Trip Report
The Mokelumne Tetons. The What?
Friday September 7, 2018 10:24am
The Mokelumne Tetons do exist. And they are big. Though the good climbing is only in the upper reaches, the drop to the Mokelumne River below is 4,000 feet. They are also remote with an arduous approach and questionable water availability late in the season. Adventurous would be a good way to describe them.
Mokelumne Tetons
Mokelumne Tetons
Credit: Ney Grant
This trip was more than a year in planning. I had flown over the Tetons many times in my small plane as that massive ridge is a visual waypoint when flying over the Sierras from Bishop to my home field at Placerville. Last year I did a closer fly-by and took recon photos. Hmmmm, interesting.
Ande and the Tetons
Ande and the Tetons
Credit: Ney Grant
Later last year I went out backpacking with the dogs and checked out the area. Hmmmm, looking pretty good! At that time I didn’t know that under the rock I had lunch on was a summit register with the details of 4 or 5 climbs that had been done on the most climbable of Tetons, “The Whales Tail”. The dogs and I did scout the area and found a couple of springs within ½ mile of the most beautiful campsite you’ll ever see.
The Whales Tail
The Whales Tail
Credit: Ney Grant
This year we did it. Betsy, myself and Nate made the 9 mile and 2,000 foot gain trek out. Nate came out to check out the area and also helped carry our gear. Thank you Nate. I easily found the first spring location – and it was dry! Oh oh, maybe late in the summer isn’t a good time for this. The trip hinged on finding water so the ½ mile hike to the next spring was a long one. The spring at first appeared dry, but we found three small pools each holding a few quarts and each would slowly fill back up.

Credit: Ney Grant
There was no climbing that day as we spent the next few hours filtering water through an increasingly clogged filter until we had about 5 gallons, enough for all of us for the next few days.
The campsite is truly spectacular and hard to adequately describe. But to the party that stashed two ropes and some canned food tightly wrapped in a tarp under rocks near the campsite – your ropes are toast. The cans don’t look that appealing either.
Stash of food and ropes
Stash of food and ropes
Credit: Ney Grant
Betsy and I had planned on doing something big on Saturday so we set out to climb a larger Teton than the Whales Tail. This beautiful orange Teton had a tougher approach and a much harder descent so it was very possibly unclimbed. We did the steep downhill approach and got on the toe of the Teton. We were going to traverse around to the face but it looked like we could climb almost straight up from where we were, so we did that at around 5.8. After two pitches we hit a ledge on the face and put in two belay bolts. I climbed up the face, put in a bolt and traversed right, into a depression under a huge flake – and there appeared two bolts. Hmmm. Very possibly climbed.
Fantastic orange granite
Fantastic orange granite
Credit: Ney Grant
I belayed Betsy up and we discussed our options. My plan was to wrench off the hangers and replace them with our own, then if asked say, “That’s strange, we didn’t see any other bolts up there”. Betsy didn’t like that plan. We had come from the left so we decided to go back to the left into the dihedral / crack system and see if that worked. Betsy did a fantastic 5.9+/5.10a traverse to get over there, left-hand drilling and placing two bolts on the way. The second bolt makes the traverse very doable, because if you fall you can just pendulum into the lieback crack, just a little lower than if you made the traverse.
You can tell Betsy prefers face climbing
You can tell Betsy prefers face climbing
Credit: Ney Grant
We didn’t originally choose that route because we were afraid a sustained hard finger or hand crack would do us in. That didn’t happen. There was a vertical chimney section behind a buttress but it had small incut holds for the feet and some nice edges and jugs outside for hands – a very fun 5.8. Well, it may have been more fun had I known it was going to stay 5.8 the whole way. I may have even stopped to take a photo which I wish I had done.
Looking down at the lower Teton
Looking down at the lower Teton
Credit: Ney Grant
We popped out above the buttress onto the arete with some terrific exposure on the left and a roof above with nice juggy holds, and now with two new bolts – one below the roof and one above.

Beautiful area
Beautiful area
Credit: Ney Grant
The steepness lets up not long after the roof and soon we were simulclimbing to the summit, where we found a short capped PVC pipe with a damp and hard to read notebook inside with one entry from 2008. Chris McNamara and Todd Offenbacher, a couple of unknown guys from Tahoe. Although it was difficult to tell, it seemed to say “The Bee” and since neither Chris or Todd can remember, both their route and this particular Teton is now called “The Bee”.
Credit: Ney Grant
Todd confirmed their line goes up the face to the right of our line and Chris remembers good rock, but especially remembers the incredible campsite.
From the summit there is a terrific ridge walk reminiscence of Mather Crest and Saber Ridge with a bit of technical downclimbing, until it finally ends with a short rappel. We replaced tattered webbing and a corroded nut with two bolts.
Todd had also put up a compelling climb on Whales Tail (detailed in the summit register) that we intended to do on Monday before the hike out.

