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Home >> Climbing Areas >> Tuolumne Meadows Friday, October 31, 2014 

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Tuolumne Climbing Tips
Suggested first climbs in Tuolumne
Suggested climbs for return trips
d Suggested Tuolumne climbing rack

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Tuolumne Free Climbs
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  When to climb in Tuolumne 
  How to avoid bears trashing your car 

Eichorn's Pinnacle from Cathedral Peak.
Photo: Chris McNamara
   

Tuolumne Rock Climbing Info

Tuolumne Climbing Skills
Only an hour from Yosemite Valley is a different world. Almost a vertical mile higher in elevation than Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows is an alpine rock climbing paradise. Giant golden domes, pine trees, and lakes—Tuolumne Meadows offers some of the finest scenery of any climbing area on the planet.

While Half Dome is visible from Tuolumne’s higher peaks, the climbing is completely different than Yosemite Valley. Instead of smooth polished cracks and blank faces, Tuolumne has sharp, angular cracks, endless fields of knobs, golden glacier polish with incut edges, and knobby cracks that take almost any nut at almost any point. Popular in the middle of summer when Yosemite Valley can be uncomfortably hot, Tuolumne has little traffic in early and late season, and generally little traffic off of a few popular routes. And unlike the near-urban atmosphere of Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne is blissfully void of traffic, haze, and crowds.

Climbing Gear
Tuolumne granite often has awkward knobby cracks, a good selection of cams is essential. When nuts are used, they are mostly in the medium size (we'll warn you when smaller gear is needed in the guidebook!). For many of the longer routes, a LARGE number of slings are needed—it is common for pitches to wander. You will want a pair of comfortable climbing shoes for the longer routes and a tighter fitting slipper or velcro shoe for the sport climbing. A helmet is a must for both potential loose rock and dropped gear from climbers above.

Please help support this site by checking out our Tuolumne Climbing guide There is a free sample download here
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SuperTopo Rack For Tuolumne
Here's the rack we at SuperTopo bring when we climb at Tuolumne. This is just to give you a general idea of what to bring. Check to the SuperTopo guidebook before climbing each route to see specifically what you need.
1 set of Black Diamond Stopper
1 set of DMM Peenut

1 ea DMM Brass Offsets
2 sets of Metolius Master Cam to #5
1 sets of Metolius Offset Master Cam to #5
2 sets of Black Diamond Camalot C4 #0.5-3
1 each of Black Diamond Camalots C4 #4 and #5
1 60m x 10.2mm lead rope
1 60m x 7.7mm rappel rope

10 Black Diamond Oz quickdraws and 20 extra Black Diamond Oz Carbiners
10 Mammut Crocodile Sling
Black Diamond Momentum or Petzl Sama climbing harness
Petzl Gri Gri or Trango Cinch belay device
Petzl Reverso 3 belay device
Five Ten Daescent or Five Five Ten Camp 4
La Sportiva TC Pro shoes or Five Ten Anasazi VCS
Petzl Meteor or Petzl Elios helmet
Metolius Adjustable gear sling

Metolius Climbing Glove or Black Diamond Stone Glove

If you click on any of the following links and make a purchase, a portion of sale comes back to us to help keep the site running: Altrec EMS Moosejaw Mountain Gear Mammoth Gear Backcountry Patagonia REI

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d Water Cracks.
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Photo by Jody Langford
   

Non-Climbing Gear
A good supply of water is key, both for climbing days and for camping. Potable water is available at Tuolumne Store and the Tuolumne Campground. If the route does not have a lot of chimneys, I use a hydration pack. Be sure to bring potable water tablets if drinking from a stream. Good approach shoes are strongly recommended for the longer approaches. Sunscreen and sun hats for warmer periods, and warm gear and rain gear for the frequent thunderstorms. Don't forget the headlamp On multi-pitch routes, many people get hung up behind slow parties or take longer on the descent than they expect. A headlamp is essential to get down if it gets dark. A small knife is handy to remove old webbing at rappels. A cell phone could potentially save your partners life in an emergency. For three weeks, usually in July, the mosquitoes are FIERCE so bring plenty of insect repellent. Trekking poles can save your knees on the big approaches (get ones like these that collapse real small to fit in your climbing pack). A small GPS device will help you find the crags and parking. Don't forget the camera!

