Where: MT. CONNESS (12,580') Who: Mike Rinaldi, Vincent Rinaldi When: 9/25/99For the past four years during the months of September and October I've loosely planned trips to climb Mt. Conness. Twice from the Youngs Lakes side and twice as day trips while car camping in Tuolumne Meadows. Each time something came along to change the plans. One year they even closed the park when some nut was running loose in the high country. This of course happened the day that I drove down from Lake Tahoe for the express purpose of day hiking the East side of Conness. Made for a long detour return trip to the Bay Area. This past weekend I again planned to climb Conness. This time my brother (Vince) came along. I guess he was the lucky charm. We hadn't climbed anything together since 1992 when we climbed Half Dome. Having reserved a camp ground in the Meadows we came to get that big bad mamma. This weekend was also the last weekend that Toulumne Meadows campground was open. One ranger told me that as of October 15 no cars will be allowed to park overnight along Tioga Road. Winter is just around the corner!
Saturday morning we drove to SaddleBag Lake. We parked near the dam and were quickly off toward the old Carneige Research Station. The Fall colors were out in force making for a very enjoyable hike. Fall is by far my favorite time of year in the Sierras. Days are not too warm, mornings are crisp so that the early morning brew tastes extra good and of course the best reason is that all the dammed mosquitos are dead! dead! dead!!! Oh, did I say DEAD!
The route we did is the standard one described in many of guides. We hiked to the low point on the Ridge connecting Conness with White Mt. Then we proceeded along the ridge to the summit. We ran into a bit of difficulty when at this low point. To get over the ridge we chose a chute that looked better from below then from up close. This caused us to make 2-3 class 5 moves to get onto the ridge. From there it was a easy class 1 stroll all the way to the base of the the last 300 feet. The snowfield which I read about in many guides was easily avoided and we carefully made our way up to the summit. Many granite stones are layed out in a staircase all the way to the top. It reminded me of the Half Dome trail (the bump below the cables). Once on top we enjoyed perfect Sierra weather. Not a cloud in the sky and not a peep from the wind as well. The glacier lay below us and lots of snow from Hurricane Hillary's weather still stuck to the Northern Faces. While eating lunch a lone climber came up from the West ridge. He apparently did the 5.6 route solo. After signing the register we headed down. Near the snowfield we encountered two more climbers. They told us that they came up the East Ridge. They said that it was more direct than our route. So on the way down we decided to take it instead. The East Ridge intercepst the main ridge at the first ridge high point south of the summit. From there a class 2-3 trail takes you to Alpine Lake and then down to the meadow. This route was shorter but actually took us longer since we took a wrong turn and needed to come down a mostly dry but slippery cascade. We were back at the truck by 3:45PM and quickly back to Toulumne for some snacks, pasta, wine, and finally Grand Marnier to top it off. Later that evening we went on a Toulumne Meadows ranger led astronomy talk. The Full Harvest Moon made the stargazing a bit difficult but the stories from the ranger were fun. The trip home on Sunday took us north on 395 to see what we could of the Fall colors. The change is well in progress but not peaking yet.