North Ridge of Mt. Conness (TR with pics)


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Andrew F

Trad climber
Sunnyvale, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 27, 2009 - 04:38pm PT
North Ridge of Mt. Conness (TR)

This weekend my wife (Ellen) and I climbed the N. Ridge of Mt. Conness. We got exactly what we were looking for: a long, beautiful day in the mountains with tons of climbing and tons of exposure.

We were awake at 5:00 and on the trail around Saddlebag Lake at 6:15.

The approach past Conness Lakes is very pristine and beautiful. We both agreed it would be a worthy objective just for the hike in, even without the climbing.

We reached the saddle in the north ridge marking the start of the route at around 10:00.

The ridge is like a sidewalk in the sky. 2nd class turns to 3rd as the ridge gradually steepens and narrows.

We went a little too far right at the first tower, and ended up on top of a 15' 5th-class downclimb. Ellen downclimbed with a quick belay, and I rappelled off a slung horn. A few flicks of the rope and we had our rappel sling back & were on our way.

A few minutes later we were on top of the 2nd tower at ~12,000 feet. The climbing goes very quickly, almost as fast as walking on flat ground. Neither of us were very well acclimatized though, having driven from San Jose 12 hours prior, and so there was lots of 'take 10 steps, then wheeze for 30 seconds.'

The exposure really starts kicking in at the 2nd've got 400 feet down to the glacier on your left, and 1000 feet down to Roosevelt Lake on your right, with just your four paws keeping you attached to this world.

Looking back at the 2nd tower from the final ridge. We did the two rappels, but the 5.6 downclimb looked pretty reasonable.

After the rappels, the climbing gets a little steeper and turns to 4th class. We caught up to two friendly Canadian guys at this point who were pitching it out along the true ridge. Growing storm clouds to the east suggested a hasty finish to the route, and we did a variation about 50 yards to the right of the ridge to pass. We did a few quick pitches until the angle eased back a little and soloed the 4th class the rest of the way to the top. All of the rock up there is climbable and our variation had a fun section where you had to 'walk the plank' on a narrow crack splitting a 60 degree slab for about 40' with Roosevelt Lake far, far below.

And then we were on top!

The summit had the best views of any I've seen in Yosemite. Conness isn't the tallest mountain, but it's the tallest mountain near by, so you get an uninterrupted 360-degree view of the whole park and beyond. Half dome is visible down in the valley; Tenaya Lake, Cathedral Peak, Fairview Dome, Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, North Peak, and the White Mountains (now covered in thunderheads...time to go down!)

The descent (which is also the approach for the W. Ridge & Harding Route) was long and we questioned the sanity of those who would walk up such a thing to climb 5.10 offwidth at 12,000 feet. The mosquitoes had prepared a warm welcome for us in the valley below.

And of course, no visit to Tuolumne would be complete without dinner at the Mobil Mart...

and a swim in Tenaya Lake.

Many props to Ellen, who pushed us to solo 95% of the route (who did I marry!?) to make sure we'd get off before bad weather came through. The next day we did some yoga on the slabs above Olmsted Point to stretch out the muscles & round out the weekend. Yet another great weekend confirming that Tuolumne is my favorite place on the earth.


EDIT: I uploaded a video from the summit to YouTube: [url=""]

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Jul 27, 2009 - 04:41pm PT
Good job Andrew!!
I love climbing threads!!

That approach from Saddlebag is so freekin' great isn't it?

I've done the Harding route once, but have done that approach a couple times. I love that place!!

Thanks for all the great pics!

Social climber
Echo Parque, Los Angeles, CA
Jul 27, 2009 - 04:42pm PT
Great report and pics! Thanks for posting.

I got my ass kicked really badly by altitude sickness trying to do that climb straight out of the car from San Francisco. Gotta get back up there one of these days.

Jul 27, 2009 - 04:49pm PT
Nice work ! Gotta do that one again ..

Sunday we hiked up to look at the approach for the West Ridge .. the storm clouds gathered more quickly than Saturday. We bailed back to the cars before 2pm .. within 30 minutes it was raining.

Jul 27, 2009 - 04:51pm PT
Great photos and write-up of a classic. Thanks for posting.

I haven't done a great number of Sierra ridge climbs, but NRMC stands out as quality. Minimal loose, great position, super-fun easy climbing. Though it's shorter than the West Ridge, I think it's a better route.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jul 27, 2009 - 04:53pm PT
so bumpable, it is beyond bump

Mountain climber
Jul 27, 2009 - 05:11pm PT
Great report, good pictures, brought me back there...I love that route...

Jul 27, 2009 - 05:21pm PT
super fun!!

Social climber
Davis, CA
Jul 27, 2009 - 05:23pm PT
Nice photos!

I was in the team of three that did the west ridge and saw you guys when I topped out. Fun day, we really scored on the weather!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 27, 2009 - 05:25pm PT
Nice TR and photos - thanks for sharing.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Jul 27, 2009 - 05:33pm PT
Great post. I'm thinking of doing the route with my daughters this Saturday, if the weather will cooperate. Would a party of three be too many?

Russ Walling

Gym climber
Poofter's Froth, Wyoming
Jul 27, 2009 - 05:39pm PT
Being a roadside cragger, I admire your gusto on these things....

Bravo and thanks for the TR.

Oakland: what's not to love?
Jul 27, 2009 - 06:39pm PT

Tanks for posting this. One of my favorite days in the mtns even though, like you two, I got hit by the altitude, maybe a little harder.

Oh and this pic?!!



Trad climber
Jul 27, 2009 - 06:46pm PT
Very nice report and photos! Sounds like you both had a great trip. Makes me want to visit the area.

Trad climber
fresno, ca
Jul 27, 2009 - 06:47pm PT
You kids did it in great style and kept the shutter clicking too. Thanks for the great shots. Proud.
J. Werlin

Jul 27, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
Nice go, thanks for posting!

Berkeley, CA
Jul 27, 2009 - 08:08pm PT
This route is close to my heart, probably the same for almost anyone who has climbed it! Good job, great pics :)

Berkeley, CA
Jul 28, 2009 - 12:55am PT
Definitely take care on that descent... first time I followed a few people and it was spicy but manageable. Second time I had to find it on my own, and we had an epic descending avalanching steep-angled talus choss, kinda scary with every step dislodging a LOT of stuff. I probably went different variations, and will probably find a third variation on accident next time I'm up there.

Social climber
Jul 28, 2009 - 12:56am PT
Nice pix Andrew, thanks!

Makes me want to go back up there.

Jul 28, 2009 - 12:59am PT
Yay for a great mountain TR....

Years ago, I soloed the North Ridge, then descended to the west and soloed the West Ridge, then headed out towards Saddlebag. One of my all time best days in the mountains. Conness is the best!
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