North Peak First
I was looking for someone to do the NW Ridge of North Peak and on to the North Ridge of Conness, and then finish up the day with the West Ridge of Conness and then a descent down the East Ridge back to Saddlebag Lake. It's not a huge day, I know lots of folks who have done it, but it's still a pretty big day for middle-of-the-road climber like me, equating to perhaps 30 pitches of moderate climbing.
I had done North Peak and Conness as a dayhike a couple of summers back with ScottyS and D-Rod, and it was fun day. The NW Ridge of North Peak is a fun and entertaining scramble, although the steep section is pretty short. The North Ridge of Conness is a fun scramble, and we passed some parties at the rappel with an alternate downclimb and continued the fun scramble to the top.
I did the West Ridge of Conness last summer, and it seemed longer than the other 2 routes put together. The West Ridge is kind of contrived. If you moved just a few feet climbers left, you would be in a 3rd class gully and could just scramble the whole thing.McNamara recommends in his new Tuolumne Route Book "For super fast and motivated climbers, consider climbing the West Ridge before of after the North Ridge."
Nobody would describe me as a "super fast" climber, but I thought I could squeeze it all in one day. If I could find someone to climb it with me. Which I did.
Steve Case, a fellow east-sider, told me that he had been running, cycling, and climbing himself back into shape, and he was looking to do some routes. I ran down my current list of projects, and the trifecta was the one that Steve latched onto. Steve is a solid climber from way back, and I knew he would be good for it. Taking Steve was almost like cheating. So we picked a date and made some plans.
Steve was driving up from Paradise, and we met at the Whoa Nellie and headed for Saddlebag Lake.
Steve and I leaving the Saddlebag Trailhead
We loaded up with a small rack and a thin rope, and hiked up toward the Steelhead Lakes and North Peak.
North Peak in the day's first light
A closer look at the Northwest Ridge of North Peak
On the way to North Peak, we were checking out our next objective, the North Ridge of Conness.
The North Ridge of Conness
Once we gained the ridge, the trip was a lot more fun and interesting.
The fun section of the NW Ridge on North Peak
Steve gaining the NW Ridge-Trudging over, time to climb
The steep section of the ridge, some route-books say it is as hard as 5.3
Steve down-climbing one of the numerous notches in the ridge
A little bit of scrambling
Steve leaping one of the notches
Nearing the "crux" section of the ridge
Looking back down the ridge, enjoying the view
Classic ridge scrambling
Finishing the last of the fun part of the ridge
Lots of fun scrambling up the ridge, before a trudge to the top once the ridge joined the summit plateau.
The descent down to the start of Conness's North Ridge was casual and sandy enough to be easy on the knees.
Gaining the toe of Conness's North Ridge
The first section of the North Ridge, up to the second tower, is mostly just 2nd and 3rd class, and it goes by quickly.
I know Misha will be disappointed, but we rapped the 2nd tower in the interest of speed, and continued up to the summit of Conness.
Rapping the 2nd tower
Steve at the bottom of the raps, ready to cruise the last bit to the top
Cruising the summit ridge
Solid scrambing near the top
The last bit of scrambling before the easy summit slopes
We dropped off the south side, and contoured around to the base of the West Ridge.
On the descent to the West Ridge
Almost to the toe of the West Ridge
We geared up and climbed up the spine of the ridge, pitching it out for the first four (steep) pitches, and then simul-climbing the rest of the way up the ridge.
At the top of the first pitch, the marmot shows me that the climbing really isn't too hard
Blocky climbing along the ridge
My least favorite belay spot, especially after I climbed down and looked underneath. Still don't know what was holding that thing up
Simuled everything from here on to make time
Lots and lots of fun ridge climbing
The ridge widens out as you gain elevation
Nearing the end of the roped climbing (at least for us, lots of climbers don't bother with a rope on this route)
We topped out in the late afternoon, and headed down the East Ridge, and dropped off the northwest side of the ridge and joined the trail alongside Saddlbag Lake. We arrived back at the trailhead just before we needed to pull out our headlamps. As expected, Steve was solid all day long.
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