Trip Report
Real Men Eat Caviar -The West Ridge of Mt. Conness in Style-
Monday June 16, 2014 9:20am
"Any old punter can suffer. But to elevate an alpine endeavor to greatness takes true effort."

"Bing." You have, one new text message.
(Live from El Capitan. Flight of The Albatross. 8:34 am)

"We are two pitches from the top.
We will be down tomorrow.
See you guys soon.
Can't wait."

Yeehaw! I push away from my desk, shut off my cell phone and rush into my last surgery of the week. Hands shaking with excitement. Mark Hudon and Skot Richards are just finishing up Flight of The Albatross, which means Macronut and I are gonna take the baton and run with it for Mark's last leg of his trip. He climbed The Reticent Wall with Max Jones last week. Then came down, brushed his teeth, and promptly went back up into the fight on The Albatross. He's gonna touch down for a day.....then the real adventure begins as he trades a haulbag for a backpack and heads into the high country for a few days on The West Ridge of Mt. Conness with two of the biggest deals on the internet.

Rather than my typical lengthy attempt at razor sharp wit and thoughtful prose I have decided to keep the writing to a minimum for this report. I'll let the photos and a few well chosen words do the talking. So here we go Supertopo. Pour a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and let the high country air north of Tuolumne fill your nostrils as you come along for the ride. Micronut's churnin' out a TR. AIn't you lucky.

June 2013 Base of El Capitan.
Lurking Fear. Three pitches fixed. We blast tomorrow for my first ever El Cap Route. Stoke is at an all time high.
Credit: micronut

2 Days Later. Sierra Pacific Orthopedic Center. Fresno. Stoke at an all time low.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

To make a short story long I tore my meniscus, had knee surgery in November, developed a raging patellar tendonosis a few months later and basically could do no climbing for nearly 7 months. It was a real downer and this trip to Mt. Conness was going to be my welcome back tour. Adam and I had been salivating over this line for years and Hudon had never climbed anything in Sierra highcountry. According to the Supertopo High Sierra Guide...........
"The West Ridge of Mt. Conness is perhaps the best moderate alpine climb in Tuolumne. With the competition including Cathedral Peak and Matthes Crest, this says a lot. TM Herbert described it as “great fun, like two Cathedral Peaks stacked on top of each other.” Peter Croft called it the best route he had done in the Sierra backcountry.

Shazaam! This climb needs no more introduction.

June 2014. Almost exactly one year later. We pick up a freshly showered and freshly stoked Mark Hudon, lounging after morning coffee in his new megaroadtripmobile.
Credit: micronut

Two Hours Later
Credit: micronut
"No Mark....we don't have to haul all our water. Its a backpacking trip. We have a filter. And there will be lakes."
Yeah.  The kid stays pretty fit.
Yeah. The kid stays pretty fit.
Credit: micronut

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. With trepidation about the ability of my knee to hold up to three days of abuse I shoulder my pack quietly and head North from the Lembert Dome parking lot.
Credit: micronut

The approach to Young Lakes is surprisingly beautiful as it winds up beyond Dog Lake.
Credit: micronut

Spongy alpine grasses cushion our footsteps. We gawk at the view beyond a sparlking babbling brook. We count summits we we've sat upon in the distance.
1. Eichorn Pinnacle
2. Tenaya Peak East Buttress
3. Cathedral Peak Northeast Buttress
4. Echo #8
5. Piwiack
6. FairviewRegular Route
7. Matthes Crest
8. Mt. Dana
9. Tressider Peak
How fortunate can a man be? What joys this place has brought us over the years.
Credit: micronut

We encounter the first snows of many on this trip as we turn the corner beyond Ragged Peak
Credit: micronut

And then, erupting from the horizon due North of us, the massive brow of Mt. Conness. Her west face dominates the scene. A steel gray bulwark of shaven stone. Like a battleship bearing down on us, we feel small under her menacing facade. The left skyline is the North Ridge. The West Ridge lies in front of it. Proud lines both.
Credit: micronut

"Oooohhh....pretty clouds."
"Do not think about attempting the West Ridge if even small clouds are present" These words from The Supertopo Guide will haunt me until we are down from the summit.
Credit: micronut

