Tenaya Peak and Mt Conness

6 Aug 2000 - by Pat Callery

I spent last weekend near Tuolumne Meadows with a few friends and some beautiful rock. We drove up Friday night, with the intention of climbing the classic west ridge of Mt. Conness on Sunday, and warming up Saturday on the domes. After lazing on the beach at Tenaya Lake over breakfast, we couldn't help but change our plans and head for the striking NW buttress of Tenaya Peak that towers above the lake.

Hiking from the beach at the east end of the lake, we wound through meadows and up steep bushy slopes to reach the slab apron extending beneath the buttress. We scrambled up easy slabs while roped up, practicing our simul-climbing technique to prepare for Conness. The angle of the rock steepened toward the summit, and we climbed about 5 pitches on belay, difficulties never really exceeding low-mid 5th class. The view from the summit is spectacular, especially in the early evening light. For anyone who's driven past Tenaya Lake time after time and gazed at the impressive peak looming above, I highly recommend this climb. If you move fast you can do it in half a day, but what's the rush? The descent is a walk-off down the west ridge to a point where slabs descend directly towards the lake, then back towards the east end of the lake through boulders and forest, down to the beach.

Sunday we started out from the Sawmill walk-in camp along Saddlebag Lake road, hiking up the valley past the Carnegie Research station. We crossed the low point on the crest south of Conness, then headed across the wide plateau of the south slopes, dropped westward down a small drainage, and contoured around to find the enormous SW face looming precipitously above a large cirque. Crossing the cirque, we reached the base of the west ridge and roped up. Other trip reports have described the route well, but needless to say, it isn't hard to find. The difficulties (moderate and fun) are at the base of the climb, and once on the ridge the climbing is spectacular. Solid rock, easy protection, exhilirating exposure, and stunning scenery make this an extremely enjoyable climb. Unfortunately we had been behind schedule most of the day, so we retreated slightly inward from the ridge at the upper portion of the climb to speed up. The walk-off was straight-forward but got awful tricky as we were caught by nightfall and had to find our way back down the valley to the trailhead by headlamp.

A pair of spectacular and fairly easy rock climbs, day-hikeable from the Tuolumne area... anyone who spends a lot of time driving back & forth on the Tioga Road should take a day out for these treasures.

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