Mt. Conness - West Ridge

August 15th, 2002

Emily and I departed form the Disneyland atmosphere of the Cathedral Lakes area and set off to climb Mt. Conness, a 12,500 ft. mountain on the border of Yosemite NP and the Hoover wilderness. The climb can be approached from two different ways, one of which approaches from Toulumne Meadows and the other from Saddlebag lake which is outside the park. We opted for the longer and more scenic approach that stays in the park, and left the Lembert Dome trail head sometime about noon.

Emily in the forest just below the alpine zone.

Seven miles later we arrived at Young Lakes, where we were planning on camping. However, it was still pretty early so we decided to keep on going and camp right under the route at Lake Roosevelt instead. Just a few hundred yards past Young Lakes we were entirely alone, none of the crowd seemed to be going any further. We soon came across an intermittent cairn path that lead us down towards a lower alpine meadow. From there, we ascended again and in an attempt to not loose any more altitude as we hiked, we traversed a somewhat challenging hillside of steep scree, downed trees and brush for a couple of miles. As we neared the basin of the lake, it cleared out into an amazing meadow scattered with boulders. We hadn't seen another person since we'd left the trail and we were both really feeling good about how wild the area felt. Finally, 10 miles in, we set up camp along side the completely pristine Lake Roosevelt.

Emily with Conness in the background. The lefthand skyline is the West Ridge.

We left camp the next morning at 7am and climbed the 1000 or so feet to the base of the climb. The route description that we had wasn't very detailed, and the picture that we had seen of the route as the skyline wasn't very helpful as the mountain now had multiple ridges and a dramatically new skyline from every vantage point. So after much discussion, we chose a ridge and started to climb it.

We did 4 or 5 running belay pitches up 4th and low 5th class slabs and flakes which lead to the pinch of the ridge. The harder climbing began on the crest of a tower, and we fixed three pitches.

Slab climbing under the crux (in the dihedral to the right).

We encountered some really excellent varied climbing on solid rock. Through out the climb we were going back and forth between thinking that we were and we weren't actually on the West ridge, but we were both so completely enjoying ourselves that it didn't really matter to either of us.

Dave on some beautiful cracks leading up a giant pillar.

Emily on the exposed ridge .

It took us a bit over 4 hours to do the 1500 ft climb, and we reached the summit just in time for lunch. As we ate we noticed some clouds building near by, and realized that we weren't in a very good place for a thunderstorm so we began the descent.

Emily on the Mars like plateau at about 12,000 ft.

The descent was long and consisted of some downclimbing and a whole lot of sliding down loose, steep sand and scree.

Dave in the descent gully that leads back to the basin under the Southeast face.

When we got back to the lake, we were surprised to see that we were now sharing the area with another group. We talked with them for a while, and again were totally amazed at the level of friendliness and generosity that was extended towards us. We spoke mostly with a man named Makasha who lives most of the year on a community ranch in New Mexico where they work to teach renewable farming practices. We were blown away when he asked us how our provision levels were, as he was completly ready to share with us some of their freshly caught trout.

Emily by Lake Roosevelt.

The next day Emily and I decided to take a different route back to Young lakes, and rather than skirt around on the somewhat unpleasant, long traverse, come to terms with loosing and regaining elevation and head strait towards Young Lakes on a compass bearing.

Emily heading through the meadow towards the woods.

As it turned out, this was a really fantastic way to go. The forest was open and fragrant, and the whole thing took us only 40 minutes rather than the 2.5 hours that the traverse demanded.

The only complaint for this whole trip is that we both thought about the godliness of avocados for many of the miles of the descent, only to get back down and find that the Toulomne meadows store no longer had any! A pretty small complaint!

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