Lower Young Lake
Credit: micronut

The Middle of the three young Lakes.
Credit: micronut
My pack feels heavy on my shoulders. This ain't no Mountainhouse/Backpacker's Pantry trip. I'm towing a pot, a skillet, 1.5 lbs of whole penne pasta, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh feta cheese, capers, calamata olives, an entire footlong baguette, three types of brie for appetizers and a post summit "happy hour" hors d'oeuvre that will blow the minds of my companions.
Credit: micronut

A bit of class 1.5 next to a wonderfully cascading creek, we are entering the high country proper and it feels good. Good for the soul I tell you.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

Ahhhhhh.....The highest of the Young Lakes. An alpine sanctuary. As "Sierra" as the Sierra gets. A perfect place to set up Advanced Base Camp.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

We un-shoulder the packs and enjoy sitting in the purity of our surroundings. It is early in the day and we bake in the sun with absolutely nothing to do but think about the amazing dinner we will have and the adventure that awaits us tomorrow.
Credit: micronut

Pumping water is the "hauling" of alpine climbing.
Credit: micronut

Shoes off, a camp chair, and appetizers are to mountain trips as "portalege life" is to big walls and for a moment Mark wonders if big walls are really where he wants to spend his vacations from here on out.
Credit: micronut

Thats a fresh baguette, soaked in boiling olive oil, spread with fresh garlic, smothered in brie, then allowed to cook and burble over into the tastiest thing you have ever put into your face.
Credit: micronut

Happy Hour is over. Mark and Adam pump water for tomorrow and I set about with the main course back at camp. The cumulous overhead build impressively in the evening heat, but seem not to congeal or do anything too menacing.
Credit: micronut

Whoomp there it is. The men will sleep tonight with full bellies and restful minds, ready for action tomorrow up high in the alpine arena.
Credit: micronut

3:30am. Alpine Start. The hiss of the Jetboil and the magic aroma of Mark's own Hood River Coffee blend bring us to life.
Credit: micronut

4:30. We are soldiers on dawn patrol. Primed for battle. 1 hour from camp The beast comes into view. Game ON!!!
Credit: micronut

The world becomes light around us, revealing a massive rampart of stone and snow and sky. The butterflies churn in my belly. My heart beats fast with equal parts caffeine, fear and stoke.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

We hit the final talus cone, scramble to the base and harness up.
6:40am. No wind. Crystal clear skies. Cool but not cold. Alone on the route. No excuses. Time to dance.
Credit: micronut

Mark leads up fluidly. There will be no hauling today. No hammer. No fixing of lines and no bounce testing. And he's lovin' it. The first couple pitches are beautiful and better than I thought they would be.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

Mark leads the first three, then I grab a handful of line and run it up to the very crest of the ridge. The view is breathtaking and the entire Southwest face spills out to our right. Here's Mark coming up onto the ridge proper.
Credit: micronut

The ridge itself is beyond rad. Pitch after pitch of scrambling along a solid stone rail at 12,000 feet.
Credit: micronut

Sunshiiiine......on my shoulderrrrrr......makes me happyyyyyy.
Credit: micronut

Hudon racks for another pitch. "No Mark, you probably won't need Toucans for this pitch. Or RURPS."
Credit: micronut

Hoooooooo-----Weeeeee!!!! echoes throughout the entire Conness basin. We're in the buisness now. All cyllinders firing. Movin' fast and light in the land of golden granite and endless sky. There is no place any of us would rather be.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

The ridge goes on.
Credit: micronut

And on.
Credit: micronut

And on.
Credit: micronut

Lunchtime in the Conness Cafe. Somewhere about pitch eleven or so.
Credit: micronut

All good things must come to an end. But this one takes a while to do so. We still haven't seen a single puffy cloud so our anxiety needle is at a "zero" on the get-whacked-by-a-storm-o-meter.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

11 something am. Unrope. Go directly to summit.
Credit: micronut

On top. Mark's first Sierra summit. A beautiful summit. Great friends. Perfect weather. The world spills away beneath us. Not a care in the world for just a few precious moments. A nap. A snack. Gazing Northward and South to peaks and ridges we someday hope to climb. This is why men climb mountains.
Come on Mark.  Didn't you get the "blue shirt shaved head" memo?  Seri...
Come on Mark. Didn't you get the "blue shirt shaved head" memo? gotta get with the program.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

We sign our names into history. Roger Putnam was here yesterday. Cool.
Credit: micronut

The way off the summit proves a tad sketchy as it is still covered in a massive snowcone. We skirt south, above the brink of The Harding Route, onto some class 3 action above a big void. But it goes.
Credit: micronut

