Tuesday June 22, 2004
Joel arrived at my houseand we loaded up my car for the trip through Yosemite to Saddlebag Lake. About 3 miles down the road I realized I had left my food on the kitchen counter. Turned around to get it and actually wound up leaving at 3:00 p.m. We had a nice pleasant drive using Old Priest Grade to get around a lot of cars and one semi. We commented on how some people just do not know how to drive in the hills and are constantly riding their brakes. But I digress. We arrived at the campground at Saddlebag Lake at around 6:30. We grabbed a site, set up our tents, paid for the site, and then headed to Tioga Pass Resort for dinner. Had their chicken, which was very good, with a bottle of Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale. I asked a guy in the reataurant where they had been that day. Turned out to be natec007 along with Michele. After supper I still had a little bit of light left so rigged up my fishing pole with my trusty blue and silver Kastmaster lure and walked down to the lake. First cast I had a fish on. A nice 14 in. Rainbow. I had hits on the next several casts and wound up catching and releasing 4 fish (all about the same size) in half an hour. It was getting dark so I headed back to camp. I talked to the campground host, gave him our tentative itinerary and said we may not be back before the 2 p.m. check out time. He said no problem, have fun. So I went to bed looking forward to the climb the next day.
We got up around 5 a.m. had a cup of tea along with some fruit and breakfast bars and prepared for the day. We left the camp around 6 and headed along the west shore of Saddlebag Lake. It was a beautiful morning, not very cold and the walk was nice until near Greenstone Lake where the ground and the trail over it were very muddy and boggy due to the rapidly melting snow. We picked our way through and found a place to cross the stream, thank goodness for waterproof boots. When we arrived at the Lower Conness Lake area we noticed that the bergshrund on the Glacier Route was opening as well as the moat at the base of the next gully over. We thought we would try the Y-coulior. So we headed up the small ridge immediately south of the outlet stream to then traverse over to the base of the Y-coulior. Joel was leading the way and turned back to say this looked like a fun route and so we continued on up the ridge eventually reaching the saddle on the East Ridge at the base of the East Buttress. Joel was a bit ahead of me and took off to follow right along the top of the ridge. I caught him as he sat on the highest point and he said it looked sketchy to continue right along the top of the ridge. We then down climbed the south side of the ridge and followed it along through alternating fields of snow and rock to the base of the scramble to the plateau. There were old boot tracks in the snow that we followed up until the snow ended. My quads were cramping a bit so we rested and had a snack before heading up.
We scrambled up to the plateau and were greeted by a spectacular view. Tuolumne Meadow and the Yosemite High country spread out before us. We made a right turn and headed for the summit pinnacle. While the footing was secure along the ridge it could induce some vertigo if one looked down toward the Conness Glacier for too long. It is certainly one of the airiest climbs I’ve done. We reached the summit and had it all to ourselves, well except for the marmots. In fact we didn't see another soul all day outside of the campground. We signed in and read some of the previous logs, noticing quite a few SPers. After about half an hour on the summit, we headed back down.
At the base of the scramble off the plateau I suggested we not go back by the same route and instead head down toward the Carnegie Institute shed. I couldn’t remember the exact route direction from SP so we just headed down. Instead of going by Alpine Lake we headed to the left and went between the hill north of the lake and the East Buttress. There is a beautiful cascade and no semblance of a trail. So we alternated route finding working our way down along and sometimes in the water flowing over the granite. Once down through this area we saw the shed far below us still and decided we didn’t want to go down and then have to go back up to gain the campground. There were dark clouds gathering and we could hear an occasional thuderclap. Fortunately we never got rained on. After checking the map and my altimeter we figured we were just about level with the dam and so headed east contouring along the hill as best we could. It was a pleasant walk, except for the occasionally voracious mosquitoes, through the woods. There were even a number of deer trails along the way for us to follow. After a while we rounded a bend and could see the buildings at Saddlebag Lake. We were right on and came out at the dam.
It was 4:30, well past the checkout time. I let the campground host know were back and apologized for being late. He said no problem again and said he was glad we had a good trip. After packing up we got on the road stopping in Groveland for some Mexican food. Arrived home just before 9 p.m.
It sure felt good to reach the summit. Two years ago I slipped and scraped my self pretty bad and turned back. On this trip I was having some cramps and some doubts about the summit. I also realized how out of shape I am but pushed on and finally got the summit of Mount Conness. What an awesome trip.