Ken Roberts - - Climbing

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California - Eastside Sierra

August 2013

Crystal Crag

(near Mammoth Lakes)

alpine / multi-pitch routes: area description on MountainProject

route descriptions:

comments / reports:


Tracks + waypoints for climbing Aretes of Crystal Crag + South Ridge --

download this GPX file


Mt Conness approach West ridge from east trailhead

posted on

GPX file for GPS

Detailed description of approach to base of West ridge of Mt Conness from Saddlebag Lake area (east side). It is helpful to combine this description with the photos + description on and with the description in the book High Sierra Climbing, by Chris McNamara (SuperTopo 2004).

Trailhead is at USFS Sawmill campground (GPS latitude/longitude approx N37.9560 W119.2667) (altitude ~ 2980 meters) - about 2.3 km (1.5 miles) NW from rt 120 (the main Tioga Pass road) on Saddlebag Lake Rd.
. But there is no day-hiker / climber parking at that trailhead (as of 2013). All designated parking is for campers.

Start walking NW on road. After about 200 meters can take a shortcut by continuing straight on trail (or bear left on road). About another 200m rejoin dirt road and continue NW mostly flat or gentle downhill. After snother 500m, turn L to cross creek on log. Another 500m roughly W go past the hut of the Carnegie Institute (by now the road has turned into a trail). Continue roughly W about another 1500 meters (with some bends and some uphill sections).

At the top of an uphill section, and a little before crossing a creek and entering a large flat meadow, around
(GPS lat/long ~ N37.9619 W119.2954) (altitude ~ 3100 meters) (small cairn as of 2013) ...
leave the trail toward the R, and go uphill roughly NW (or at first more N). See the prominent peak above roughly NW and aim toward a wide notch just left of it.

About 650m of uphill (likely with a move of difficulty class 3+), reach a flat area (lat/long ~ N37.9665 W119.3009) (altitude ~ 3385m) with a tarn (small lake which might be dry). About 200m flat going W, then leave the flat and go uphill a bit toward R, WNW for about 500m to ...

reach another roughly flat area (N37.9672 W119.3094) (alt ~ 3560m) (small cairn as of 2013). Dramatic setting on cirque with a lake lower inside and some steep cliffs above across to SW, with a couple of prominent notches across SW.
Note: The summit of Mt Conness is not in view (not even close) and those notches do not lead down to the W ridge.

Next objective is a notch above WSW, at the Right end of the top of the face containing those steep cliffs, but far to the Right of the cliffs themselves - with a more reasonable slope leading up to the notch.
Aim WSW for that notch ... simplest is to get onto the crest of the ridge (with big view NE) as soon as see an easy way. Or stay longer below the ridge ... first down a little bit, then traverse horizontally across the slope. After about 150m a steep move up R, then a rising traverse for about 300m up to the high point of this approach route, near the NE corner of a gentle sandy quasi-plateau to the SE of the Mt Conness summit
(lat/long ~ N37.9656 W119.3145) (altitude ~ 3730m) (medium-large cairn as 2013).
. (This is where the descent route from the Mt Conness summit meets the approach route.)

Now it's time to start looking at notches and thinking about which one to cross to get down to the base of the West ridge. The answer is: Below where you are now, and farther below than you might be hoping or thinking: roughly SW across this gentler area, lower than any of the obvious notches (since those cliff out on the W side). So the next objective is WSW-SW, but perhaps it is easier to "contour" (for a total distance around 500m) ... at first gentle WSW, then more W where it goes down steeper and across the bottom of the valley, finish more SSW-S. Likely will take a couple of tries to find the best crossing W into the descent. The best place I found (not really a "notch") is a broad sandy area (lat/long ~ N37.9634 W119.3189) (altitude ~ 3690m) (No cairn as of 2013).

