevine at work, the buzz in Camp 4, in what happened next. Barely two months later Fred arrived in the Hinterlands, and in typical fashion climbed a natural line on the area’s biggest formation, remote and beautiful Balloon Dome across the river. He also copped a route on East Fuller Butte, the first route on Shuteye Ridge, and ran up the longest line on Wamello Dome, before moving on. He never looked back at the slew of quite lovely but more modest domes.

The rest of the Hinterlands was untouched until Royal came along, with his Rockcraft climbing school in tow, beginning in the summer of 1973. Every week a fresh gypsy caravan of cars would line up, with Royal’s classic VW bus leading us up a maze of logging roads. I’d bring up the rear in an even older bus, an itinerant guide in huarache sandals, shuffling a circuit between Bishop, Ventura and the Valley.

Sometimes Royal took us to familiar crags, sometimes to new ones. There seemed to be a lot of rock out there, but few clear vistas in the rolling forest. Royal would set his apprentices to work teaching, say, clean climbing, then slip off to scout the larger faces in those Tretorn tennis shoes. Next day, he would point us toward fine, natural lines on medium-sized granite domes, up to six pitches. Then camping rough on pine needles or in pocket meadows a night or two before moving on. Wine in campfire smoke. We definitely sampled the eastern side of Shuteye Ridge.

After two or three summers, Royal closed down Rockcraft. I returned to Bishop and the Palisades. And it wasn’t until I moved to the coast late in the eighties that I remembered the Hinterlands and went back for a look.

Wamello Dome was an early favorite, so I stopped there first. It sported great position, with a broad face six hundred feet high, looking south into the sun and commanding a sweeping view. It’s reminiscent of Manure Pile Buttress in Yosemite. Five times as wide, though, with inviting climbing everywhere you look. I recognized the South Buttress, which I had guided onsight for Royal. Now two bolts marked a direct start, and a guidebook listed a FA ten years after we had bagged it. Still, there was almost no one around. We lingered.

One day I was coming along the base of Wamello (called Fresno Dome on the map) when a familiar voice called down, “Do you know what we’re on?” It was Royal, leading a group of Boy Scouts. The Scouts saved his life as a teenager, he figures, by turning him on to climbing. So he keeps up a steady effort to return the favor. Or, more like pass it forward.

“I was hoping you could show me,” was all I could reply. First glance, I assumed Royal was on his own route, Mule Train. But then I’ve never been sure where it went, really. The guidebook is long out of print and, well, there is a lot of rock up there.

Sitting up on Wamello’s summit watching the sun sink toward almond orchards and cotton gins, our view to the south is dominated by Shuteye Ridge. Hints of its bold outcrops taunt us. Mike Arechiga comes back form there with his eyes spinning. Topos go up on Mike’s website. No one seems to notice. Years go by. Sean Jones brings a new wave from the Valley to Shuteye. In Tuolumne, Royal and I catch a sizzling glimpse of these photos on Shawn Reeder’s computer. Clearly, Shuteye Ridge is new wave Hinterlands. We make a date to go out there in October. But a big snowstorm intervenes. Now I hunker down on the coast with rain on the roof thinking once again, maybe next season…

Why publicize this secret backwater? Expose a private reserve of fine granite? I’ve watched other hidden domelands slam onto the cover of this magazine. Calaveras Dome comes to mind. Locals whimpered and cried doom. In the end outside climbers nosed around for six months, got poison oak and left. That was about it. Still, many favor hoarding. So, a bit nervously, I told Royal that I was going to write this. His response was swift and sure and open: “The more the merrier!”

Big Wall climber
Feb 5, 2009 - 11:50am PT
Nice, Doug! Thanks for sharing!

I've heard a rumor that the guide is back in print? Anyone else hear this? Other than for directions on how to get to places, I've always thought the guide was kinda bunk. And seriously, what's with the sketches in that book?!

Feb 5, 2009 - 11:56am PT
Hey Nefarius,

Nice to meet you friday night.

Yeah I heard it was reprinted with NO corrections or additions.


