Peak 10,606ft P500
Peak 10,542ft P500
Hoffmann Turret CS
Mt. Hoffmann 4x P2K WSC / CS
Peak 9,222ft P900

Tue, Jun 18, 2013
Mt. Hoffmann
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2
Peak 10,606ft later climbed Sun, Oct 8, 2017
Mt. Hoffmann previously climbed Fri, Oct 2, 2009
later climbed Fri, Sep 8, 2017


The Tuolumne/Mariposa county line nearly bisects Yosemite NP, running along the divide between the watersheds of the Tuolumne and Merced rivers. In the center of this, where the county line runs north of SR120 are two unnamed 10,000-foot summits with more than 500ft of prominence. They are surrounded by the Ten Lakes area, a lightly visited portion of the park with several excellent trails reaching it from the east and west. I had originally planned to use one of these starting from Yosemite Creek, but the evening before I decided it might be easier, and more scenic to approach from May Lake. So having spent the night in the back of the van at the May Lake TH, I was up after 6a and on my way about a quarter to 7a - not a particularly early start, but then I didn't expect it to be a very long or difficult day.

Under blue skies, it took about half an hour to hike to the High Sierra Camp located at May Lake. There was a handful of cars at the TH, some of these backpackers camped around May Lake, others perhaps belonging to some of the staff preparing the High Sierra Camp for the summer season. I saw a small herd of deer foraging around the camp, but no people up and about as I passed through. It took another half hour to hike the slabby slopes to a high saddle between Mt. Hoffmann and Tuolumne Peak where I could access the county line and the high ridge running NW-SE across the two unnamed peaks. The north side of Mt. Hoffmann showed more snow than I had expected and there was some on the slopes I would need to traverse to gain the county ridgeline, but not enough to be much of a hindrance. From the saddle I could easily make out the two peaks, the further more than two miles away, looking even further over undulating terrain. I crossed the West Face of Peak 10,633ft on a descending traverse to gain the ridge and start hiking along the crest. Having no good idea how difficult the cross-country would be along the crest, I had some trepidation but this proved unfounded. The entire ridge was class 2 and made for a scenic and very pleasant stroll. On the right was the South Fork of Cathedral Peak overshadowed by Tuolumne Peak. To the left was Mt. Hoffmann towering over an unnamed fork of Yosemite Creek. One could easily see far across the park both north and south, taking in a majority of the Yosemite backcountry.

I reached the higher Peak 10,606ft by 9:20a. I found no register on this or any other peak on the day, not even Mt. Hoffmann. From the summit I could see the northern boundary of Yosemite, Tower Peak to the left, Matterhorn and Twin to the right. In the forground was the Tuolumne Gorge. Though I couldn't see into the gorge itself, I could see many of the surrounding points on both sides including Rancheria Mtn, Cold Mtn and Falls Ridge. The eastern park boundary could be seen over Tuolumne Peak in that direction, Mts. Conness and Dana easily discernable though washed out some in the early morning sun. Far to the southeast could be seen Lyell/Maclure while Mt. Hoffmann dominates the view south. To the northwest was Peak 10,542ft to which I next turned my attention.

The ridgeline continued to be class 2, with some undulations that took me about 50 minutes to cross in getting from one summit to the other. Much of the views are similar with the exception of Grant Lakes now visible below to the northwest. Somewhere down there is the trail that I had originally planned to take up. It probably would have been faster in getting to Peak 10,542ft, but not the combination of the two peaks. I next wanted to pay a visit to Hoffmann Turret, located low on the NW Ridge of Mt. Hoffmann. The only information I could find on this formation was in Secor's guide describing a 5.9 route on one side. I wondered if there wasn't an easier way to the summit and decided to pay it a visit to find out.

The major problem in getting from where I was on the county ridgeline over to Mt. Hoffmann was the deep Yosemite Creek tributary that I needed to descend for almost 2,000ft. I left the summit of Peak 10,542ft heading south, initially intending to follow its SW Ridge all the way down to the creek, but I got distracted by a pleasant-looking side canyon to my left and was drawn down in its direction off the ridge. The route was pleasant enough, but not without some route-finding challenges in the lower half where there was some searching about to keep the route to class 3 as things got steeper. A pair of fat marmots came out to watch me at one point, perhaps wondering why such a funny-looking fellow creature was walking through their backyard. Once down at the creek, crossing it was easy as there wasn't all that much water. Harder was climbing the 1,000ft to Pt. 9,547ft on the south side, no more than class 2 but steep. Once this was accomplished the cross-country travel became pleasant once more. The easy gradient along the ridge led past several small unnamed lakes as Mt. Hoffmann loomed nearer. Lake 9,630ft in particular looked to be a very nice location for a backcountry camp. The Turret could be seen a short distance away at the base of Mt. Hoffmann. Even from a distance it was clear I wasn't going to find a way up on the sides I could see. I was considering skipping it altogether and heading up to Hoffmann's easier SW Ridge, but then thought I ought to at least go check out the saddle with the NW Ridge, the shortest route, if there was one I could do on that side.

