Aug 3, 2001
|Photos / Slideshow
|Maps: 1 2
|Profiles: 1 2
previously attempted Jul 11, 1993
later climbed Jun 10, 2004
I awoke shortly after 5a. It was rather chilly and the sun had yet to rise. I was sacked out at 11,000ft on the summit of Mt. Gaylor, just off Tioga Pass, as part of my acclimatizing plan for the 10-day Emblem Challenge that was to start the next day. I planned to spend today hiking to Ragged Peak north of Tuolumne Meadows, a short but fun hike, which would give me a day to acclimatize more fully before heading up to the higher peaks. My first order of business was to get myself off Mt. Gaylor and back to my car without getting a ticket from an early-bird ranger. I was camped illegally since I didn't meet the four-mile rule for camping away from CA120. Even if I claimed I had camped outside the Yosemite Border (I was a few yards from it) I still didn't have a Wilderness permit to allow me to camp in the adjacent Hoover Wilderness. But I figured if I got back to the car before 6a I should have little chance of an unwanted ranger encounter. I was dressed and had my stuff packed up in about 15 minutes, and walked over to the ridge to take in the coming morning and snap a few photos. I would have stayed longer to wait for sunrise, but I was a bit concerned that my car down at the small lot by the Tioga entrance station might draw the attention of the rangers. It was the only car in the lot when I parked there late the previous evening.
I was back down in about 20 minutes, the last several hundred yards I went rather slowly looking for signs of human life that I might want to avoid. The sun had come up and begun to light up the Cathdral Range to the south. An elderly gentleman out for an early morning hike passed me on his way up, and we exchanged greetings. At the car there was no one stirring about, no ticket on the window, and no bear damage (I had left two unopened boxes of cereal in the trunk, having forgotten them when I stashed the rest of the food in a bearbox). Excellent. I threw my gear in the car and drove back to the Cathedral Lakes trailhead where I had my food stashed. I ate breakfast on the side of the road there, then packed all the food back into my car and drove to the Lembert Dome parking lot. It was pretty empty at seven in the morning, as one might expect. Taking only a waistpack for the day, I then headed out for Ragged Peak.
I'd been to Ragged Peak a number of years ago, but not to the summit. I had crossed the spine from west to east, but had not climbed further north to where the summit blocks are. Another time I had gone through "Ragged Pass," immediately on the peak's east side which provides a shortcut to Young Lakes. Terry and I had gone backpacking to Young Lakes and he let me talk him into taking this cross-country route. It turned out to be quite enjoyable, and no harder than class 2, though that depends on snow conditions - the north side of the pass can be filled with steep snow in early season or heavy snow years.
The shortest route to Ragged Peak is on the trail that heads northeast out of the Lembert Dome parking lot. There are short side spurs that go to Lembert Dome via the north side and to Dog Lake which is just north of Lembert Dome. After passing the Dog Lake junction, the trail heads north, climbing only gradually as it crosses Delaney Creek and continues to Dingley Creek. At Delaney Creek there is large meadow (aptly named Delaney Meadow, I believe). In times past I have been forced to flee for my life due to the ferocious mosquitoes that inhabit this meadow. Today it is much different, the creek is low and the meadow dry, thanks to low snow conditions this year. I bat at only a few of the pests as I calmly stroll through the meadow, feeling quite superior for the moment, but inside I know it is a temporary victory. The trail runs southwest of peak 10410, which has some very interesting cliffs with what looks to be superb climbing routes. I imagine several possible routes as I examine the cliffs from below, looking for lines of attack along various crack running vertically up the walls. It is all just a game though, as the routes are much harder than I have the skills to climb. Perhaps some day I will be able to use a more discerning eye that only experience can provide.