Feb 5, 2009 - 12:08pm PT
And seriously, what's with the sketches in that book?!

No kidding!

Big Wall climber
Feb 5, 2009 - 12:11pm PT
Hey Kev! Nice meeting you too! I'll keep my eyes peeled, Kev. Mine disappeared a number of years back.

Gene - the clothed cats always kinda freaked me out, Dunno why. Kinda like clowns; scary. Around these parts, Spencer is known more for inflating grades and grid bolting than he is for those pics or that guidebook though.
scuffy b

just below the San Andreas
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 5, 2009 - 12:47pm PT
Dingus sez:

I really detest corn tortillas, I'd never last in Mexico.

I wish I'd known that before I forced all those Mole tacos on
fresh-made corn tortillas onto you, back at Dingus Camp...

I'm So Sorry!!!!!!!

Social climber
A prison of my own creation
Feb 5, 2009 - 12:57pm PT
I for one welcome the information about Southern Yosemite.

Being somewhat lazy, and coming down from the north on one of my free days or weekends, I naturally gravitate toward the closer location for the shorter drive. The lack of a high clearance vehicle will keep me from certain places as well.

But OTOH, it sounds like a fun place for the spring or fall, depnding on the snowpack.
crazy horse

Trad climber
seattle, wa
Feb 5, 2009 - 01:07pm PT

there's a little, great tasting, spring coming out of a pipe just barely (~500 yards) down the hill from Rock Creek on your way back to north fork home of La Cabana the best mexican restaurant i have ever been to including all of the joints down in Fres. the cabana is not open on mondays though. The spring is just as good as the one in moab on river road. the one near rock creek is on your right as you're headed south.

Nice story BTW
Nate D

San Francisco
Feb 5, 2009 - 01:11pm PT
Here ya go.

Just be aware that the route count has more than tripled in recent years.

Thanks Doug for posting your piece of the article. Has Sean moved to Vermont yet?

Oh, and funny story, as always, DMT!
crazy horse

Trad climber
seattle, wa
Feb 5, 2009 - 01:17pm PT

in SoYo a 4WD is a help but you don't need it. The tales of mega gnarly roads up there are probably just folks trying to keep the place to themselves. The following is a list of the formations that you can get to with a standard 2wd and an hour or less of walking. I should preface this list by saying though that your 2wd will get f'd up by overgrown vegetation etc. scratching the crap out of your paint job. There are as well some fairly burly 2wd sections on the way up to little shuteye pass area that can destroy your car if you don't drive it right. Best to pull over since driving up to the winter gate from the burly area will only save you like 5 minutes of walking:

The Balls:
The Sphinx
Golden Toad
Book of Revelations
Pretty much everything in the balls area...

Mammoth Pool Area:
Mammoth pool dome
squaw dome (this might be a bit over an hour depending on which way you go)
disappearing dome

Shuteye Ridge:
Both Eagle Beaks
Crocodile Rock
Big Sleep
Lost Eagle
Rock Creek
Queens Throne
The talon
High Eagle
Dreamscape area
Little Sleep
The Aerie
55 7's which i though was originally called 55-10's...whatever

Fresno and Hawk dome

there's probably one or two i'm forgetting.

Big Wall climber
Feb 5, 2009 - 01:30pm PT
"My latina hottie friend"

Everyone needs one of those, Dingus. Maybe a couple!

There used to be an online site that had a bunch of updated info on SoYo... Anyone know what happened to it? It would be nice to have again. I'm not holding my breath for a new guidebook anytime soon...

edit: Maybe some of you guys will know what this is... I used to guide a lot a lot of gumbies at The Balls, for Cal Outfitters when they were around. After a long day of belaying Boy and Girl Scouts on the slabs, we decided to head over to Fresno Dome to meet some other folks. We took this bumpy ass dirt road from Beashore Meadow Rd. over to the Fresno Dome area. I was riding bitch in a friend's truck and remember looking out over this canyon/gorge, to the left, which had a sizable rock face on the north wall, south facing. Anyone have any clues? Tried to find it on Google Earth about a year ago, but didn't really get anywhere...
Dingus Milktoast

Feb 5, 2009 - 01:33pm PT
Scuffy my brother have you ever known me to withhold a complaint?

