Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Toulumne Enchainment

Mathes Crest

On Top of Mathes Crest

Cathedral Peak

Tenaya Peak

I was looking to do something big like the Evolution Traverse or the Palisades Traverse in the High Sierras, but could not find a willing victim, I mean partner that would be willing to spend lots of miles hiking and climbing and suffering at altitude. What to do? How about a big solo mission to bag as many peaks in Toulumne in a single day? The plan I hatched was to climb Tenaya Peak, a 14 pitch 1500' climb rated 5.5, then climb Cathedral Peak, 5 pitchs 5.6-5.7 700', Echos Peaks a series of smaller peaks class 4-5, the entire Mathes Crest 5.7-5.8 a mile long ridge climb, then the Cockscomb and Unicorn Peak both involving class 5 terrain. I was not sure I would be able to pull it off as it would be a true test of my endurance, but it would be easy to bail at any point if I began to bonk.
I woke at 5:30AM and was a little sluggish to get going, by the time I was at the parking area for Tenaya Peak and ready to go it was close to 7:00AM. The approach took about 40 minutes, I was taking my time as I knew I needed to pace myself because this would be a long day. I passed a couple who were going to do the route belaying every pitch. The climb itself ascended beautiful smooth white granite and was sustained in the 5.0-5.5 range for the duration of the climb and took me about an hour. I decided to do all the climbing I could in my approach shoes and ended up keeping my rock climbing shoes in the pack all day. Once on the Summit I was treated to great views of the surrounding areas and after a few monkey calls I set off for some cross country hiking toward Cathedral Peak. It took me longer than I thought to reach Cathedral, about 1 hour 30 minutes to the base. There were a couple parties 2 and 3 pitches up, which always makes me a little nervous when I am free soloing. I quickly caught and passed them, one guy remarked that I forgot my rope, climbing shoes, and helmet, I gave him a fake laugh and kept climbing. I had the summit to myself and ate a little food and finished my water and down I went. Next I set off for the Echo Peaks and treated some water along the way. The climbs up the Echo Peaks were easy I took the easiest path up them, mainly class 4 with a class 5 move every once in a while. I now had to make a decision, go for the Mathes Crest or traverse the Echo Ridge to Unicorn and back to the road eliminating the crest and shortening the day. I decided to go big and started towards the start of the route. As I was hiking over the clouds began to build and get dark. Once at the base the wind picked up and I could see more dark clouds to the East. I decided after much thought to climb the first 3 pitches and see how the wind was on the ridge then move quickly to notch between the South and North Summits where I could bail if I needed to, if the weather worsened. I made double time across the ridge moving twice as fast as I had a couple weeks earlier, I wanted to make it to the notch before the weather hit. The clouds continued to build and it got darker and darker. I climbed up the North tower and tagged the Summit, just as a loud clash of thunder sounded. The decision was made, I was going down, I moved quickly down to the notch did not even stay to sign the summit register as this huge dark cloud was above me and I could see it raining hard to the North and East. Most people rappel off the North Summit and go down from there. I had hoped to climb the entire crest and make it to Unicorn Peak, but I think I made the right decision and did not want to push my luck on an exposed ridge with thunder and rain all around me. Once I down climbed all the way back to terra firma the adrenaline was gone and tiredness began to sit in, I had a long hike out ahead of me. After an hour of hiking I took a 15 minute break to treat some water and rest in the shade. The water made me feel lots better and I powered down the trail in a hurry just to be done and get off my aching feet. I made it back to HWY 120, 10 hours and 50 minutes after leaving the parking lot. Now I just needed to catch a shuttle back to where I was parked, luckily I caught the last one or I would have had to hitchhiked or the unthinkable a long hike back.
This was one of the best days that I have had in the mountains climbing, I did not hit everything on the list but it was an awesome day nonetheless. I think a big reason I was able to climb this enchainment as fast as I did was because I was acclimatized to the altitude and was in great shape from lots of long days in the mountains. Equipment used: (5.10 guide tennies, 3 liters of water, several cliff bars, granola bars, and a bagel, and chalk bag, climbing shoes stayed in the pack along with the rain shell). What's Next? EL CAP!

I will post pictures later this week.

No comments:

Post a Comment