road still closed, but bcrider and jimw gave reports
of dry road. I loaded up the pack with skis and boots,
climbed on the bike and began pedalling up the road.
6:20am. At Sawmill Campground. Stash bike in
trees. Look for ski poles. shit.
6:30am. Back at car to get fucking poles.
6:45am. Back at Sawmill. Stash bike 2x. Start
hiking/bushwacking towards East Ridge of Mount Conness.
View to the pointy peak across the street.
Below Alpine Lake. Lots
of snow still on White and False White
Random self timer panorama
8:00ish. Alpine Lake. The normal summer trip up
the waterfall was a piece of cake -- kicking steps in
styro snow all the way up. Filled up my water bottle
at the falls and was off the races. (I don't normally
filter water in the Sierra, especially from high
mountain snowmelt in spring --
8:30ish. Reached the notch. The day is turning
out to be a postcard MF'n day and how stoked am I that
I am not working today.
8:45am. About to top out on the summit plateau.
Things have been pretty easy up to now, the forgotten
pole incident notwithstanding. But now I'm faced with
my first issue: how to get past the monster Rolls
Royce Corniche that guards the exit to the plateau?
Thankfully, Chris and Jim were here two days ago so I
knew it went around to the left side over some tricky
and moderately exposed mixed climbing.
Just below the plateau. East Ridge snakes down behind
The route. The right
side plunges down to the glacier, so don't go that
9:00am. On the
plateau, but it is still early and despite the prime
weather I know the chutes will still be somewhat
suicidal at this hour. But since I'm not going to
North Peak today because of the report that it was
sketch and not very fun, I decide to have some fun up
on Mt. Conness while the chutes warm up.
Peaks above Tuolumne look nice but still pretty
snowbound for the July 4th weekend climbing
Entrance to looker's left Y-couloir. STEEP!
And down the length of
Entrance to looker's
right Y-couloir. This entrance involves an initial
hairy traverse across a no-fly zone rock band so is a
bit more sketch than the other entry. Naturally I
chose this one.
Looking up to the
summit. The path snakes along a fairly narrow ridge up
to the top. Difficult to see from this photo, but the
drops on both sides are fair to partly fatal. An easy
scramble though, but don't slip. Especially not in ski
boots. The bigger issue is the snowfield near the top.
One slip here and you're a pancake at the bottom of
the SW face.
In case you don't believe me, here's a view of the SW
face and the snowfield with some photoshopping for
farting around on the plateau and checking out the
various chutes on today's menu, I'm on the summit.
Lunch is served.
Lyell and Maclure would
be a sweet ski if it wasn't such a slog to get there.
Looking back at the
chutes du jour
After a nutella
sandwich, trusted fuel of all hardy mountaineers, I
slip on my rock shoes and start talus hopping out
towards the north ridge. This is a classic route up
from the glacier. I climbed it last summer and it was
one of my funnest days ever in the mountains.
Tremenous exposure in an Alpine setting but with
perfect granite and abundant handholds. My favorite
description of the route is this, from
[T]he whole climb . .
. looks tricky, but proves to be pretty easy, even
with a pack. You move left, find the ridge and then
just go on up. The whole climb is on extremely solid
rock with many, many fantastic holds and whopping big
exposure. If you fell off, you would die a spectacular
death, but you will not fall off. Any climber who is
comfortable on 5.4 should have absolutely no trouble
with any of the 4th class parts of the route, which is
to say, pretty much all of it.
I admit that even though
I had ascended this route, I was a bit sketched to
solo downclimb it. But I was feeling great and knew my
limits. So off I went.
Looking down the North Ridge
Looking off the west side to Roosevelt Lake many, many
Off the east side to the Conness Glacier 1,500 feet
below. Base jump anyone?
Sketchy step across
Typical huge phallic
tower along ridge. For perspective, the squeeze
chimney to the left where I went over the tower was a
shoulder width apart.
Found a random granite
chicken head upon which to rest camera for self-timer.
Route is not that steep here, but imagine if you
slipped... Postscript: camera did not plunge down to
the glacier and memory card was retrieved.
Hit my turnaround time just above the notch leading to
the "second tower" along the route. I climbed back up,
and what was a moderately sketch downclimb was a
thrilling climb back up; as enjoyable as I'd
remembered it from one year ago.
1:30pm Traversed back over the summit, gingerly
negotiating the summit snowfield, and got back to the
Y couloir where I stashed my skis. Clicked in and saw
Conditions weren't totally ripe in the top of the Y
couloir, and I was feeling pretty tired from the
sealevel -> 12,500' jaunt, so I took a little catnap
on the rocks above the couloir. 20 minutes later, I
dropped in. The top was super steep and a bit dicey to
negotiate around the rock band. Snow conditions in the
top 100' were "almost corn" -- you know, not totally
frozen bulletproof, but somewhere between hard and
soft snow with some refrozen corn shingles still
lingering on top. After a couple of sketch turns, the
snow magically turned into perfect corn and the chute
straightened out. Jump turns morphed into slalom turns
in the gut, then into GS turns onto the apron.
Looking back up. My line on the lookers' right hand
branch. Y couloir. Slayed.
Had intentions of dropping the S chute above Conness
Lakes. Recent reports said it was primed. But
idiotically I was having too much fun ripping across
the upper glacier that I missed the well-cloaked (and
only open in macking snow years) top entry. I realized
my mistake, but then was too lazy to backtrack. As a
consolation prize, I arced turns down the snowfinger.
Probably funner than the S couloir, but not as much
the "dude..." factor. Given the choice, I'd probably
skip the coolie next time too. The turns down the snow
finger were magical silky corn with no rock walls to
bound me in.
Evidence of schralpage on the snow finger
Looking very stoked at middle Conness Lake. This is
the spot where I barfed and passed out from exhaustion
a year ago, so things are looking much better
The smile seen in the above shot would be the end of
the merriment. Now I had to negotiate the dreaded
suncups along Greenstone and Saddlebag Lakes. Reports
from Chris and Jim said they were nothing short of
brutal. Thankfully the suncups were getting softer
here at 3:30pm, and I was able to sort of survival ski
between suncupped rocky slopes along the waterfall
down to Greenstone. From there, I went into traverse
mode (no skins required), and just phloated over the
tops of the suncups, mowing them down en route.
Going was pretty good at first and I was feeling
pretty fucking smug -- "this isn't so bad. Chris and
Jim are pussies!". Then I hit the avy debris.
ARGHHH!!! Huge chunks from successive slides had
turned the 2 mile traverse into a mini Khumbu icefall.
Suncups turned into seracs, and I found myself
struggling to make progress. Some of these maneating
suncups were about 6 feet deep. Chris and Jim are
decidedly NOT pussies
Once past the gooseneck of Saddlebag Lake, the debris
field ended and it was back to good ol' summer suncups.
Progress quickened and soon I saw a familiar site --
Mount Dana and the saddlebag lake "resort". Stoked!
From here, it was a quick change back into approach
shoes and a scamper down the road to my cached bike. A
mile and a half of downhill coasting and I was at the
Hauled ass back to the golden gate with little traffic
(mid week rules!), broken up only by the mandatory
stop at Robertitos for tres rolled con guac and a
burrito de carne asada.