As I climb higher towards Dingley Creek, the forest begins to thin out and Ragged Peak comes into view about a mile to the north. There is a high meadow in the upper reaches of Dingley Creek, and it is here that I leave the trail and head towards Ragged Peak. I paused briefly at the creek to have a snack and watch the water meandering through the meadow. The water is low, only inches deep in the channels that have been dug two to three feet deep in the meadow. Thick tufts of grass bulge around the edges, holding the sides of the sandy soil from collapsing further into the creek, and making it difficult at times to discern the edge of the creek. The water trickles downstream, with a few small fish making the most of the deeper pools that can be found occasionally. I imagine their stress level must rise significantly before this dry year draws to a close towards October or November. This meadow also offers fine views of the Cathedral Range to the south as I enjoy a snack. I leave the alpine meadow as I climb higher onto the slopes leading up to Ragged Pass. There is some dry, scrubby growth here among much rock and sand, but nothing that makes cross-country travel difficult. On the east slopes of Ragged Peak (which is a long ridge running roughly N-S), there is evidence of use trails in various locales where the sand is most pronounced. These make for poor upward travel, and I chose to head more-or-less diagonally towards the high point traversing upwards to the right across some large talus and boulders.
I reached the crest of the ridge just south of the summit blocks, where there is a small saddle between the main summit blocks to the north and the ridge running to the south. There are four or five large outcroppings of rocks that pretend to be the true summit. If you're not sure, keep climbing north and you'll find a higher one. The west side of the ridge is mostly cliffs near the summit blocks, but the east side provides relatively easy travelling among the large blocks. I found the largest of the outcroppings and climbed some fun class 3, airy at times, to the summit. I found no summit register, but the views more than make up for the lack of a register. The perch here provides a great view of Mt. Conness to the northeast, and Young Lakes far below. On the far side of Tuolumne Meadows to the south rises the Cathedral Range, with the whole crest of it visible from Mt. Lyell to Cathedral Peak. To the west are Mts. Hoffmann and Tuolumne, and much of Northern Yosemite. The Sierra crest is visible from Tower Peak in the north, all along the eastern horizon as far south as Mt. Davis near Banner Peak.
I stayed a short while, enjoying a snack and the views, and then headed back down. I chose a more direct, and considerably sandier route down to the pass, where I noted the use trail heading down the north side that I had taken some nine years ago. I turned and headed back south, following a use trail leading from the pass. The trail peters out after a few hundred yards, and one is left to fend for himself cross-country. No matter, since it's pretty easy to just head south until one comes across the regular trail I had left a few hours earlier. Shortly after regaining the trail I came across a ranger out for a stroll, the first person I'd seen since breakfast. We exchanged greetings, each then heading off in his own direction (the ranger was hiking up to Young Lakes to patrol the area).
Shortly before returning, I took the side trail to visit Dog Lake, an easy and worthwhile extra quarter mile. A family was playing by the lake. I took a photo and beat a retreat, leaving the family with their private lake once again. Closer to the parking lot the trail came alive with other hikers out for a mid-morning hike to either Lembert Dome or Dog Lake. As I returned to the car the lot was already full, and crowds buzzing about, preparing to hike, picnicking at the tables, or watching the climbers on the smooth SW slope of Lembert. It had been a fine morning hike, taking about 3 1/2 hours. I hadn't felt any altitude sickness and was feeling pretty good about going to 12,000ft+ the next day on Matterhorn. I was also pretty hungry and had been looking forward to some excellent fish tacos down at the Mobil station. These I enjoyed while I downloaded pictures from my camera to my laptop. Later that evening I would upload them to the internet in what became a nightly ritual, providing a near-realtime virtual hiking experience.
I found a motel room in Lee Vining where I would spend the next two nights, before and after climbing Matterhorn Peak. I still had plenty of time in the afternoon, so I went searching the town for some duct tape which I had forgotten to pack in the car from home. After checking the drug store and the bait shop, I came across the small hardware store which seemed a cinch to carry something as versatile as duct tape. I found many other types of tape along one wall, but not the familiar gray sticky tape. Asking the elderly clerk who was the only other person in the store at the time, he indicated that there was likely some duct tape in the new shipment that he'd just received. The boxes were piled somewhat haphazardly to one side, and I thought he might help me find what I was looking for amongst them. Instead, he said "I might get to unpackin' 'em tomorrow, maybe not." Customer service was not one of Lee Vining's specialties.
Later I had dinner at Nicely's, a mistake. I had poor food and service there the last time I ate there, but somehow thought I should give it another chance. The fish sandwich was rather bland and the fries kinda soggy and forgettable. Folks used to speak highly of the food there, but it has been some time since I'd heard anything positive. I believe that will be the last time I eat there, at least until the management changes again. After uploading pictures to the internet back in the motel, I packed up my gear for the following day and went to bed early, around 8p.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Ragged Peak
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