I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the calender and even though it is early August, I realized that this may be my last chance for a mid week hike / climb before my summer vacation ended and I had to go back to work. Once again I pulled out my maps and started the selection process. I had been thinking of Tuolumne Peak since I first noticed it on a map and then saw it from Mount Hoffman a few weeks before. Reading Bob Burd’s comments about his Hoffmann to Tuolumne traverse on the Sierra Challenge thread sealed the deal. Only I would basically reverse his route and go Tuolumne to Hoffmann.
Arriving at the turnoff for the May Lake trail head I was pleasantly surprised to find the road open. Three weeks prior it was closed and my wife, daughter and I hiked in along the Snow Flat trail, adding an extra 1.6 miles each way to the hike. Anyway, I wound up wasting the equivalent amount of time talking to a couple of Yosemite National Park Employees about fishing in May Lake and then to a couple of ladies about other nice day hikes in the area. I suggested Saddlebag Lake and Mono Pass. I finally headed up the trail at 8:30 and 20 minutes later arrived at May lake. I stashed my fishing gear (my plan was to fish after the climb) in a bear box. I then continued on through the Sierra High Camp area and north along the trail.
I had seen a gully on the map and decided that was going to be my route. I passed through a meadow and as the trail turned east and was about to go over a small ridge, I found my gully. There is a trail sign along the main trail here and, surprsingly, I found a trail (it does not appear on any maps that I have) heading off and up the gully. As I continued I saw signs that this was more than a climbers trail, nice switch backs and rocks set along and across to control erosion, and yet had not been maintained for quite a while. There were wildflowers growing on the trail and at one point a couple of trees that were several years along in their growth were right in the middle of the trail. I would lose the trail and find it again, all the while continuing up the gully, mainly to the right of the small stream. Soon I came upon a small grassy area where once again I lost the trail so crossed over to the left of the stream and continuing on once again finding the trail that finally reached a small saddle and I could see the southwest summit of Tuolumne Peak. I also noticed the trail continued northeast down another gully on the other side of the saddle.
I now headed north, angling up over broken granite toward a saddle between the northeast and southwest summits of the mountain. The way soon steepened a bit and and the boulders became larger making for some fun route finding and scrambling. Soon enough I reached the saddle between the two summits and the knife ridge that separates the two. I looked left and right trying to decide which of the two summits was higher. I decided to head for the southwest one first staying just below the actual ridge and its northern exposure. Upon reaching the top I noticed there was not a lot of room here, and looking back at the northeast summit and figured there would be a little more room there for resting and having a snack. So I worked my way back along the ridge and up to the north summit and here found the survey marker and a plastic tube with a summit log that has not been removed. The most recent entry was last week from Matthew Holliman and Bob Burd.
The air was clear and the views incredible, Matterhorn Peak and the Sawtooth Range to the north, Conness and North Peak to the northeast, Tuolumne Meradows east, the whole of the southern Yosemite high country to the south, and Mount Hoffman to the south west. And was that the crest of the coast range I saw to the west? After my snack and signing the summit log, I consulted my map to decide just exactly how I wanted to do this 2.25 mile traverse. I decided to head down to the saddle between the south summit and a bump along the ridge. I then contoured along below and on the east side of the ridge intending to go around and below a small peaklet. As I neared it I noticed a small, short gully up to the ridge and decided to head up to see exactly what was on the other side. The map showed pretty steep but it didn’t look too bad and so I down climbed the 3+ / 4- rock and found myself on a huge gentle granite slope. I contoured along here and then head up the next ridge I came to. This was a spur to the main ridge connecting Tuolumne and Hoffmann. The other side looked a bit steep for down climbing so I headed up to the crest of main ridge and the down to the base of Mount Hoffmann. There are two ridges coming off the north side of Mount Hoffmann, I was getting tired so decided on the easier ridge to the east.
I was soon on the plateau of Hoffmann and I headed over to scramble up and tag the summit. At the base of the summit block I met a group of four that I had seen earlier looking off the north side. I decided to chat with them and have a sandwich. We talked for awhile before they decided it was time to head out and I zipped up, stood on the summit and headed down. When I got back down to May Lake I looked at my watch and realized it took a great deal longer than I had antcipated to do the loop. Looked like no fishing on this day. I retrievedmy gear from the bear locker, chatted with a couple from Connecticut for few minutes, and then headed back to my car.
I don’t know why it took so long, but I finally realized this summer how lucky I am. By having a National Park Pass and living only 80 miles from the north entrance to Yosemite National Park, I am always only a couple of hours from some of the most beautiful scenery and greatest hiking and climbing on Earth!