Good Climbs for Your First Week in Tuolumne
Here are some fantastic routes to introduce you to Tuolumne. These climbs are all included in Tuolumne Free Climbs, a guidebook containing over 100 of Tuolumne's most classic 5.5 to 5.11 rock climbs.

Route            
Rating 
Pitches 
Description
Eichorn's Pinnacle
5.4
1
A worthy climb to one of Tuolumne’s most impressive summits. This is one of the most exposed 5.4 climbs you will ever do.
Tenaya Peak
5.5
13
Long and fun and with only one 20’ section harder than 5.4 , Tenaya Peak is one of Tuolumne’s best introduction to longer alpine climbs.
Cathedral Peak
5.6
5
Superb in every way: rock quality, setting and summit. Every climber must do this route.
Northwest Books
5.6
3
Just a fifteen-minute walk from the Tuolumne Campground, Northwest Books on Lembert Dome is a great first climb in Tuolumne.
Great White Book
5.6
5
Though it ascends low-angle terrain, the climbing grabs your attention with the frequent runout or strenuous chimney move. Perhaps the most classic wide climb in Tuolumne.
Mt. Conness, West Ridge
5.6
10
Long, high, and committing, with a major hike, the West Ridge of Mt. Conness makes for a FULL days adventure. This is a great step up in length and commitment from Cathedral Peak.
Matthes Crest
5.7
8
This is the most striking ridge in Tuolumne and one of the High Sierra's best climbing adventures. Can you say "knife-edge"?

Golfer's Route

5.7 R
1
There is such a thing as an "introduction to runout climb" then this is it. No pancake potential here but if you could fall
West Country
5.7
4
This great route has tenuous climbing in a shallow dihedral, and somewhat runout friction climbing. When other routes on Stately Pleasure dome are crowded check out West County.

Good Climbs for Returning Tuolumne Climbers
After you have warmed up to Tuolumne climbing, you may want to expand your tick list. Below we have listed some of the best 5.8 to 5.10 climbs in Tuolumne that are all available in Tuolumne Free Climbs. But, please consider supporting our efforts by buying this or one of our other SuperTopo Guidebooks—you won't be disappointed!

Route
Rating
Pitches
Description
Hermaphrodite Flake
5.8
4
Either just climb the first few pitches at 5.4 or climb the whole route at 5.8 R. Either way this is a good outing just minutes from the car.
Stately Pleasure Dome, South Crack
5.8
7
South Crack is the ultimate all-time classic 5.8 finger crack. It offers beautiful, long, splitter crack, sustained climbing, beautiful position.
Daff Dome, West Crack
5.8
4
One of the most popular routes in Tuolumne Meadows, West Crack offers beautiful crack climbing and requires a little of almost every climbing technique.
Fairview Dome, Regular Route
5.9
10
The route follows the longest steep line in Tuolumne and contains pitch after pitch of sustained and rewarding cracks.
Crescent Arch
5.9
4
A striking and obvious line, Crescent Arch is more challenging than it appears. Following a fantastic arching dihedral, the route provides sustained climbing with good protection and beautiful rock.
Third Pillar of the Dana Plateau
5.10b
5
This probably the best alpine rock climb in TuoIumne and is located in one of the most sublime settings in Tuolumne. It is hard to resist canceling climbing plans to just take in the view for hours.

Tuolumne Bouldering
When almost every other Sierra bouldering area is cooking in the heat of summer that is when The Meadows calls. Surrounded by stone, Tenaya Lake marks the western gate of the main Tuolumne climbing and bouldering areas and makes a perfect place to have a scenic picnic or take a dip on a hot summer day as well. The Tuolumne area is the ideal summertime boulder playground with perfect cool conditions to complement Bishop and Yosemite Valley’s ripe fall, winter and spring bouldering seasonsThe information below is available at supertopo.com with links directly to the sources for easier trip planning.