I don't like COLD flour torts though... your tacos were grrrreat!

You boys ever go up Hwy 16 through the Capay Valley into Cache Creek canyon (and why WOULDN'T YOU???), stop at that tiny bar/restaurant in Guinda if its open. I forget the name but its the only open restaurant in town.

An old hispanic couple own it - and they and their children and gand kids run it. I stop in there when ever its open, often enough they all know me.

Spanish is the primary language there. Most of the Capay farmres speak good spanish. The TV is on hispanic stations, always. Capay Valley had a historic community of black farmers dating from the late 1800s or some such, and even their descendants speak spanish in there. Its COOL.

But the best part is granny's carnitsa. Ooooooh! They make their own salsa, their own chips and they make your food as you watch.

the place used to be a rowdy bar, before they bought it. It has an ancient stone fireplace and real wood paneling throughout. The bar foot rest (like out of an old cowboy movie) is tarnished and bent from years and years of rough boots. The walls have scratches and dents here and there, from the rowdy days. (I'm told parties used to spill out on the street, Hwy 16).

They all know me now and in fits and starts we catch up with one another about our latest. They know I'm one of the hikers, that I never go into the casino (though I buy their gas) and that I ALWAYS stop in for food and a beer or two when their open.

I don't think they do much business so my tip ratio there is always above 30%. That helps their memory too, haha.

Just the other day I was in there. One of the granddaughters comes up to me, a real latina hottie.

"I heard you like to hike up in the canyon?"

"OH yeah," says I, "for years."

She starts describing a recent hike she did. I knew EXACTLY where she was talking about. And just like with rock climbers, a sudden kinship as we describe various portions of the back country to one another.

Very cool. I love those people. The grandpa says to me, this same trip, two weekends ago:

"You don't live around here do you?" For a long time they thought I was a reclusive local. That's a high compliment, from such salt of the earth folk.

I love places like that. Salida. Selma. Coalinga. Red Bluff. Visalia. Oroville. Newman. San Joaquin. Lamont (oh lovely Lamont haha).

I have partaken of the mexican food in all these towns and most other central valley towns capable of supporting retail.

What a great place to lovre mexican food.


Nate D

San Francisco
Feb 5, 2009 - 01:37pm PT
Bit's & pieces of new route info have been floating all over the internet for some time.
You may be recalling Thomas Hartmann's online supplement from Rock & Ice from the mid 90s. Clint somehow captured it before it was pulled. I only have print outs.

Certainly, as you know, a lot of new info is available for Shuteye Ridge on

Trad climber
one of god's mountain temples....
Feb 5, 2009 - 01:39pm PT
Never realized that the two guide books I found at Wilderness Exchange in Berkeley, SoYo by Spencer and Sequoia/Kings by Vernon, Hickey and Moser, would be two of the hardest guidebooks to find. And I only paid $15 for both.

Guess it's about time to put them to good use!

Thanks for the writing DR, very cool read.


edit: I wrote the wrong name for the author of the SoYo book. Thanks for pointing that out crazyhorse!

Big Wall climber
Feb 5, 2009 - 01:47pm PT
I think those books are hard to find for most people, for sure. But then I'll be somewhere and run into a stack of them. Same with the domelands guide right now. I know where about 50 of them are located. Original price.
Dingus Milktoast

Feb 5, 2009 - 01:48pm PT
Thanks Crazy Horse and thanks for starting a thread on SoYo - I'd forgotten just how many adventures and fine fine days with friends that have lasted a lifetime I've been blessed with.

Another one, if you'll indulge me....

I bought my Spencer guide in Fresno from that Blaine dude that worked at what was it called, Blackstone Mountaineering? Is that place still there?

I worked in Modesto at the time, for a small company. A co-worker asked me to take his juvinile deliquent son under my wing, figuring some climbing might put him on the path.