I crossed the creek draining Lake 9,820ft at a small cascade. Here I could see that there was a feasible way to reach the saddle at the very least. The NW Ridge of Hoffmann looked like it might make an interesting ascent after checking out the Turret. My route crossed a bit of firm snow, but mostly over boulder and talus as I made my way above Lake 9,820ft. I reached the saddle around 12:45p and starting scouting routes to its summit, about 100ft above the saddle. The initial assessment did not look good as the right side from the saddle was definitely mid-class 5. I then walked around some intervening scrub pines to check out the left side and this looked more promising. Very promising, in fact. The hardest part was in the beginning, a short class 4 stretch above which the route only grew easier. It was exposed to be sure, but the footing and handholds were quite solid and I managed to climb to the top from the saddle in less than seven minutes. I looked around for a register, again coming up empty, took some photos looking around from the perch, then descended in an equal amount of time. That had gone much quicker than I had anticipated.

I next turned my attention to the NW Ridge of Hoffmann. This was a much longer scramble than the Turret, obviously, but not without its own charms. There were significant sections of class 3 in following the ridge up. Exit ramps existed in several places to the right across cliffs on the West Face to allow a traverse to the easier SW Ridge. I ignored the lower of these ramps but passed through a small keyhole and used a higher ramp where I found it necessary to bypass a small pinnacle along the direct route up the ridge. Oddly, I found a section of a fishing pole that had been dropped by a previous visitor. In all I spent 40 enjoyable minutes climbing the ridge before finally reaching easier ground a short distance below the summit.

Now 1:45p, I decided to pay Hoffmanns Thumb a visit. I had climbed this with Matthew almost four years earlier. I didn't remember the details of the climb, but thought perhaps it was 5.5 or 5.6 and maybe I could solo it. As I reached the south side of the impressive 80-foot pinnacle, the memory of the sloping traverse around that side came back. I moved across the downsloping ledge to view up the SE side that has the crux of the climb. My heart skipped a beat when I saw how tough it looked. More memories came back. I wasn't going to solo this - it was more like 5.7. I could even see the old piton ring that we had used on that first pitch, where the crux went. Properly humbled, I retreated off the rock.

I next went to the summit of Hoffmann, five minutes away, reaching it at 2p. A father and son were there taking in the sights. This was the first summit for the eight year-old boy and he was suitably impressed. A large, furry summit resident came out to see what I was up to. The father reported that it would do tricks for a handful of granola. Of course I didn't admonish the pair for feeding the tubby rodent - that would have been rude - but I also didn't contribute to its obesity issue. I was not long at the summit after snapping a few photos of the Turret and taking in the day's route looking north and northwest. I passed by the father and son carefully making their way down the granite blocks on the east side of Hoffmann's summit as well as several other parties now making their way to the top. I followed the unofficial trail down about half way to May Lake, taking an extended cross-country shortcut down to a picturesque high meadow. Here I regained the trail, following it back to May Lake and then the last mile and change back to the TH where I arrived not long before 3p.

Wanting to visit one last summit, I drove back to SR120 and then west for about ten miles to the Yosemite Creek Rd on the south side of the highway. Part of this road follows the old Tioga mining road built in the 1880s. As old roads usually are, this one is narrow and windy. The pavement is in poor condition, but a collection of road working equipment found along the road suggests the Park Service is planning to do something about this. I parked off the side of the road in a clearing, about two miles from Peak 9,222ft and almost as close as I could drive. This unnamed peak, with 922ft of prominence, lies about three miles south of White Wolf and like the earlier unnamed peaks, lies on the same crest between the two major drainages and the same county line. It is lower and more forested here, however, without the dramatic terrain features and I did not expect it to be very exciting. It wasn't.

If not exciting, at least the cross-country was pretty easy. I hiked from the car up to the crest and followed through the forest along the county line. Higher up, less than half a mile from the summit, the crest became flat with fewer trees, offering some views. I found a boundary marker of some sort here, a short steel pole garnished with a few granite rocks. There was also some old barbed-wire fencing nearby, long in disuse and lying rusting on the ground. The summit area to the south was similarly flat but more forested and providing fewer views. The highpoint was actually discernable as a small outcrop of layered granite rock. Not surprising, there was no cairn or register to mark the summit and I left none in return. This last hike took all of an hour and a half, getting me back to the car by 5p. It was not recommendation-worthy.

But even if the last summit had proved no hidden gem, the day on the whole had been quite fun. The climb of Hoffmanns Turret was the highlight of the day and a good one. That one I could unequivocably recommend to the scrambler looking for some fun in a scenic location off the beaten path.

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