Please help support this site by checking out our Tuolumne Bouldering guide There is a free sample download here
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Anchor Conditions
Since 1997 the American Safe Climbing Association has replaced more than 1000 bolts in Tuolumne Meadows. Most popular routes have bomber belays and lead bolts. The ASCA is working to replace the remaining bad bolts in Tuolumne but many poor bolts remain. For the most up-to-date information on each route’s anchors conditions, visit the ASCA web site at www.safeclimbing.org.


The wild West Ridge of Mt. Conness.
Photo: Greg Barnes
   

Tuolumne Essentials

Getting There
If you are booking a hotel, car or flight, consider using Travelocity. They are one of our favorite travel web sites and if you book through this link a portion of the sale goes to support SuperTopo.com

Car Travel
The SuperTopo Yosemite Page offers all the info you will need on getting to Yosemite Valley. From there, it is either a 1.5 hour drive east on Highway 120 to Tuolumne Meadows. It is a three hour drive to Tuolumne from the Reno/Tahoe area and about a 1.5 hour drive from Bishop.

Air Travel
Reno/Tahoe Airport is the closest airport to Tuolumne. From there, you will need to rent a car (2.5 hour drive) or take a bus to Mammoth on Mammoth Shuttle (760-934-3030) and then take a shuttle to Tuolumne. You can also fly into Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento or Fresno. Each of these places is a 3-4.5 hour drive from Tuolumne Meadows. Info on these airports

Bus Travel
YARTS provides bus transportation from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne and from the Eastern Sierra to Tuolumne (click here for schedule or call (877) 989-2787.

A shuttle leaves from Yosemite Lodge every morning from July through Labor Day. It provides access along Tioga Road/Highway 120 to Crane Flat, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. Per person charge: Adults $11, Children $5.50. Purchase tickets one day in advance to guarantee seating (209-372-1240). Click here for information about this and other tours in Yosemite National Park.

Once in Tuolumne, a free shuttle bus provides convenient access throughout the Tuolumne Meadows area between the Tuolumne Lodge and Olmsted Point (including Tenaya Lake) during the summer.

When to Climb
Tuolumne has some of the best weather of any alpine rock climbing area on earth. That said, Tuolumne is still in a massive mountain range and receives severe thunderstorms and lightning throughout the summer.

All climbing in Tuolumne is accessed off of Highway 120. Because of its high elevation, Highway 120 east of Crane Flat and west of Lee Vining, is closed in the winter. The road closes on the first snow of the year (usually November) and opens sometime in late May or June or July, depending on the snow year (for data, click here.) During the winter, it is possible to climb in Tuolumne but very few people make the arduous ski in.

During early season, Tuolumne conditions are often the best. No crowds, no mosquitoes and long days. The only problem is that many approaches may be wet or snowy, depending on the snow year. Around July 1, the crowds arrive in Tuolumne, usually with the mosquitoes. The crowds are not bad relative to Yosemite, but you will probably have to wait in line for the most classic routes. The mosquitoes, on the other hand, can be terrible. Be sure to bring long pants, long sleeve shirts and bug repellent. In September, the crowds and mosquitoes again leave Tuolumne. While the climbing conditions are still great, the days are short and the nights are frigid.

During the summer (especially in July), thunderstorms can set in and bring rain and lightning for days. If you arrive in one of these weather patterns, consider driving either east to the Mammoth/Bishop area or west to Yosemite Valley.

Current Road and Weather
Here is the forecast for Tioga Pass (ignore that it says Reno on the page) which is 10 miles east of Tuolumne Meadows:
Yosemite and Tuolumne road conditions — or call (209) 372-0200
Tuolumne Meadows temperatures — daily report of temperatures at Tuolumne
Tuolumne Winter Conditions — weekly a update from backcountry rangers

Lightning Danger
Lightning tends to hit high points,trees,and water,but will hit low points next to high rocks,flat areas near tall trees,and dry land in areas with lakes. Know CPR. Unlike most other injuries that stop the heart, electrical shock victims can suddenly awaken after extended CPR. CPR should be continued indefinitely.

