Tue, Jun 19, 2012
|Story||Photos / Slideshow||Maps: 1 2 3||GPXs: 1 2||Profiles: 1 2|
Rafferty Peak previously climbed Tue, Sep 14, 1999|
I passed through the Tuolumne Campground and found the start of the trail on its eastern end. I reached the junction with the JMT twenty minutes later and the Rafferty Creek Trail shortly thereafter. The trail was much as I remembered it from my last visit some years ago, wide and dusty with a healthy dose of horse poop. The latter comes as no surprise since the trail is part of the large loop in Yosemite that connects the various High Sierra Camps, and all that good living in the High Country needs mules and horses to supply it. I reached the open meadows of the Rafferty Creek drainage as the sun was rising on Fletcher Peak to the south. The Sierra Crest to the east was glowing with the imminent appearance of the sun.
I was at the 10,000-foot Tuolumne Pass by 6:10a where I left the trail to head west for the last mile and a quarter to my peak. The cross-country was varied with portions of easy forest travel punctuated by rocky slabs and outcrops that required some circuitous meanders to get through. I had a good view of the peak from a local highpoint shortly off the trail, noticing some non-trivial cliffs on the side facing me. This seemed a bit odd since Secor gives a terse class 2 rating for the SE Slope. Later I would find this simple description was handed down since Voge's first guide and has neglected the more difficult crest of the peak.
After reaching above treeline, I found sandy slopes over most of the SE side as I made an ascending traverse towards what I thought was the highpoint at the south end (where the topo map gives the spot elevation of 11,357ft). There is a fine view of the Vogelsang area both west and east of Tuolumne Pass during the ascent. Thinking the steep cliffs would be easier upon closer inspection, I made my way up to what seemed a likely ascent route through a break of sorts in the cliffband. This turned into a hairy class 5 affair a short distance from the crest, forcing a retreat to safer ground. I continued south along the cliffband until I found an easier, though still not easy break in the cliff that afforded a way up. Reaching the crest to the south of the southwest summit, this fun little bit was more than I had expected, to be sure. A minute later I had found what I thought was the highpoint.
From atop the southwest summit it seemed clear that the northeast summit several hundred yards to the north was higher. I made my way along the crest, easier now on the northwest side, to the higher summit in less than ten minutes. Both summits I would rate class 3 as I found no easier way up either of them. Though the peak held no register that I could find, it did hold yet more surprises in the way of interesting pinnacles on the traverse north as I left the higher summit. A lower pinnacle was even more difficult, probably a class 4-5 finish that I did not make the extra effort to ascend. By now I had had enough of the spicy scrambling and was looking forward to a more relaxing traverse to Rafferty and Peak 11,105ft.
The going did indeed grow easier, trivial almost up the class 1 of Rafferty's South Ridge. It took about 45 minutes to get from Peak 11,357ft to Rafferty Peak. A rusty ammo box held a register that dated back only a few years. Another book, one that probably holds my earlier entry from 1999 was badly water damaged and pretty much unreadable. Arun Mahajan and Bob Suzuki, familiar names from the PCS were one of the last parties to visit the summit in 2011.
In descending the North Ridge of Rafferty, I recalled from the previous visit that the route is primarily a large boulder hop effort. As it was expected, it wasn't as bad as anticipated and I managed to make good time down to the saddle with Peak 11,105ft. The initial uphill to the third peak went smoothly at first but where the crest turns west the route becomes a ton of boulders almost half a mile in length. I reached one false summit only to find the true summit still half an hour away over yet more boulders. It was almost 10:30a before I reached the non-descript summit. A battered aluminum plate that is bolted to the rock is all that remains of what was probably a register box at one time. I found no sign of another anywhere about the summit. There is an exceptional view to the south of Peak 11,357ft, offering its most photographic side and the location of several class 5 climbs described in Secor's guide. To the southwest is the Echo Creek drainage with Reymann and Nelson Lakes visible. Two miles to the west is the impressive fin of Matthes Crest and other more famous peaks of the Cathedral Range. To the northwest is Elizabeth lake and Tuolumne Meadows framed by the granite domes and peaks of Northern Yosemite.
To descend, I continued west along the crest a short ways, more boulders encouraging me to get off the ridge sooner rather than later. I dropped off the ridgeline to the north, using some soft snow where I could for glissading (though there was very little), but mostly had to make my way down broken rock and talus. At least there was little bushwhacking on the 1,600-foot descent to Elizabeth Lake. There is a large meadow southeast of the lake that I wandered into, finding a use trail running across it. A pair of hikers were the first persons I was to run into today, though more and more would be found as I continued towards Tioga Rd. It was 11:30a when I left the meadow and crossed Unicorn Creek, finding the Elizabeth Lake Trail easily enough. It is a wide, well-used trail and took about 40 minutes to return to my car parked on the highway.
As it was barely past noon, I decided to pay a side visit to Daff Dome located ten minutes to the west, just north of the highway. My beta said the easiest route was class 3-4, a short bit of challenge that fit the bill nicely. I parked at a small turnout along the road and spent about 20 minutes making my way uphill to the east side of the granite dome. Along the way I came across a shard of obsidian that looked to be the remnant of an indian tool. I examined it for a minute or so and then put it back on the ground where I found it to give the next lucky visitor the same simple pleasure.
The east side of Daff Dome consists of pockmarked slabs that start off steeply before rolling off to easier class 3 gradients. The crux is only a minute off the deck where I spent some time route-finding for the best holds and small ledges to wind my way through the steepest part. A pair of rap bolts are found about 50ft up, evidence that at least some of the climbers that visit the dome don't want to bother with a bit of tricky slab downclimbing. They would probably come up one of the more difficult routes and might rather just get back down by the time they got to this point.
It was not quite 1p when I reached the summit. A small cairn marked the highpoint, but no register. Though not very high, it offers a delightful perch to take in the sights around Tuolumne Meadows. A number of places I had visited in the past few months were prominent, including Falls Ridge to the north, Fairview Dome and Cathedral Peak to the south and Medlicott Dome to the southwest. Once I was ready to leave, it took only fifteen minutes to get myself back off the east side and back down through the forest to my car. It was still early in the afternoon, but my legs felt they were done for the day and it was time to drive home. It would be my last visit to the Sierra for the month, but that only meant there were other places I would soon be setting off for...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Daff Dome
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