The meadows. Cool, crisp alpine air. Solid, knobby granite. The irresistable summer hang-out for seasoned cragrats, posers and friendly weekend warriors.
Fairview Dome is by far the largest of the many outstanding domes in the Tuolumne region of Yosemite National Park. Clearly visible from Highway 120 westbound is the 900 feet tall North West face, a view that should send you scrambling for rope and rack.
The Regular Route (5.9, 12 p), first climbed by the late Chuck Pratt in 1958, Lucky Streaks (5.10b, 6 p) and the Great Pumpkin (5.8, 4p) are the objectives of most climbers here. And for good reason, because almost all the other routes have an unfortunate R or X attached to just about every pitch. This is especially true of the awe inspiring test pieces created without fuss by Kamps and Higgins back in the seventies. Low in rating by todays standard but big on reputation.
Tuolumne is reached on Highway 120 either from the west (Yosemite Valley, Bay Area, etc) or the east (Bishop, Mammoth, empty desert). 120 culminates in Tioga Pass, almost 10000', and is subject to seasonal snow closures and quirky Park Service actions. The road is usually open between may and early november. Call Caltrans for an automated update on road conditions at (800) 427 7623.
Fairview Dome is located right off 120 half way between Tenaya Lake and the Tuolumne store and campground or about 3.5 miles from the latter. Park in the obvious turnout on the south side across from Daff Dome and negotiate the 5-8 min climbers trail that takes you to the base a few feet to the right of the Regular Route.
Yosemite National Park administers the land here. There's a $20.00 entrance fee, good for a week, or you can fork out $60.00 for a Golden Eagle year pass (this will also get you in Joshua Tree, Red Rocks or any other federal park or rec area).
The rangers in this park are infamous for their no nonsense cop-like behavior, especially toward climbers, so beware. The usual climbing bum routines of crashing in the back of your vehicle at the side of the road or bringing the canines to the crag are ill advised here. Read the rules carefully and keep an eye out for the ubiquitous ranger suv.
Day climbs in Tuolumne are thankfully unregulated (as are multiday El Cap adventures, the ultimate loop hole), but any (planned) stay in the backcountry requires a wilderness permit, obtainable in the Valley or at the Tuolumne Meadows permit office or in advance (strongly recommended) at www.nps.gov/yose/wilderness or (209) 372 0740.
When To Climb
99% of Fairview climbers do the Regular Route. To some degree because of its high quality climbing, but definitely also because of its inclusion in Steck and Roper's old book 'Fifty Classic Climbs in North America', the what-to-do-next route book for many ticklisters.
Therefore specific to this route is the fact that the first and hardest pitch is often wet right in the crux. This can be a bit of a bother in the late spring and early summer when its really gushing out the crack. In fall this seemingly perrenial seep is often frozen, which further adds to the interest.
Also important to know about is the everpresent crowds on the Regular Route. You can unwillingly become part of some prettty severe bottlenecks even to Yosemite standards. A super early alpine start is one solution, but even in America this seems now to be an accepted practice. The confident 5.9 rope team can also do the super late slacker start and hit the base sometime in the middle of the afternoon (beware of thunderstorms for this option) and top out in solitude to alpenglow on a vast panorama of granite and peaks.
Highway closures makes winter and spring access challenging.
The only camping option within miles is the Tuolumne Meadows campground behind the store. It has hundreds of sites but seems always to be full. About half is first come, first serve, the rest open for reservation (online at http://reservations.nps.gov or (800) 436 7275).
Beware: This campground sometimes doesn't open until 4th of July weekend (more info at www.nps.gov/yose/trip/camping.htm).Also the number of overly honed shirtless Kauk'asians present can be intimidating. Another possibility for camping is to drive over Tioga Pass and leave the Park. Out here in Inyo Nat'l Forest are a few small campgrounds and some sketchy roadside camping.
www.supertopos.com has a free downloadable topo for the Regular Route plus some reasonably current beta about snow conditions (at least in 2002).