Next some serious down-scrambling with loose rock (test the holds) and route-finding. Seemed to me that, if find the best lines and work out the moves right, no single move was more difficult than class 3. A reasonable line for me was to first head roughly straight down (roughly W), then bear to descender's Right (NNW) to reach dirt/scree. Not much more than 25 vertical meters of serious down-scrambling.

But still lots more slogging down on dirt/scree.

All these latitude/longitude waypoints, and useful tracks, are included in this

GPX file for Mt Conness

Tenaya Peak


As of August 2013, I didn't think the approach was that difficult to follow. Here's a .GPX file with a track for GPS navigation:

GPX file for Approach to Tenaya NW buttress

Or here's some instructions:
From the parking lot 200m NE from the NE corner of Tenaya Lake (GPS latitude/longitude ~ N37.8378 W119.4518), walk on the paved trail to the beach roughly S about 300 meters ... but before reaching the beach, where the paved trail curves R, continue straight S on a vague unmarked track. About 300m, after crossing a little creek, meet the main trail from Tenaya Lake to Tuolumne Meadows (lat/long ~ N37.8338 W119.4506). Turn L on this and go NE about 300m (to lat/long ~ N37.8356 W119.4486). A vague track forks off R, at first roughly E about 225m (some cairns) gently uphill, then roughly SSE about 300m, up more steeply, some zig-zags and horizontal sections, some narrow passages thru bushes, a scramble move over dead tree branches ... finishing with a little down to (lat/long ~ N37.8336 W119.4446).

Laurel Mt - NorthEast gully

I found the directions in the guidebook High Sierra Climbing, by Chris McNamara (SuperTopo 2004) to be very helpful.

The climbers' "Northeast gully" route is often named by skiers as the "Mendenhall couloir".


To my surprise yesterday on Laurel Mt, the tracks I had put onto my GPS turned out to be rather useful (and accurate) for doing both the climb and the descent. Here they are, revised from actual data my GPS captured out on the mountain:

GPX file for NorthEast gully approach and climb

descent N then E

There are at least three options for descent. The one I chose was the shortest, but also the steepest and most difficult. Some of the most experienced climbers and guidebook writers recommend other routes (but I don't know those). The one I took might be good for those who enjoy and are good at "skiing" down on steep scree. I found it helped to have hiking poles for balance (and it would have been good to have been wearing gaiters).

GPS file for steep+difficult North then East descent

Here's some detailed directions ...

From the summit of Laurel Mt, follow a vague track roughly N about 500 meters distance down to around altitude 3390 meters. Then trend NE for about 600m down to around altitude 3150m, passing by the lowest last mini-peak of the rocky NNE ridge of Laurel Mt. To be careful, it makes sense to get up on top of that point and have a look around. Facing down toward the SW end of Convict Lake, see a scary-looking gully on  your right, a wide bowl to your left, and a steep scree gully straight below aimed roughly at the end of the lake.

I think the theory here is that the scary-looking gully is a really bad idea, and that the wide bowl looks inviting and is likely less steep, but it has lots more bushes, while the straight-down gully has mostly scree/dirt/gravel instead of bushes. Myself, I can get down steep scree (by sort of "skiing" it) faster and easier than lots of bushes, so I chose the straight center option.

That gully started down E (later curved SE). At first that went well, but much lower down the gully narrowed and it was mostly a choice of rocks (or bushes) instead of scree/dirt/gravel. For about 20ft I encountered a pure rock slope, felt to me like I needed to do some Class 4 moves. Then close to the bottom I felt forced into the bushes, which slowed me down. But I think much less of that than if I'd taken the wide bowl. Then I hit the main hiking trail.

ideas + reports on other websites + forums



CampToCamp - c2c


maps - GPX maps of mountain ranges and climbing regions, with outline of each region and other useful latitude/longitude waypoints for major peaks and climbing areas.

  • California entire state: download this GPX file

  • Eastside and high Sierra crest: download this GPX file

  • Sierra West - (to be added)

see also New York c2c links

more . . .

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