Tenaya Peak WSC / CS

Sun, Jun 22, 2003

With: Matthew Holliman

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 Profile
later climbed Fri, Aug 1, 2003


After two days and many miles, it was time to head back. Michael wasn't interested in any more hiking and drove home after breakfast. Matthew still had some "go" in him so we opted for an easy outing to Tenaya Peak from the Tenaya Lake Campground. I'd driven past the peak countless times over the years, always gawking at the many cliffs and granite domes, but only recently learning the names of the features in this area.

This first visit to the peak (we would come back again in five weeks) was simply to tag the summit as a peakbagging expedition, so we chose the easiest route from the southwest. We found one of the hardest sections to be about 100 yards from the trailhead when we had to cross Tenaya Creek. In late June the creek was not rushing, but it was quite full and a good 40 yards or so of open water to cross. No downed logs would help here. To make things more urgent, the mosquitoes were quite nasty and thick, and they seemed to sense our hesitency taking full advantage of our momentary stillness. I removed my socks and shoes quickly and charged off across the creek, pondering why the Park Service hadn't built a bridge here within spitting distance to the road, campground, and picnic areas. I waited briefly on the other side for Matthew to get his boots and socks back on, moving around constantly to keep the mosquitoes from taking advantage of me. Once we were moving again, the little buggers never bothered us the rest of the day.

We didn't stay on the trail long, and were soon heading cross-country south and up a low shoulder that forms the lower reaches of Tenaya Peak's Southwest Ridge. As we topped out on the shoulder I spied some interesting-looking granite slabs further up on the ridge, and modified our intended route so that we could intersect them. This turned out to be a fine idea, as the slabs proved to be great class 3 granite, complete with cracks, use of hands, fine views, and even some wildflower displays. Matthew was unsure about the footing on the slabs and questioned the wisdom of our route a few times, but I would simply respond with the old climbers' mantra, "Trust the shoes." It was really just a matter of getting used to such terrain and this short scramble made for great practice. Matthew's confidence had increased a good deal by the time we were done with the hardest part. We followed the ridge as it angled southeast all the way up to where it flattens out some before turning to the northeast for the last 800ft. Here we kept more to the right (south) side of the ridge, following faint use trails wherever we could, particularly as the Southwest Ridge became more serrated. Behind us we had a great view of the upper reaches of Tenaya Canyon, a project I had planned for later in the season, so I spent a few moments to acquaint myself with the lay of the land in that direction.

It was just before 11a as we reached the blocky summit, two and half hours after starting out. We stayed long enough to take some pictures of the fine views to be had in all directions, and to have a snack. One could almost see all the peaks within Yosemite, from the Sawtooth Range to the north, to Mts. Lyell & Maclure to the south, and the Clark Range to the southwest. Only a few of the peaks on Yosemite's SE border (behind Florence and Lyell) were hidden from our view. It was a fine day weather-wise, and I took some time to enjoy a delightful display from the thin cloud layer above us.

Upon leaving, we headed nearly due south down easy, sandy slopes and mild granite slabs to Mildred Lake, expecting to find an easier route back that way. This was true for the most part, but to the west where we followed the creek drainage down we encountered a bit more of a challenge than we'd expected. Wide granite slabs form a huge bowl down which the stream trickled, but the angle grew steeper the further down we went. We angled more to the north both to avoid the steepest sections and to make our return a bit more direct. We played a bit on the granite slopes, not always choosing the easiest way, and idled away some time enjoying more wildflower displays. We eventually came back upon the route we had taken up, and followed this general path back to the trail, across the creek, and back to our car. The descent took us a bit less than two hours.

After changing into some fresh clothes, we grabbed some drinks out of the cooler and settled in for the long drive back to the Bay Area. Another three days of fun in the books!

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