West Sheep Peak P300
Sheep Peak 2x P500
North Peak 4x P500 SPS / WSC / PD / CS

Sat, Aug 5, 2023

With: Tom Becht
Iris Ma
Tom Grundy
Kristine Swigart
Sean Casserly
Sean King
Lucas Bravo
Emma Lautanen
Jonathan Mason
Chris Henry
Clement Guillaume
Yumi Vielpeau
Matthew Rosen
Keith Hamrick
Dylan Doblar
Zee Chunawala
Colin McKinlay
Drew Doblar
David Schaper
Andrew Schaper

Sheep Peak
North Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Sheep Peak previously climbed Thu, Aug 5, 2010
North Peak previously climbed Sat, Jul 31, 2004


Day 2 of the Sierra Challenge was my first day of actually participating this year. The Challenge peak was West Sheep, an officially unnamed summit in Northern Yosemite. It would be a moderate effort, about 11mi roundtrip with 4,200ft of gain. I had been to the other summits in the area (Sheep, North, Conness), so planned to visit West Sheep and return. I was feeling better than expected and ended up tagging two bonus peaks before returning for the day.

The first Saturday of the Challenge is usually one of the most popular days, and this one didn't disappoint. We had over twenty folks at the Saddlebag Lake parking lot for the 6a start. Only three weeks ago, most of the parking lot and surrounding area was still buried in 4-5ft of snow, but it had fortunately all melted out for the Challenge. A long line of folks headed across the Saddlebag Lake dam, then onto the westside trail that leads north and northwest to the north end of the large lake. About half the trail was still snow covered, but regular use over the past few weeks left a boot path that would keep us from needing crampons even with the firm morning snow conditions. Between Saddlebag and Greenstone Lakes, we turned west to follow a use trail around the south side of Greenstone and then up into the Conness Lakes basin. Our group was splintering the whole while, the faster folks getting well out ahead of me and most of the others. By the time I reached the lowest of the Conness Lakes, I was hiking with just a few others. We donned crampons to climb the snow slope leading to the highest of the Conness Lakes, then again to climb steep snow leading up to the SW shoulder of North Peak. Both of these sections could be avoided with alternate snow-free options available, but since we brought them, we put the crampons and axe to use.

I had climbed a narrow snow couloir to the left of the shoulder while the rest of the crew took easier lines to the right. I was by myself when I topped out on the shoulder which forms part of the Sierra Crest. The descent into the Roosevelt Lake drainage was pretty easy, down 900ft of sand and scree mixed with granite rocks. After reaching the 10,900-foot level, I began traversing around the drainage and the east side of Sheep Peak, a summit I had climbed in 2010 with Laura Molnar. I then began an ascending traverse, aiming for the SE shoulder of Sheep Peak that would lead to the connecting ridgeline to West Sheep. There were some small cliffs found here, and I spotted Yumi ahead of me trying several variations before finding a way through that I then followed. She ended up climbing higher to avoid the steep snow route that I was aiming for. It looked difficult from a distance, but turned out to be easier than the other slopes I had cramponed up. In fact, it took only 3-4 minutes to climb it, using the pick of the axe on the hard, shaded snow.

The ridge to West Sheep is not easy, so I did what most others did, dropping some on the south side where the going was easier. I ran into Clement and Rob on their way back from West Sheep, the first two to reach its summit (Rob would take the stage win because Clement went off to climb a bonus peak). Others had gone to North Peak or Sheep Peak first, which explained why I saw no one else until I got to the summit of West Sheep just before 10:30a, a 4.5hr effort. I found Sean King relaxing there, waiting for Dylan to show up so they could head off to Conness (he'd gone to Sheep Peak first), making me the 4th at the summit. I hung around for 20min, by which time another six had joined us, most of them coming via way of Sheep Peak. Sadly, I forgot to pack a register and nobody else had one either, so this one remained unspoiled by the Sierra Challenge.

As I headed back across the ridgeline to Sheep Peak's SE shoulder, I ran across a handful of other climbers, including Tom B, Sean C, and Iris & Yumi. It was only after returning to the shoulder that I decided I had some extra energy and headed to Sheep Peak. The South Ridge is difficult to follow directly, but one doesn't have to drop to much off the east side to find class 3 scrambling that would take me to the summit by noon. The register had entries for the five other participants that had visited it earlier. In the older register, I also found my entry from 2010 on the last page.

I made a descending traverse off the east side of Sheep, intending to stay high in the drainage, but eventually having to drop to avoid cliffs. I then started up the West Slope of North Peak, the most tedious segment of the day, the slope having lots of loose sand/scree mixed with rock. I would have to ascend 2/3 of the slope to get back over the SW shoulder, and by the time I had climbed that far, I decided to continue up to the summit of North Peak. This took longer than hoped and I was pretty knackered by the time I reached the summit around 2p. This was looking to be a pretty full day. I took a short break at the top, signed the register and took some pictures of the surrounding terrain. Unlike yesterday, today was very clear and the views phenomenal.

I headed south off the summit of North Peak, following use trails before forking left to descend a chute off the SE side of the peak. This worked out to be a nice boot ski for much of the 1,000-foot descent to the highest of the Conness Lakes. The route avoided all the snow I had climbed earlier in the day. Once down to the lake, I took an alternate route back through the basin, giving me the opportunity to visit some of the other lakes found there. I eventually returned to one of the use trails around 3:30p and spent the next hour plying the trail network back to the trailhead at the Saddlebag dam. There were more than a dozen others that had returned earlier, now congregating near Jim's RV. Jim was quick to offer a beer and chair to rest in - much appreciated! Later we would have dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli at the bottom of Tioga Rd, then off to the Mammoth Lakes area where we would hike the next day. A tiring one this, and I would sleep well off a USFS portion of Old Mammoth Rd.


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This page last updated: Thu Aug 17 19:42:30 2023
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