SW Face

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Basic Snow Climb (winter), Hike/Scramble (summer)
Time Required:
Most of a day
Class 2

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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SW Face
Created On: May 20, 2002
Last Edited On: Aug 14, 2003


This route departs from Saddlebag Lake, near the top of Tioga Pass. Saddlebag Lake is located 2 miles north of the Junction Campground on Highway 120 (Tioga Pass Road). A small road leads from the Junction Campground (near Ellery Lake) up Lee Vining Creek to the lake. In summer, a ferry option allows you to shave 2 miles off the hike by transporting you to the north shore of Saddlebag Lake.

In winter, Tioga Pass road is closed 3 miles west of US 395 (near Lee Vining). In mid-Spring (usually coincident with the commencment of fishing season), the road is plowed up to the eastern part entrance of Yosemite. However, the Saddlebag Lake road is usually not cleared of snow until much later in the Spring. Thus, depending on conditions and time of year, you may have to use some combination of car, foot, snowshoes and/or skis to get to the start of this route, and you may have to start from either the bottom of Lee Vining Canyon (10+ miles to Saddlebag Lake) or the Junction Campground on Highway 120 (2+ miles to Saddlebag Lake). If starting from either of these points, simply follow the then snow-covered roads to the dam across Saddlebag Lake. The road terminates at the dam, which is the boundary of the Hoover Wilderness.

Route Description

Hike/ski in a NW direction along the east shore of Saddlebag Lake to its inlet. From there, head due W, passing Greenstone Lake along its S shore. Staying close to the S slopes of North Peak, ascend a series of rocky (or snow-covered) benches until you arrive at an area near the upper Conness Lake (10,749'). From here, head slightly north of west, up to the obvious col between North Peak and Point 11,862' to the southwest. Depending on when you go, the climb up to the saddle will either be on snow (good) or over tedious sand/scree (bad).

In the summer, there is a pretty good use trail around the north side of Greenstone Lake, passing the waterfall on its right side and continuing on around the north side of the Conness Lakes. The trail comes and goes in places, but route-finding is straightforward. There is also a good use trail leading up to the col; it's probably well worth spending the time to locate this, as the slopes elsewhere are loose and very tedious.

From the col, the route to the top is obvious up the broad and easy SW slope.

Special Note: Although it is not the tallest peak in the area, the views from the summit of North Peak are outstanding. (panorama looking north) (panorama looking south)

Essential Gear

A pair of gaiters is highly recommended during the summer to avoid scree infestation of your boots. The SW face is a miserable route at this time of year.

In winter, an ice axe is nice to have on the steep slopes leading up to the saddle. Crampons are also nice to have, but probably not essential, as the south facing slopes are usually soft enough to kick steps with boots.

If you're going in winter, skis or snowshoes are essential for the long approach (and skis/snowboard are real nice to have for skiing down the mountain!)

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.