      NOLS Backcountry Lightning Safety Guidelines by John Gookin (396K)

Altitude Sickness
It takes a few days for most people to adjust to the rarefied air, so drink lots of water and don’t run around too fast if you’re just coming up from low elevations. On your first day in Tuolumne, climb a route with a short approach to let yourself acclimate.

Thunderstorms
Tuolumne has beautiful sunny weather in the summer—except for thunderstorms. Small, puffy clouds seen before 10 a.m. are a sure sign of heavy rain,hail,and worst of all,lightning. Thunderstorms usually appear in cycles,and generally during periods with hot,calm weather in the Central Valley.

Staying in the Tuolumne
Unlike the Yosemite Valley experience, Tuolumne Meadows is relatively uncrowded and serene. The meadows provides just enough basic services to comfortably camp. If you are craving some better food, more services, or just a day excursions, Lee Vining, Mono Lake and Mammoth Lakes are all less than an hour away. Read below for more specific info.

A good map of the park is available online from the park service web site.

Summit of Third Pillar with Mono Lake below.
Photo: Greg Barnes
   

Camping
There is one campground in Tuolumne Meadows located next to the Tuolumne Store that has about 300 sites. Half of the sites can be reserved in advance (call 877-444-6777 at least 2-3 months in advance) and half of the sites are on a first come, first serve basis (arrive in the morning to ensure you get a site). Sites cost $20.00 per night with a six person two car limit. Be aware that mosquito's at the Tuolumne campground can be particularly fierce in June and July. Group sites are also available for $40 per night (maximum of 30 people per site) - RV’s up to 35 ft/Dump station nearby. Pets are permitted except in the group and horse sites.

A lot of other campgrounds are found within a 20-30 miles drive to the east or west of Tuolumne Meadows. A couple favorites:

- Tamarack Flat Campground 30 miles to the west because you are between Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley and there is a fair amount of bouldering near the campground.

- Lee Vining Canyon 20 miles to the east because it is lower elevation, near The Tioga Gas Mart (Mango Margaritas and Fish Tacos) and it also has some good bouldering. For more info on these campgrounds click here and scroll to "Lee Vining Area Campgrounds" There are a total of 10 Forest Service campgrounds east of Tuolumne Meadows most of which are first come, first serve and cost $12-16 per night. Note that the campgrounds near Tioga Pass are often battered by icy winds.

- There is a lot of free camping north, east and south of Mono Lake. If you you have time to explore the dirt roads, you will find a spot with an amazing view of Mono Lake.

Lodges and Cabins
Tuolumne Meadows Lodge is the closest lodge. White Wolf is about 20 miles to the west. The High Sierra Camps are a series of tent cabins you hike to. Just outside of the Park Boundary is the Tioga Pass Resort which offer cabins year round (in the winter you need to ski or snowmobile up to them.) Drive fifteen miles from Tuolumne Meadows and you will reach Lee Vining, a small town with a few motels, restaurants and other basic services. For good value in Lee Vining lodging, check out El Mono Motel, Murphey's. In the winter, be sure to ask for the Ice Climber discount.

Food
A limited selection of groceries are available at the Tuolumne Meadows store. In addition, you can purchase groceries in Lee Vining at the Mono Market. The closest big supermarket is an hour from Tuolumne Meadows at the Mammoth Lakes Vons.

The only prepared food in Tuolumne is at Tuolumne Meadows Grill which serves hamburgers, fries, etc. Eight miles east of Tuolumne Meadows, the Tioga Pass Resort offers a cozy dinning room with a great breakfast, lunch and dinner and any last minute baked snacks you need before your climb. The The Tioga Gas Mart, located 14 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows, features the Whoa Nellie Deli which serves some of the best food in the area. This isn't just any gas station as you will find a great selection of sandwiches, pizza's, ahi tuna salad, mango margaritas, fish tacos and a variety of other savory treats for breakfast, lunch and dinner It is also the local social hub and provides great live music throughout the summer. A great spot in Lee Vining for coffee is Latte Da where you will also find FREE wireless internet.