Looks like we're gonna get our feet wet fellas.
Credit: micronut

Nice views of the steep wall that holds The Harding Route. Warren. That boy was bold yall.
Credit: micronut

We scramble, scoot and boot ski down the plateau, bearing Southwest down the drainage that holds the upper Young Lake.
How many Summits have you been on in this photo?
How many Summits have you been on in this photo?
Credit: micronut

It takes us just under three hours from summit to camp. Our feet are soaked. Our hearts are full.
Credit: micronut

Adam makes it to camp first. He always does. His cardio is legendary. Here is a rare still photo of him at rest.
Credit: micronut

And then all is well. Our constant motion comes to a stop. We un-shoe, lay down and let the mountains garner us with praise. Champions returning from battle. The wind sings our triumphant return. The sky looks down on us, proud. I start making post-summit congratulatory appetizers. Chef micronut is on duty and the guests will be treated like kings.
Credit: micronut

Caviar was once reserved strictly for royalty. The word caviar originates from the Turkish khavyar, first appearing in English print in 1591. Dating back 250 million years to prehistoric times, the sturgeon has been a part of the Middle Eastern and Eastern Europe diet for the majority of man's history. It is an extravagant post-climb meal and the men have earned it.
Credit: micronut

Water crackers, french brie and russian caviar. It is an honor to bestow such morsels on these fine comrades. Goot. Ya.
Credit: micronut

We waste the rest of the trip in long discussions of life's weightiest subjects. Was The Albatross really harder than The Reticent? Does bouldering help you in the mountains? What's the difference in a French Roast and a Vienna Roast? Why have all the good posters left Supertopo? What's next....Bear Creek Spire or Mt. Sill's Swiss Arete.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

The ice floes on Young Lake beg for more photos.
Credit: micronut

Mark drip brews more coffee for after dinner to go with Adam's Apple Crisp dessert. Mark's Bagel Blend is the nectar of the mountain gods.
Credit: micronut

The next morning finds Mark back in his element. Calculating the precise time, temperature and volume required to offer his buddies the perfect cup. The quiet drip, drip drip of liquid into our mugs beating perfectly with the tempo of the rising sun.
Credit: micronut

Adam strolls off for a morning cardio jaunt up and around the cirque. He yodels down on us from on high. There he is, a pencil standing upright on the scruffy buttress above camp.
Credit: micronut

As for me, I find the perfect rock to sit on and enjoy my coffee. The sun washes me in warmth, an almost invisible breeze rolls across the lake. I thank God for giving us such vast places to wander, such mighty mountains to enjoy. I meditate on the beauty and gifts all around me. My heartbeat slows to an inaudible thump................thump.............thump. The stillness and quiet are deafening. The words of a John Muir quote stumble out of my subconscious.
Credit: micronut
"Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting us at once to work and rest ! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God."
-John Muir

I couldn't have said it better. This is why we come to such places. To work. To play. To be brave. To overcome. To be humbled. And to rest. We came seeking the perfect measure of each of these things. And in The West Ridge we have found it. Found it and then some.

P.S. Thanks to GDavis for the camping and approach beta. It was spot on brah. Muchas gracias.

  Trip Report Views: 2,629
About the Author
micronut is a trad climber from fresno, ca.

Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report

  Jun 16, 2014 - 09:28am PT


Trad climber
Marcus McCoy from somewhere over the rainbow...
  Jun 16, 2014 - 09:32am PT
wow, awesome TR. great pics, entertaining writing; fabulous, cheers.

Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Jun 16, 2014 - 09:36am PT
10/10 tr!!!!

I still haven't done that thing, looks absolutely fantastic. I love Cathedral so that route has gotta be sweet! World class stoke, camaraderie, and apparently eats. Well done and thanks for lighting the fire this Monday morning. Really appreciate all the work that went into that.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 16, 2014 - 09:44am PT

Trad climber
  Jun 16, 2014 - 09:58am PT
Getting pretty good at this I have to admit.

Thanks for bringing us along!

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
  Jun 16, 2014 - 09:59am PT

A great read and super pics of where we all wish we could were.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:02am PT
Love the report. I guess you guys didn't want to let Mark relax for a moment. Took him straight from a wall to a mountain. Well done!


  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:17am PT
Super fun route, one of the best I've done- great TR & fine style all around!

So pretty back there...

Oh, & what's a Hudon??

Maybe I'm tripping but I feel like I've heard that word before around here....