Camp with route behind
Camp with route behind
Credit: Ney Grant
But sleeping in, relaxing and having coffee in that awesome campsite before the hike out (you climb about 1,000 feet on the way out too) was even more compelling. Next time.

Camp Chasm Arete, 5.9+/5.10a, 6 pitches. Named because you look from camp straight across a chasm at the arete.


The Bee, Chris McNamara and Todd Offenbacher, 2008, 5.10a. The notebook said one pitch of 5.10a and many 5.8/5.9.

From camp to summit
From camp to summit
Credit: Ney Grant
Camp Chasm Arete on "The Bee"
Camp Chasm Arete on "The Bee"
Credit: Ney Grant

  Trip Report Views: 2,743
Ney Grant
About the Author
Ney is a trad climber from Pollock Pines.

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

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Sep 7, 2018 - 10:43am PT
This looks glorious! I went skiing a few times at Bear Valley and Mokolumne looked awesome across the valley.

Around the time I started climbing with ropes, I went on a 5 day snowshoe backpacking trip, aiming for Mokulmne Peak from Silver Lake. We got blizzarded and buried along the way, didn't make it that far, but had a good time. Perhaps my first experience with Type 2 fun - very fond memories now, daintily stepping across thin ice after taking an uncharted short-cut across the lake, stomping out a platform and setting up a tent in blowing white-out, beautiful forests heavily laden with snow in crystal clear mornings, but at the time I recall a lot of being pissed off taking turns dragging a sled or breaking trail through deep powder.

My mentor who taught me how to make toprope anchors and how to rappel, he was all gung-ho to make the objective (probably like I would be within a few years after that). Another guy and I were into morning relaxing, reading, and not really seeing the point of getting hung up on the specific objective. The mismatch in expectations created a lot of friction, which was not good when combined with the physical suffering of the powder slogging. By the end of that trip we didn't talk to each other for a year!

It's funny how much we can change... I think I would have been great climbing partners with this guy for big adventures a few years later, but it took me a while to find my groove and enjoy suffering in the wilderness.
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:22am PT
well.
then I stand well, & Happily corrected

As Ive said in the past, When I grow up I want to go to Ney Grant's summer camp.

that bs politics aside,
as I can't do anything about that,
It will go on, it is the back & forth,
the swing of the pendulum.

So still, to the end, I'll stay a fan of what you do.

T U F P!

edit
oh Natetastic?, hows the tutelage coming along?
kingtut

climber
Jingus Newroutaineer
  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:33am PT
Well, I hope that Nate character didn't give you any trouble lol.:P

Stoked on your report. So many adventures to be had and glad you are getting some. Sounds like a Hard Woman Betsy drilling on lead! Hats off.

Seems like there might be a line or two left....If I can hornswaggle that naive Natey boy into packing my crap in!

:D
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Sep 7, 2018 - 10:45am PT
Sweet TR,
kudos for the way you guys seek and explore the obscure.
Thanks Ney
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:18am PT
Great TR. Delhi Dog and I packed in the Mokelumne Wilderness this summer but too smokey to see these other Tetons. Is the approach from Carson Pass?
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:23am PT
hornswaggle

I'd never heard (or at least remembered hearing) that word before and now I've heard it twice in two days!
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:28am PT
Sick! I've stared and dreamed about that formation for decades now, being a Bear Valley man myself. So many times while sking the Grizzly runs I would dream about the Tetons.

I tried approaching from the CalDome area, up past Salt Springs Res... to fricking far for me! I knew how to come in from topside, but somehow never got the gumption to try it myself. Corresponded with ec about it... he hinted at things that might have been done in there. I flew over them in airplanes and took pictures.

Congrats on your route and the adventure. Super psyched for you!

DMT
aldude

climber
Monument Manor
  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:31am PT
Like
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:48am PT
The approach in is from the Tanglefoot trailhead, accessed from roads behind Bear River Reservoir. For an out-of-the-way trailhead that probably gets little use the trail is surprisingly good. A good but long day hike is heading up the trail for about 6 miles then heading cross country up Mokelumne Peak, which is kind of a pile of rubble but with great views and a different perspective. Betsy and I went up there late last year and didn't see a soul, but saw lots of bear prints in the snow.


For the Tetons, you take the main trail until a few hundred feet lower than the Tetons on the map, then traverse a few miles over to them cross country. Or at least that is how we did it.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Sep 7, 2018 - 12:39pm PT
NEY! Thansk for sharing your strory. I'm very happy that you & your wife keep finding these big climbing adventures in our back yard,
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Sep 7, 2018 - 01:08pm PT
Hey, it's cheating if you get to use your plane to scout!