Climbing Gear and Climbing Guides
The Tuolumne Mountain Shop (209-372-8436), located in the gas station near the Tuolumne Store, offers a selection of climbing equipment. For a more extensive selection of gear, drive 50 miles to Mammoth Mountaineering (3189 Main St, Mammoth Lakes; 888-395-3951). They have a full selection of climbing gear as well as rentals of climbing shoes, sleeping bags and other backcountry gear. Wilson's Eastside Sports (224 North Main Street, Bishop; 760-873-7520) has an extensive collection of climbing and backpacking gear and it about a 1.5 hour drive from Tuolumne Meadows.

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You can get climbing instruction and arrange for a guide through the Tuolumne Mountaineering School (209-372-8435) which is also located in the gas station.

Yosemite bear cub
Photo: Sarah Felchlin
   

Bears and Marmots
In 1998, property damage in Yosemite National Park caused by bears exceeded $630,000 and more than 1,100 vehicles were broken into. Bears have damaged cars for as little as a stick of gum or an empty soda can. If you want what’s yours to remain yours, remember three things about bears: they are hungry, smart and strong.

When bears smell food, even if it’s locked in your trunk or glove compartment, they shift into high gear. They get turned on by odors of containers that used to contain food, but do no longer. They even go for toothpaste and sunscreen. Bears don’t need to smell food; they see something like a grocery bag or an ice chest, and associate it with food. In fact, they don’t even need to see that much. If a bear sees clutter inside a car, he’ll think, “I wonder what’s under all that stuff?” and go to work.

Breaking into a car is a trivial exercise for a bear. He inserts his claws at the top of the door frame and pulls down. Then he climbs in and trashes the car. You can’t outsmart or out-muscle a bear. Unless you are on a wall (and bears have been known to poach there, too), stash your food in one of the bear-proof storage lockers provided by the Park Service.

For more information check out the Park Service's bear page and weekly bear bulletin.

In addition to bears, be on the lookout for marmots. Cute from a distance, these plump critter love nothing more than scrounging for food in climbing packs while you watch helplessly from two pitches up. Be sure to hang your your backpack, even if it does not have food in it, high on a tree branch while you are away from it.

Cell Phones, Wireless Internet, and other Misc. Stuff
The closest wireless internet to Tuolumne is Latte Da coffee shop in Lee Vining (you need your own laptop). Cell phones work sporadically through Tuolumne if you have ATT. Other carriers are less reliable. There is a good signal around the Tuolumne Store and on top of most domes. Showers cost $2 and are available at the Tuolumne Meadows lodge between 12 and 3pm. Gas is available (at exorbitant prices) next to the Tuolumne Meadows Store. Gas is also available 15 miles east in and around Lee Vining (also at exorbitant prices). There is a post office located next to the Tuolumne Store. There is a pack station in Tuolumne. A message board is located outside the Tuolumne Meadows Store. The nearest ATM is at the Lee Vining Market. The nearest bank in 50 miles away in Mammoth. Wilderness permits are required for camping in the backcountry. They are available for free at the Tuolumne Wilderness Wilderness Center. There is a great day hike to Mono Pass for a rest day.

Other nearby climbing areas
Patina granite, solid volcanic tuff and a variety of other stone is all within a half hour to 1-2 hour drive south of Tuolumne Meadows on the Sierras East Side along CA395. Stretching from the Bachar Boulders, Clark Canyon and Deadman’s Summit just south of Lee Vining to the areas around Mammoth like Way Lake all the way down to the world class areas around Bishop like the Happy/Sad Boulders and the awesome Buttermilks are so many unimaginable boulder problems that they can fill all the days of the seasons but one – summer. A lot of the best of these areas are too hot in summer so that is when Tuolumne takes over with its 9,000 foot elevations and high concentrations of granite boulderations!

Other things to do
*Hot Springs! – Near Mammoth, Bridgeport and Bishop. Ask a local or read a book then take a look and take a dip.
*Hiking in Tuolumne Meadows– Mt Dana, Cathedral Lake Trail, Glen Aulin Trail, May Lake Trail.
*Fishing – Lee Vining Canyon and all around Tuolumne Meadows and CA395 from Reno to Bishop (about 20 minutes to 2 hours from Tuolumne Meadows)
*Sightseeing – The Tufa Formations at Mono Lake (25 minutes east of Tuolumne Meadows)

 




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