another micro nut gem. I guess I've got to start somewhere...my boy B (let's say he's in the witness protection program so it doesn't seem like I'm terrible at actually getting pictures of his face) and I have been trying to get up to Tuolumne, really we have. We'd scrubbed plans not once, but twice, on account of work/fatigue/sickness, but our excuses were at an end...to the Meadows!
True hardmen would have made the drive from the Bay to Tuolumne on Thursday night, maybe even climbed something by the light of the stars. We, on the other hand, stopped in Merced for a taste of my grandma's hospitality. Late night ice cream and early morning waffles, with a comfortable bed in between, was a perfect start to the weekend.
To remind ourselves how to climb, we stopped by Tenaya, gateway to the meadows, for an afternoon romp up the Northeast Buttress. Surprisingly not terribly crowded on a holiday afternoon.
But that wasn't the main event. Actually, going into the weekend, we weren't sure what our goals would be. Push difficulty? Or get into the backcountry? We decided over supper to brave the supposedly complicated approach and aim for the West Ridge of Mt Conness. I recalled cultureshock's excellent approach beta, and took a trip down to the Mobil in order to download it to my phone, very well worth it.
The hike in was gorgeous, the meadows lush from the continuing snow melt (but not too boggy), and the mosquitos out in full force! Motivation to keep moving, I suppose.
We stayed high crossing the sandy plateau just shy of the Conness summit, and found ourselves looking over gully after gully, wondering which we should head down. Fortunately, we kept heading down far enough and found one marked with cairns and use paths. Not as hard as we feared! (Luke's beta made us think we should aim for the big cairn higher in the plateau, but angling a few hundred yards left and downhill is just fine)
Before we knew it, we were at the base. We hadn't seen or heard anyone on the approach, but found a couple parties ahead of us, who had approached from the other direction. It was here we first actually looked at the topos...apparently they're different depending on the book you consult. No worries, all we needed to know was up, and away we went looking for the tastiest climbing we could find! In general, staying right on the ridge was the best, traversing over the void as much as possible.
The climbing was never too hard, but the position and scenery were spectacular. It almost felt like it would never end! The view from the summit was inspiring and started planting seeds for our next trips up and down the range as we enjoyed summit sandwiches (and fended off approaching varmints).
For a 360 degree view from the summit, check this out pan-able panorama (and look down over the Conness Glacier): link to photosynth site
The short trip from the summit back down to the plateau had looked a bit steep on our approach in, but fortunately the snow had melted enough to reveal a trail (though still some cool ridge line, which we hadn't expected). We hoofed it back through the fantastic scenery of the Hall Research Area and back to the car, eager to get to the Mobil before closing (we thought it closed at 8, and made it in time...turns out doors were open until 9).
A fantastic day in the mountains, and success all around. And not once have you seen my partner's face. I don't blame him for not wanting to be associated with me. I mean...maintaining his anonymity in the witness protection program.
As for Conness...I don't think I'll head back next weekend, but it was well worth it, and I'd be happy to visit again in a few years. Who knows, maybe for the Harding Route some day?
We celebrated our victory by sleeping in, and then taking a quick trip up Lembert Dome (don't worry, we climbed a little 5.9 to remind ourselves that not all climbing is moderate alpine glory), picnicked in the meadow, and headed home at a reasonable hour (my fault using daylight for driving instead of climbing, not B's...had to have some quality time with my better half to end the holiday weekend). Until next time!