Tuolumne Meadows – California – by Nigel Calaghan

The climbing is on fantastic granite ranging from slabs to cracks and walls. The rock is quite smooth but with good friction and provided with knobs that stick out of the rock and provide useful holds. On the domes there is a lot  of smooth featureless slabs and the routes follow natural features such as grooves and cracks. On the higher peaks the rock is more shattered and alpine style. The gear is a mixture of natural and bolts, but the routes aren’t ‘bolted’ in the European sense. There maybe a few bolts where the first ascentionists placed them (no retro bolting is allowed without their permission). So some routes might have quite run-out sections up slabs with only occasional bolts and this can be quite intimidating. Run-out routes are have ‘R’ in the grade to denote this. There are single pitch crags to huge multi-pitch walls like the classic Regular route on Fairfield dome and some of the high sierra mountains such as Mt Conness are approachable directly from Tuolomne meadows

Recommended routes. Based on our own experience.

Stately Pleasure Dome; West Country 5.7 ‘low angle slabs and tenuous lay-backing a good intro to Tuolomne style’.

Pywiak Dome ; Aqua Knobby 5.9 R- ‘fantastic 3 pitch trad route cracks slabs walls the lot’

Western Front; A small crag with multiple top ropes up thin slabs

Daff Dome; West Crack 5.9 700’ ‘the major feature cuts up this enormous face, no escape’. Other routes Daff Dome; Blown Away 5.9 700’ and Crescent Arch 5.10b 700’.

Lembert Dome ; Crying Time Again 5.10a R 450’ ‘ a great adventure route winds it way up a featured wall’; ‘North west Brooks’ 5.6 300’ ‘good intro route reminiscent of Lake District Classics’. Other routes Lembert Dome, Direct northwest  face 5.10b 400’

Fairview Dome; Regular Route 5.9 900’. ‘The mega-classic nothing more to say’. Other routes Fairview Dome, Lucky Streaks 5.10c 600’.

Medicott Dome centre; Shagadelic 5.8 (fully bolted) ‘great knobby slab climbing. Other routes medicott Dome Excellent, Smithers 5.10a.

Outlying Routes; Cathedral Peak and Eichorn’s Pinnacle Southeast Buttress 5.6  700’ ‘ Classic buttress climb followed by an easy traverse and ascent of the unlikely looking Eichorn’s pinnacle. Fantastic views; Matthes Crest traverse south to north 5.7 2/3 mile. ‘Striding edge plus with a notch and pinnacle to negotiate at the end of the route. Nice backcountry approach. Mt Conness west ridge 5.6 to 12,800ft. A classic Aline buttress/ridge landing you right on top of the most prominent mountain around. Look in awe at the Southwest face 5.10c as you descend. You need to camp at Young Lakes the night before which brings in the beaurocracy of Wilderness Permits bear canisters etc info about all this is available at the helpful Ranger Station in Tuolumne Meadows.

Useful links and references

Tuolumne Free Climbs; See Supertopo guide book, and see free route list and area introduction on the website

The Great the Good and the Awesome; Peter Croft. (Eastern Sierra Climbing Guides Ser. 4 ) also provides an interesting selected routes for this and other areas

See the Mountain project web site for a list of  the top quality routes  

 When to climb weather and seasons

Season is pretty much summer from June to September. More chance of snow affecting higher routes in early part, more chance of storms in high summer and more chance of being cold out of the sun later on.Generally reliable. The main concern is sudden summer storms which can appear out of a relatively cloudless sky and turn a route into a raging torrent. Don’t go on any high or inescapable routes if there are any fluffy little clouds in the sky that morning


We stayed at the Tuolomne Meadows campground

This is the most logical place to stay if you are camping as it is right in the middle of the climbing and quite high so helped acclimatization. Booking from the UK is troublesome to say the least as all the pre-bookable sites get booked almost immediately they are released. You can go and queue at the ranger station first thing in the morning and lunch time for site free that day. This is how we got ours. There are other Forestry campsites on the road east out of the valley but from what we saw these weren’t nearly as attractive. There is a small shop/post office at TuolomneMeadows but it’s stock is pretty thin. The nearest big supermarket is Vons in Mammoth about an hours drive away. There are no showers or hot water at the campsite the nearest being at the RV park in *** where you can pay for a shower or do some washing. Or you can just stay dirty!

 For Tuolumn camping see http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tmcamp.htm

Check out Whoa Nellie Deli at the Tioga gas mart in Lee Vining for the best food ever. www.whoanelliedeli.com

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