Tenaya Peak



Shit. SHUT UP! (I am fond of talking to my alarm)

What’s happening? Woaaah, move slow there, buddy. The room is spinning and, well, you’re a hair’s breath away from puking.

Ummmgh. What’s happening? Oh man, Mark will be here in 20 minutes.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, your correspondent submits another adventure in which the first chapter is marked (marred) by a hangover of Dionysian proportions.

Tenaya Peak

The day’s itinerary: Tenaya Peak, a 1500′ formation rising above Tenaya Lake in Toulumne Meadows at 8150′.

Sadly for me, the day’s itinerary started with a 5:30 pickup. Even sadder, the previous day’s itinerary ended with me falling over, quite drunk, in bed at 2:30. Not a recipe for A+ performance, especially at altitude, but it’s all part of training – all an added challenge – right?

I’m glad to be a source of free entertainment to my climbing/cycling partners, as I’ve earned the reputation as the guy who always shows up hung-over.

I have to contest this kind of broad-stroke categorization of my Friday night tendencies. I am SOMETIMES hung-over when an early morning departure is mandated, and I have had to shuttle a “friend” out of the house at an early hour to avoid potential damage to a young lady’s fair reputation, but I am far from ALWAYS hung-over. 50% is fair. 60%, maybe. Maybe.

Preparing for Tenaya Peak

In any case, 10:00 found us at the parking area adjacent to Tenaya lake. Our racks were light; the route is long @ 1500′, but also a moderate 5.5. We planned to simul-climb the route with Bob leading, Mark in the middle, and me running anchor.

All packed up, we set off. Tenaya peak is known to have an indistinct approach and a nearly indistinguishable walkoff. We managed the approach in decent style, though. If you’re looking to do it, try to keep up:

Walking along the lake towards the peak, find the climber’s trail leading southeast, hooking up within 100 yards with a good use trail.

Following the use trail for perhaps 1/3 of a mile, passing beyond the obvious exposed ledge system over a meadow, find the indistinct deer trail striking out nearly due west. From here follow the most obvious deer trails, angling south.

The climb itself begins on a low-angle portion of rock near a seasonal waterfall. Some parties rope up here in an obvious depression to climber’s right of the waterfall, but anyone comfortable with 5.0-2 friction can comfortably continue for at least another 500 feet to an obvious king-sized mattress flat area.

Here the climbing steepens, though never harder than 5.4 – 5.5, following the (and I can’t believe I’m being so vague here, but believe me, it’s this easy) most obvious system of features, trending left towards the ridgeline when in doubt.

Our simul system was working well. I’d never done any “consentual” simuling, limiting myself only to those desperate moments when a pitch exceeded the 60 meters of rope at hand, and necessity dictated forward movement, whether we had discussed in advance or not.

An old pin will let you know you’re on the right track (not that there is one “right” way on this route), and precedes the first actual climbing (necessitating hands, for me) of the route.

The next natural belay for a simulclimbing team needing to re-rack is at a blocky, vegetated, corner just before the final headwall section.

We stopped to swap gear only two times in 1500′ feet – a testament to the casual nature of the climbing, not our heroics. We were running with 2x camalots from .5-2 and a thin set of nuts, about 20 pieces in total, putting us at about 1 piece every 20 feet in theory, though it was far less in practice. The singular rule of simulclimbing is to have at least two pieces between each climbing pair (as we were climbing with three), with the goal being to keep as little slack in the system as possible. That and don’t fall, I suppose.

From here a climber is faced with almost innumerable variations to the top. Having finally regained some semblance of cognitive and muscular function, I took the last lead, which proved to be some of the most fun climbing of the day. Staying far left puts on in to a short final headwall crack – very reminiscent of my earliest climbing days at Devil’s Lake, WI.

Trying to keep last night’s drinks down on Tenaya Peak.

The summit is, in a word, sublime. Toulumne is one of the most spectacular expanses of polished granite in the universe, home to spectacular peaks and domes, and one could easily spend an afternoon from this vantage point picking 100’s out with a detailed map. It was a singular vista with a view clear to Cloud’s Rest and down to Half-Dome in Yosemite Valley.

Downvalley from from Tenaya Peak

After enjoying the view, drinking up, and trying our best to creep out the other party topping out (Mission Cliffs people are everywhere) with our somewhat ribald subject matter, we started the descent.

This. Descent. Sucks. I’d love to give advice, but we obviously went the “suck” way, so you don’t want my advice. Actually, the one piece of advice I WOULD give is to stick with the really obvious hiker’s trail that looks to end up clear WEST of Tenaya Lake. It’s probably a lot longer, measured purely in terms of mileage covered, but I guarantee that it cuts out a ton of talus/scree hopping.

No day in Tuolumne is complete without a dip in the “climber’s bathtub” of Tenaya Lake, and this was no exception. The lake is a pretty shanti place at 5pm, with climbers getting loose after a day of getting scared on friction horror shows, some people doing yoga, and everyone being blissed on the majesty of the surroundings.