Trad climber
Carson City Nevada
  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:09am PT
Right on!! Thoroughly enjoyable. Also, I'm gonna have to try that wonderful looking bread, garlic, olive oil and cheese deal on my next trip!!

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:11am PT
AWESOME!! Well done gentlemen!

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:20am PT
Cool, looks like good fun! Thanks for the report Dr.J.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:29am PT
Lounging photos are critical to this TR. Love it. TFPU!

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:29am PT
Fantastic. Great flow. And good weather to boot. Last time I was there we were pummeled by hail two days in a row. Thanks for the stoke!

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 10:46am PT
Nice job! TFPU. Young's lakes are an amazing little gem. I also camped there when I did the West Ridge,... nice that they don't see much traffic.

Looked like it was still pretty frosty up there! I pulled out some nice trout from the second lake when I was up there last. Made a great pre-climb dinner!
Dinner before hitting up the West Ridge of Conness.
Dinner before hitting up the West Ridge of Conness.
Credit: BFK
Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 11:08am PT
Tuolumne in June!
Movin' fast and light in the land of golden granite and endless sky.
How fortunate can a man be?
Thanks for the stoke. Packing for Matthes this week! Yea!
Just added West Ridge to the tic list!

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 11:26am PT
Thanks, Scott. I always enjoy your trip reports. Tuolumne truly is a wonderful setting for fun and adventure.

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jun 16, 2014 - 11:31am PT
6 Summits in that photo for me!!!

Trad climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 11:41am PT
I'm towing a pot, a skillet, 1.5 lbs of whole penne pasta, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh feta cheese, capers, calamata olives, an entire footlong baguette, three types of brie for appetizers and a post summit "happy hour" hors d'oeuvre that will blow the minds of my companions.

You want to bring me to a climb some peaks?!!!!!!!

That was the best TR I have read in like a year!!!! Thanks micro, your awesome!!!


Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jun 16, 2014 - 11:49am PT
Wow-Certainly the first Michelin 3 star in the Sierras. Oh wait, that is for restaurants?

Andrzej Citkowicz far away from Poland
  Jun 16, 2014 - 01:39pm PT
Scary from the start!

rush into my last surgery of the week. Hands shaking with excitement.

How is the patient?


Excellent TR, as usual, although I missed your

razor sharp wit and thoughtful prose

Who is that hairy guy that tagged along with the Nuts?



Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 01:51pm PT
Wow-Certainly the first Michelin 3 star in the Sierras. Oh wait, that is for restaurants?

Guido, having dined with Micronut in the mountains (well, the lower foothills), I can attest to his culinary skills.

As always, Scott, a TR of the very best. Thanks much.


Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 02:06pm PT
Another great report and adventure! But I'm not so sure about those salty balls bursting in your mouth.

Trad climber
  Jun 16, 2014 - 02:15pm PT
Something is wrong with Marks body, it's all like firm and serrated. I really think he needs to get that looked at. It's supposed to be pretty much soft and doughy, I'm sure of it. Anyway, just looking out for a fellow climber.

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 02:20pm PT
I was hoping you'd make a TR for this and you didn't disappoint!

How's the knee?

  Jun 16, 2014 - 02:28pm PT
Nice TR. Met you three on the trail on your way out - nice trip!

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Jun 16, 2014 - 02:43pm PT
Thanks for the great report as usual.

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 16, 2014 - 03:41pm PT
Nice job, keepping the stoke!!
The nut bros look like twins!!!!!

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jun 16, 2014 - 05:33pm PT
Well done!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Jun 16, 2014 - 05:51pm PT
Looks like a lot of fun with 5 star dining.
Dave Kos

Social climber
  Jun 16, 2014 - 05:54pm PT
Great read, lots of fun!

Made me hungry for mountains and food!

BTW, what kind of skillet is that? Do you recommend it for backpacking?

I've been looking for something a little bigger than the one I have.


Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Jun 16, 2014 - 06:01pm PT
I doesn't get any better than that

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Jun 16, 2014 - 06:59pm PT
glad youre back after it man, I had one the most profound days of my life all alone back there last summer, what a magical place.

Hudon's first High Sierra route huh...... :)

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Jun 17, 2014 - 11:44pm PT
Thanks guys for all the comments. What a neat route. The knee is on the mend, but still not 100%. We had hoped to go do The Mithral Dihedral on Russell but my knee was still pretty sore and weak, so this was a consolation itinerary. Turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Jun 18, 2014 - 06:02am PT
Way cool TR Scott!

