Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuolumne Peak

Or was it?

My first day up in the mountains was really a travel and acclimation day. I drove up on short notice because at the last minute I decided to head up by myself and camp out for a couple of nights before the rest of the party arrived. Thanks to the goodies Sue packed for me I made good enough time to take a short hike before setting up my camp for the night at Tuolumne meadows. I pulled off at the May Lake trailhead and decide to hike up past the HSC to the pass and see what views I could get.

I was down to a single layer at the trailhead as the sun was beaming brightly. There was some standing water around that seemed partially stagnant, which probably accounts for all the mosquitoes around. I immediately donned my head net and repellant to keep from taking bites. Once I was up the trail a ways there were some youth groups doing trail work mostly without shirts on and I wondered why they were not being targeted by the little blood suckers. Working and breathing hard should have brought them like a plague. I then realized I wasn’t noticing mosquitoes any more. May Lake isn’t far, about 1.5 miles uphill to 9329 feet. The HSC there is really peaceful amongst the tall conifers sitting right on the easterly edge of a clear mountain lake rimmed trees and accented with mountain heather, having a commanding view across the shimmering waters to the snow capped peak of Mt Hoffmann to the west. From this vantage point Hoffmann’s summit looks very jagged and forbidding to all but technical climbers, but I discovered later on after hiking up beyond this point that it looks possible to scramble the top with intermediate skills. I’d really like to give it a go sometime, but no time for that today. I filtered some drinking water while savoring the air and then hit the trail.

The trail climbs up gently passing through some lush wooded areas, open green meadows, and across barren rocky outcrops. One of Yosemite’s most curious illusions of trees seemingly growing out of solid rock is a common sight as you hike across wavy areas of slick-rock. I passed one little un-named high lake off trail a bit that seemed to be like a natural blue swimming pool made of rock. Narrow sticks of weathered trees stand their ground around the perimeter concealing their secrets of survival. Continuing on the trail winds up higher and around to a nice little view point along an open rock ledge. The alpine high peaks stretch across above waves of flowing rock dotted with trees and strewn with boulders. After descending down a little the trail leads through some areas of moist vegetation, and then back up to what I will call “the pass”. It has no name, but if you continue on from here you will begin descending down the switchbacks toward Ten Lakes Basin. Right there at that point there is a little dome shaped peak that is just begging to be scrambled. Actually, you can practically just walk up the slope to the top. From here I got the best views of the day after climbing up along the smooth seams in the rock festooned with Mountain Pride Penstemon. The peak offers about a 75% panorama including a nice view to Tenaya Lake and Cloud’s Rest, and sweeping views of high peaks and rocky valleys, and another view of Mt Hoffmann looking south. On the map there is a place called Tuolumne Peak, but I was never sure exactly which peak that was. It may have been the dome I was on, but I’m still not sure. From the top the varying winds were intermittently chilly, and then in stillness it would be hot. I spent some quiet time here and at the little rock lake before returning to the car. But someday I will definitely have to come back and scramble Hoffmann.

Click here to see more photos from this hike

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