I would like to cheat with you, thanks for sharing.
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Sep 7, 2018 - 01:35pm PT
I did have a fun flight recently taking Vitaliy and Brian Prince up for a dawn flight over the Sierras. More details:

https://westcoastflyingadventures.com/2018/07/20/flight-over-up-and-down-the-high-sierra/
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Sep 7, 2018 - 02:03pm PT
Great picks. You've got me psyched to back out there! Sure you've been there, but the waterfalls and swimming holes 4000 feet below the climbing are world class. Different approach.
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Sep 7, 2018 - 02:16pm PT
Chris - you approached from below?!? 4,000 feet of loose stuff?

We could see the beautiful blue pools and falls from the Teton. I haven't kayaked the Mokelumne that high, but I think that is the Fantasy Falls section. Looks tough.
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
  Sep 7, 2018 - 02:39pm PT
good stuff!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 7, 2018 - 03:36pm PT
This is awesome Ney
Thank you 👍👍🍻
clarkolator

climber
  Sep 7, 2018 - 05:03pm PT
Well Done!
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
  Sep 7, 2018 - 05:40pm PT
Good work Ney. Your off the established map discoveries/rediscoveries are inspiring.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Sep 7, 2018 - 05:47pm PT
Back in the mid-seventies I explored the back side of Bear Valley along the Moke with Tony, the owner of Tamarack Lodge in BV. We were gone for a week and the wilderness area is truly worth wandering around in.

I had no idea there would be climbing of this quality in the area, but then I did not have the benefit of viewing it from above.

Thanks for your report on such a marvelous adventure, Ney. Hope some day to make your acquaintance.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Sep 7, 2018 - 10:30pm PT
Wow! I have a vague recollection of Tuolumne County residents reportedly going out there. Cool to see it get some love!
looks easy from here

climber
Santa Cruzish
  Sep 7, 2018 - 10:57pm PT
And this is the reason I have such a hard time getting out of California to climb: so many amazing things you'd have to drive past to get any place else.

A new high Sierra climbing guide is in the works by Vitaliy Musiyenko and others

Sounds like another one to add to my pre-preorder list...
Natetronn

climber
Sutter Creek
  Sep 8, 2018 - 10:53am PT
Happy I was able to support you two on such an amazing trip! It was well earned and deserved.
Jerry Dodrill

climber
Bodega
  Sep 7, 2018 - 11:46pm PT
Maybe 20 years ago, I hiked out there with Eric Berghorn and Jim Lundeen, dropped in from above and climbed the south ridge of a big tower (Lower Teton?), about eight pitches up to 5.8. We placed no bolts but found a sling on a block about six pitches up. PVC tube with register on top listed Ron Felton and some other folks. We figured it was a third or fourth ascent. If I recall, Jim was in contact with Ron who advised that no bolts had ever been placed but many routes had been done. Corey Rich contacted me a decade later after he was there with Chris and Todd, having seen my summit entry.

This place is pure wildness. Lets keep it that way.
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Sep 9, 2018 - 11:07am PT
Yes, that would be the lower Teton. Attached is a photo of mine of that south face. I know there are routes and have a route photo someone emailed me before the trip, but that isn't my photo or my route so I didn't publish it. But that route I saw basically goes straight up the face, hits the south ridge and continues left to the top.

South face "Lower Teton"
South face "Lower Teton"
Credit: Ney Grant

It appears the only way to know what has been climbed on a Teton is to climb it and read about route details in the summit register. In other words, there is a rough guide book, and its public, but you have to climb the Teton first to get it. I've respected that and have not published any other route details except for Chris' and Todd's route, and I asked them before publishing.

I think there are few things climbers should know before going back there, so we don't have bolted climbs over bolted climbs, as almost happened with us. "The Whale's Tale" summit is easily scrambled to, so plan on going there first to see what routes there are on that formation, including bolted routes, number of bolts, etc.

For the Middle Teton call The Bee (there are other "middle Tetons), there appears to be two climbs - ours and Chris/Todds. For the lower Teton I don't know since I haven't been to the summit, and that summit is definitely a full days work to get to. However we all now know the south face has many routes on it, and without bolts.

That lower Teton is fascinating. It appears to have three sides: the lower angle south face and then almost dead vertical west and north faces.
North face Lower Teton
North face Lower Teton
Credit: Ney Grant
West face Lower Teton
West face Lower Teton
Credit: Ney Grant

I completely agree with Jerry that it is a wild place that deserves respect.

Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Sep 9, 2018 - 10:24pm PT
Maybe 20 years ago, I hiked out there with Eric Berghorn and Jim Lundeen, dropped in from above and climbed the south ridge of a big tower (Lower Teton?), about eight pitches up to 5.8. We placed no bolts but found a sling on a block about six pitches up. PVC tube with register on top listed Ron Felton and some other folks. We figured it was a third or fourth ascent. If I recall, Jim was in contact with Ron who advised that no bolts had ever been placed but many routes had been done. Corey Rich contacted me a decade later after he was there with Chris and Todd, having seen my summit entry.

This place is pure wildness. Lets keep it that way.

He name names! ;)
climber bob

Social climber
maine
  Sep 10, 2018 - 06:32am PT
packed in from salt springs resevior with scott rojko @ 1981.we climbed an easy line on the lower teton maybe 5.6. the west face is steep! our climb was on the slabby face to the right.we may have done a rap off a slung flake up high, but down climbed most of the route. I remember the great swimming holes. awesome area, would love to get back there again.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Sep 10, 2018 - 06:44am PT
Thanks for sharing. I wasn’t aware of them but they look good!
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Sep 10, 2018 - 08:21am PT
That wasn't a very good photo I put up of the northeast face of the lower Teton. Here is a better one.
Credit: Ney Grant
kingtut

climber
Jingus Newroutaineer
  Sep 10, 2018 - 08:49am PT
Nothing to see here, move along.....:D
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Sep 10, 2018 - 08:55am PT
This place is pure wildness. Lets keep it that way.

Love it!

DMT
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Sep 10, 2018 - 09:53am PT
Ney, to get to the pools we just parked at Salt Spring Res past Cal Dome and hike a few miles in. Definitely didn't approach Tetons from that direction! One of the coolest and deepest canyons in the Sierra.
Gobie

Trad climber
Northern, Ca.
  Sep 15, 2018 - 12:03am PT
Yep. Those ropes and that dinty moore stew belong to jonny fox and I. I suspect thats how todd found out about the place. Maybe it was the other way around. We went out there in the 90s. We went in from the tanglefoot canyon trailhead. I dont remeber the hike being that bad in comparison to places like tehipite or angel wings. I totally spaced thats were we left my red white and blue rope. Was it out there. We got caught in a massive sierra summer blizzard and had to bail.

Around the same time we had done a new route on the dome across the canyon. We named the dome Freedome and the route The Freedom Train. We hiked into the canyon a couple of times in January and February with tons of gear and camp stuff. We came back in the spring to find it all had been destroyed by a huge bear. It was covered with 100lb boulders but they still got it. Lost a whole rack and a couple of ropes out there as well. Crossed the Moke in freezing water but naked.

That summer we went out to the tetons. I have tried to talk a few people into going back out there. That place is magical. Im right up the road near Kirkwood from June through October every year if you ever want to go back out.
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
Author's Reply  Sep 16, 2018 - 03:18pm PT
Gobie,

I went into the Angel Wings area this summer, so not as far as that, but still a haul. I'm impressed you went in with not only canned Dinty Moore stew but apparently a lot of extra canned Dinty Moore stew.

But I think I know what is going on. You forgot the can opener, didn't you?

So, if you want to, tell us about Freedome and Freedom Trail, not that I'm going to swim naked across the river in the winter to do it. But there is a lot of granite on that side of the river too (obviously, with Cal dome downstream) - I'm curious which one it is.
chainsaw

Trad climber
CA
  Sep 16, 2018 - 04:29pm PT
Great trip report. Aaron Johnson from MAS climbed some of those Tetons in the 90s. The Great Dihedral he called one route. Chossey 5.8 and no real descent back to the river. I hiked in alone for a day of fishing and got stuck down there. I had bouldered down in with climbing shoes from Bear valley near the grouse trail. The sun went down and I was going to hike out the regular trail. To my remorse, the trail was wiped off the map by a landslide a few years before. I ended up bushwhacking in the dark wearing shorts and sandals. It got cold and wet as night set in. Temp about 30 degrees. Pitch black. I went through a lighter and matches but no fire. It was freezing and moisture was dripping off everything. Out of water. One power bar left.... I drank from a nice puddle in a small gulch. I decided to bivy under a fallen tree where I buried myself in dirt and pine needles for warmth. No headlamp. When the moon came out about 2 am I crawled out through the brush and vertical scree, Bear poo as big as my arm everywhere that was flat. When I got to my truck, I didn't want to four-wheel out so I drove across the ski area and broke the lock off the gate to the highway. For the record, I called the sheriff and told him about the lock. He said he was just glad I got out okay!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Sep 16, 2018 - 08:50pm PT
That looks fun! Like a Charlotte Dome of the North.
Jerry Dodrill

climber
Bodega
  Sep 16, 2018 - 11:21pm PT
Yep, we climbed that obvious long ridge on Lower and found what must have been climber bob's sling still on the flake. I have a photo of it somewhere.
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go