Ben. I took him bouldering at Knights Ferry and maybe top roping somewhere else, once.

So Angus and I are trying one Friday what to climb. Out of the blue I say,

"How about that Shuteye Ridge place? Let's check that out."

So quite randomly we decided Gray Eagle was the place to be. I'm thinking 1990 time frame, maybe 89. We drove all the way to the top of the ridge in Angus's old 4wd that would pop out of gear into neutral on steep down-clines. That slab of granite you ahev to drive up and over the overlap - that's f*#king scary!

So we get to the designated parking spot and the Spencer guide says to follow some old telephone lines down a gully to the base of the dome. This was our first encounter with Spencer approach beta. hehe.

The bare wire, laying on the ground, disappeared entirely, 10 feet from the truck. So much for the beta. Much bush whacking ensued.

Somewhere down in that gully I dropped my hard lexan water bottle and it shattered. We were in for another thirsty day.

I also was very recently married then. I lost my wedding ring at the base of Gray Eagle, a simple gold band. If you find it please send it to me as my wife has given me sh#t about it ever since. I did not replace it.

So we did a 6 pitch route that day, way in over our heads. The guide was useless.

Did I mention we had Ben in tow????


Welcome to the back country Ben.

That kid was one tough hombre! He never wimpered, he never gave up and he topped out with us, just like a climber should.

When we finally got back to the truck sunset was approaching. The sky was spooky red and MASSIVE clouds were covering the northern horizon. it looked alike a nuclear bomb had gone off over Yosemite. Turns out it had, in a sense.

Not knowing what was going on we drove on up to the lookout. An old man was in there and he was glad to see us. He invited us up and we shot the sh#t with him for a spell.

He worked 10 days on and 5 days off, up there. He drove a willies jeep, WWII vintage.

"No way I'd try to drive down that road at night." he counseled.

Oh, the clouds? The Foresta fire, that giant burn you see on the way in to the Valley from Crane Flat? That was the day that fire started, so I can place our ascent of Gray Eagle to a specific day.

Down we went. As we approached a paved road later on, well into the evening now, Ben had crawled into the bed of the pickup. He was tuckered out!

A ranger truck intercepted us and spot lighted the hell out of us - looking for poachers they claimed. Their truck sidled up to ours, talking through windows.

"whaddaya boys doing out here?" That sorta sh#t.

At this moment, Ben wakes up and his curly head of hair pokes up out of the bed of the truck. I swear to god the ranger FREAKED OUT!!!

"WHAT THE F*#K IS THAT, A DOG???!!!" he actually shouted. His eyes had that scared look, we climbers know that look all to well.

Angus replies deadpan (he was tired too),

"No, that's just Ben."

Hahahahahahhahahahahahaah! We still laugh about that all these years later.

ben moved to Idaho shortly thereafter and I never saw that tough kid again. I hope he's doing well - he sure acquited himself well on Shuteye Ridge that day.

Classic trad adventures. Good times.


Big Wall climber
Feb 5, 2009 - 02:01pm PT
I always have time to indulge in a Dingus tale!

"I bought my Spencer guide in Fresno from that Blaine dude that worked at what was it called, Blackstone Mountaineering?"

I think you mean Blaine Harmon at Heubner's? Could also be SHane at California Outfitters...

Blaine Harmon with a little less red hair, a couple of years ago:
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 5, 2009 - 02:02pm PT
Yep, Sean moved.

Just wrote me this morning that he's taking his kids to Florida. When he gets back to New England he's all jazzed about going ice climbing for the first time.

Crazy, thanks for the breakout of 2wd. My poor little car's already got enough dents down under.

Feb 5, 2009 - 02:05pm PT

HAHAHAH, at least you found Grey Eagle. Our first time we foolishly tried to approach from above and spent 6 hours bushwhacking and downclimbing not to find the dome. Tried to follow those wires too. Didn't work so well. The beers were earned that day.

Since then I have found the 30-40 minute approach from below. Much more pleasant...

Messages 41 - 60 of total 2609 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews