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Vertical Hiking at Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Peak

Tenaya Peak

I have a feeling it might be self-indulgent to post about rock climbing for a largely non-climbing audience — it has a distinct ‘Look at me, I’m on top of the rock!’ quality — but there is clearly some connection between my interests in stonework and rock climbing, so I’ll go for it. In any case, what Anita and I do is often not so much rock climbing as it is vertical hiking, long climbs that are not particularly difficult but very scenic. We recently managed to sneak in a trip to Tuolumne Meadows and the Tenaya Lake area to do some absolutely beautiful vertical hikes before the fall planting season swallows us up for a while (55 lbs. of bulbs coming, among other things). It doesn’t get much more scenic than the area around Tenaya Lake.

Tenaya Summit

Tenaya Summit

Tenaya Peak was probably the highlight. The view from the top includes Half Dome and all of the peaks of the Tuolumne area, and the climbing is low-angle and easy. The approach morphs into the climb and eventually you think, ‘Maybe I should put on my Spiderman rock shoes,’ and then a while later you think, ‘Maybe we should rope up,’ and then later you realize, ‘ Wow, I’m on the top, what a view.’ Rubberneckers in the parking lot and other non-climbers never believe me, but all that’s needed is a pair of sticky-rubber shoes with someone to manage the rope and anyone could do this climb. It’s truly beautiful.

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake

Foxtail Pine on Tenaya Peak

Foxtail Pine on Tenaya Peak

There’s always a surprising number of plants growing on the rock. We got to to hang out with one of the poster children for global warming, the pika. Pika’s can’t deal with heat and for the most part retreated up onto alpine peaks a long time ago. Now that the climate is warming even more, they are stranded on those peaks, unable to migrate north to cooler locations.

Pika!

Pika!

Stately Pleasure Dome at Tenaya Lake

Stately Pleasure Dome at Tenaya Lake

We climbed a few of the other domes in the area. The Stately Pleasure Dome is appropriately, if a bit grandiosely, named. Great White Book, up the white dihedral near the center of the main face, is one of the most enjoyable climbs I’ve ever done. Pywiack Dome is another dome we climbed, an almost unbroken slab. It’s all some of the most perfect granite I’ve ever seen.

Pywiack Dome

Pywiack Dome

Can you spot the climbers?

Can you spot the climbers?

Looking around on wikimedia, I found some photos that zoom in on climbers on the dome. You can click to enlarge.

Can you spot the climbers?

Can you spot the climbers?

Climbers on Pywiack Dome

Climbers on Pywiack Dome

That’s not us, but we did rappel from those same anchors.

Glacial Erratics at Lake Tenaya, by Edward Muybridge c. 1870

Glacial Erratics at Lake Tenaya, by Edward Muybridge c. 1870

I also found this copy of an old stereoscope from the 1870’s. That man clearly wishes he had my sticky-rubber shoes to climb that boulder with.

Look at me, I'm on top of the rock!

Look at me, I'm on top of the rock!

——–

Yosemite National Park, especially the Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya area, is my favorite place in the Sierras. Pam at Digging is of the same mind, with a post calling Yosemite the most beautiful place on earth. She’s writing about national parks this week and compiling a list of posts from other bloggers. Check here to see the ongoing collection.

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11 Responses to “Vertical Hiking at Tenaya Lake”

  1. October 3rd, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Town Mouse says:

    Beautiful! Love the granite. I do think we hiked around this lake July 4th weekend, getting so wet that we shortened the planned 12 lakes hike. It’s great to see it without rain and clouds…

  2. October 4th, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Frances says:

    Oh my goodness, what a view, Ryan! We do see the tie in with your love of rock. The granite is amazing, not the kind of rocks our mountains are made of around here in the TN-NC boundary. We did live in CA and saw the mountains, without sticky shoes. Breathtaking, and nothing like it elsewhere on earth. Thanks for showing us. 🙂
    Frances

  3. October 4th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Chari + Matt says:

    It was your use of “vertical” and “Tenaya” that made me click through so fast from town mouse country mouse’s site. You described Tenaya exactly how we found it: pitch 4, hmmm, rock shoes? Pitch 8, should we rope it now? In the end we didn’t and we solo’d to the top (with rope and gear on our backs). I went over to Tressider and Columbia Finger (are those the names?) before we went back down.

    I enjoyed your series from the east side, and sent along links to my buddy that managed trail crews in Tuolumne and Yellowstone. Double hernia, indeed, he said. You worked on a stretch of trails I haven’t seen much of (I’ve spent much more time going out of Rock Creek or Bishop), so I enjoyed the new views.

    Keep it up; I always look forward to your rock (climbing or building) and garden posts.

    –Matt

  4. October 4th, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Chari + Matt says:

    Ha! and frances said “tie in,” an inadvertant pun I’m sure, but I appreciate it anyway.

  5. October 5th, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    ryan says:

    Thanks folks. Tenaya has some of the best rock I know, fun to post about.
    I’d like to see the TN-NC mountains some day. I’ve never seen any of the mountains back east except in photos.
    So there are a few climbers out there. Pretty cool, doing the climb as a 1500 foot solo. We decided we’d probably do it without the rope if we were to repeat it. Duck Pass is a trail worth seeing, very quick up into the high country and then Duck Lake is shockingly large for an alpine lake.

  6. October 6th, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Country Mouse says:

    In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / a stately pleasure-dome decree – Coleridge. See http://etext.virginia.edu/stc/Coleridge/poems/Kubla_Khan.html – It’s a wonderful poem. A fragment actually – he had taken opium and had a huge vision, and had just begun writing it down in a poem – when someone knocked at his door and – whoosh. Vision all gone. That’s the story anyway.

    Wonderful post, with pika no less! As a teenager I used to go rock climbing in Llanberis Pass in North Wales – Snowdonia area. Wonderful memories. Quite a bit different from Tuolomne Meadows to be sure! If you are ever in the UK, I hope you can go there!

    I’m going to post at some point on stonework – something I also love to do, but am a beginner 1 set of steps and 1 flagstone path to my name so far. As a small middle aged woman I’m a bit challenged when it comes to working with big heavy slabs and rocks, but I love the whole drystone process. I’m interested in the ecological impact of quarrying but don’t know how to get more info. Plan to start by googling. Wonder if you have any pointers? Gosh. This is a long comment!

  7. October 6th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    ryan says:

    I had totally forgotten about Coleridge’s ode to laudanum. Thanks for reminding me.
    You’re not alone with the heavy slabs and rocks. Everyone, men and women and definitely myself, is challenged by them. The trick is to only move or lift a portion of the stone at a time. And to use a handtruck or tree dolly whenever possible.
    I know some general things about the impacts of quarrying, but it really varies depending on the stone and the quarry. The embedded energy largely depends on the distance the stone travels, but also on the harvest method. Distance to the quarry and cost of the stone are pretty good rule of thumb indicators of the impact. But, really, you need to research the specific stones. Personally, I try to pick local stone and try to avoid mortar whenever possible and try to also remind myself that our planet is literally made of rock and that rock is the longest lasting building material in the world.
    The Three Rivers quarry is the biggest stone quarry in the country and had an environmental battle when they expanded. There’s a fair bit of info out there about it. It’s also a really popular stone in the Bay Area and I have a post on it. I also have a post that links to some beautiful quarry photos a photographer took for a book.

  8. October 11th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    lostlandscape(James) says:

    I love the scenery you showed. Even through I’ve been to Tenaya Lake a very few times, I always see it through the eyes of the photographers who’ve done some great work there. There’s St. Ansel’s photo that is pretty well known, and Muybridge has some terrific mammoth plate shots from up there. And then there’s Edward Weston whose shots of junipers on the lake shore are pretty stunning. Some day I’d like to spend a few days to see if the same junipers are still there, 70+ years later.

  9. October 18th, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Digging » Bloggers’ Celebration of National Parks: A wrap-up says:

    […] Ryan of DryStoneGarden climbs vertically at Tenaya Lake. […]

  10. October 24th, 2009 at 7:00 am

    TheGreenElCerrito says:

    I’m inspired to check out this area now…thanks.

  11. December 28th, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    DryStoneGarden » Blog Archive » Time Lapse Yosemite says:

    […] among other reasons because the rock climbing at 2:30 is on the Stately Pleasure Dome in the Tenaya Lake area, which I posted about last fall. Very cool to see a time lapse of climbs I’ve done. Yosemite […]