Tenaya Peak 5x WSC

Sun, Sep 12, 2021

With: Jackie Burd

Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
previously climbed Fri, Oct 2, 2015

Jackie had been home all summer, but we hadn't done any hikes together since early June. It was a combination of her working an intern position, me being gone for a month, illnesses and whatnot. She had a week left before it was time to head back to school, so we made plans to do some climbing/hiking in Yosemite. The Valley was expected to be 85 during the day, so I planned to head up to the higher country around Tuolumne Meadows. Jackie hasn't had any real training all summer and by her own admission was out of shape, so it seemed a good idea to pick something not too challenging. That ruled out a few good ones like Echo Peaks and Matthes Crest, but I thought Tenaya Peak would be just about right - it has a fairly short approach and easy class 5 climbing. It also has an abundance of slab climbing which Jackie doesn't like, but I think she just needs more practice. :-)

I was up at 3a, breakfasted, woke Jackie up, and together we headed off around 3:30a. The drive was a breeze with few cars on the highways at this hour. Jackie slept a bit on the drive, but mostly would end up with only about 4hrs of sleep for the night. It would compound issues later in the day. We stopped at the 24hr Starbucks in Mantecca to caffeine up, got gas and McDonalds in Oakdale, and made it to Yosemite's West Entrance at 6:50a. This was just a few minutes before it was set to open. We don't actually have a day pass for Sunday, so we were going to be winging it. We filled in one of the after-hour forms with Monday's daypass #, and left that on our dashboard. Don't know if it was checked while we were out hiking, but we had no ticket on the window when we got back.

We were at the Tenaya Lake East Beach parking lot and ready to head out around 8a. This was my fifth time climbing Tenaya Peak and the third time on its NW Buttress, but it had been 18yrs since I'd last done the route. Things have changed quite a bit since 2003 - not on the climbing route itself, but on the approach and descent routes. The route had been somewhat obscure back then, but its popularity increased tremendously with the advent of the Internet. There was now a multi-threaded use trail leading to the start, and a similar one for the descent route. We were on the maintained trail to East Beach for only a few minutes before I had us veer left on the second use trail we saw heading south. It went easily over Tenaya Creek (completely dry today) and then up the steepening slopes, a mix of forest and low-angle slabs. Out in front, Jackie did a decent job of following the trail, with occasional corrections from Dad behind her. In less than an hour we had finished with the approach trail, landing us at the base of the NW Buttress. We spent the next 45min scrambling up the lower portion of the buttress, an enjoyable effort with spectacular views of Tenaya Lake and the granite wonderland that is Yosemite. When the scrambing increased to class 3-4, we got out the rope and went about pitching out the rest of the route.

We probably could have scrambled much higher before getting out the rope, but it was Jackie's first climb since her lead fall nine months earlier and she's least comfortable trusting her shoes on slabs. We had no time constraints, so I figured we could just take our time and enjoy the fine weather, clear skies (no smoke today!) and views. Jackie wanted me to do the leading today, so the pitches would go fairly quickly - I didn't place much pro, at most two pieces, between belay points. We made something like 8-9 pitches in all. We were the first party on the mountain, eventually joined by two parties that were simul-climbing, and three individuals soloing the route. We spent about 4hrs with the rope, finally putting it away when we reached the ridgeline, maybe 100ft below the summit. It was 2p when we topped out and took a long break to have some snacks and take in the views. Jackie enjoyed being able to see all the other Yosemite summits she'd climbed over the past few years - Mt. Starr King, Half Dome, Mt. Hoffmann, Hoffmann's Thumb, and Cathedral Peak.

When it was time to leave, we dropped off the south side of the summit rocks, finding a use trail almost immediately. This, too, was new since 2003 and we took advantage of it, following it down Tenaya's SW Ridge, a combination of forest, slabs, and a small cliff area. Eventually the route turns northwest and north and becomes harder to follow. Sporadic ducks help, though we lost it a few times. Eventually, it drops into the wooded area on the SE side of Tenaya Lake, and then down to the maintained trail near the shore of the lake. While we were still on the slabs, looking for the tell-tale ducks to show the way, Jackie went through a phase transition - from sunny, chatty Jackie, to petulant Jackie. She was feeling light-headed, needed to sit down frequently, and was very tired, closing her eyes as though she were going to fall asleep. I stopped to sit with her, telling her we could go at a slower pace (I was already going slow as I had developed a limp when we'd started down). After we reached the forest and had some trouble following the trail through downfall areas, she went off ahead through the woods at a faster pace than I could follow. I was a little concerned I would lose her and she might get disoriented, but I don't think it was really that serious - she knew that we had to go counter-clockwise around the lake to get back to the parking lot and could probably do it without me. She eventually stopped when she reached the maintained trail near the lake, and together we hiked the remaining distance mostly in silence.

It was 4p by the time we got back to the Jeep. Jackie had started to talk again when we'd reached East Beach and apologized for her behavior. I surmised it was a combination of lack of sleep, altitude sickness, fatigue and dehydration, none of which are very pleasant. We drove east on SR120, over Tioga Pass and down to US395 where we planned to dine at the Whoa Nellie. Jackie wanted to nap before dinner, so I sat out on a picnic bench and did some work while she dozed. It was quite pleasant, around 77F at 5p. After dinner, we drove down towards Mono Lake where we found a quiet place between the highway and the lake to spend the night. Jackie set up sleeping gear outside, while I set up inside the Jeep. We were both asleep by 8p, having earned our 10hrs of rest...

Continued...


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