Social climber
  Jun 18, 2014 - 06:03am PT
Excellent!! You sure know how to refuel.

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jun 18, 2014 - 06:55am PT
Turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

don't you mean just what the doctor needed!

Your outing looked healing. :)

Nice TR!! as always,

Trad climber
Station Wagon, USA
  Jun 18, 2014 - 08:41am PT
Loved reading this! Thank you for rekindling the high sierra stoke. Wishing you full recovery, micronut!

Sport climber
  Jun 18, 2014 - 10:17am PT
Life's good...

Trad climber
  Jun 18, 2014 - 11:18am PT
I pulled out some nice trout from the second lake when I was up there last.
Nice toad.

To the climbers, if you aren't going to place pro why carry a rope? Damn noobs.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Jun 20, 2014 - 02:57pm PT
Yeah Snowhazed, who'd have guessed. It was an honor to show him our High Country.

Dave. Its the 10" skillet from High Country outdoor cooking products. Like 14.00$ and way lighter than anything at REI. I borrowed it for this trip but I got home and promptly went online and bought a new one.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Jun 20, 2014 - 02:59pm PT
Actually DaveKos, its the company is Open Country. You can google them.

Sunnyvale, CA
  Jun 20, 2014 - 03:29pm PT
(1) excellent hat, keepin' it classy both with the food and the threads
(2) not all the good posters have left, and you're living proof. thanks for sharing, that's what makes it all worth while! with infectious enthusiasm like this you'll never be short of partners or friends.

more trip reports for and from everyone! (yeah, i know i'm a slacker in that regard...)


  Jun 20, 2014 - 05:54pm PT
Great all the way around!

Thanks for sharing.


Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Jun 20, 2014 - 09:16pm PT
The three of you epitomize the old saying that the best climber is the one having the most fun. So cool to see those pics!

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
  Jun 21, 2014 - 06:26am PT
Another really quality TR, Scott...thanks! And I LOVED the of my favorite things in the backcountry is QUALITY food!!!

Good to see Hudon on this fine route! I think too many big wallers miss out on quality climbs like the West Ridge when their focus is solely the Big Stone. I'm sure it was a memorable trip for Mark.

The West Ridge was part of a solo trifecta I did on July 3rd of 2009....linking North Ridge of North Peak, North Ridge of Conness, then down and around to West the setting sun to the summit. I had heard stories about that route and it's quality, and like you, was so pleased to find that all the stories about it were truth. (Sadly, just two days after I did the routes, JB died in about going from a high to a low )

Your TR makes me want to do the route from that same Young Lakes approach. When my daughter returns from Africa later this summer, I believe this will be our first line.

Thanks again, Scott!!!

Berg Heil!


Trad climber
  Jun 21, 2014 - 09:45am PT
Sweet TR and good on ya

Gym climber
  Jun 22, 2014 - 07:57am PT
Love the "we un-shoulder our packs" shot. So much going on in the photo. Best of luck with your knee. It's remarkable how well, with time, the thing can heal.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jun 22, 2014 - 08:06am PT large, no reason not to eat well. Mark's coffee, great way to start the day.
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  Jun 22, 2014 - 11:04am PT
Good times, thanks for the memories!

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
  Jun 23, 2014 - 05:48pm PT
Altogether awesome! Can almost feel it (and taste it).

I once camped at Upper Young Lake late in the season and got 8 to 10 inches of snow dumped on my rickety rain fly shelter, which partially collapsed under the weight. In the morning, tracks of hare were everywhere. That place is the perfect High Sierra spot, alright. I broke camp and descended down the creek drainage to the north to the "fires allowed" elevation and found a really magical area and campsite. From there, I spent two or three days checking the whole area out. I never saw another person, but I never felt alone.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jun 23, 2014 - 06:15pm PT
Wait a minute - you walked there? I didn't know anybody did that any more.
I guess it looks like you had fun.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
  Jun 23, 2014 - 08:33pm PT
might have to start drinking coffee again.

California dreamin' on the farside of the world..
  Mar 23, 2015 - 04:55pm PT
Just one of the best dang trip reports I've ever read.

When you were listing the things you were bringing in your pack, I thought perhaps you'd over done it on the gourmet fare. Your photos proved me wrong.

I'm going to post you on TripAdvisor.....:-)
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