Sunday, October 17, 2010

June 28, 2010 - Tresidder and "Finger Eleven" (Monday)

Watch for links to video below, and click on pics for larger versions!!

Our incredible campsite at the base of Cathedral Peak
With plenty of time for climbing today, we slept in a little this morning, and woke to the soothing sounds of snowmelt runoff from the slopes across the lake that had lulled us off to sleep the night before.

Cold, crisp mountain air and a spectacular show of bright white-and-blue-tinged morning sunlight caressing the towering granite cirque walls all around greeted us as we exited the tents, too--and man, I can't think of a better, more majestic way to wake up.

The original overall plan for yesterday and today, of course, was to climb Clouds Rest yesterday, then Half Dome today, but because of all the misinformation we received (and the ensuing craziness down in the Yosemite valley a few days ago), we'd since decided to just scrap the latter two peaks and let it ride... just pick objectives on the fly and see what the days brought us.

Luckily, as we discovered, theTuolomne area rewards such decisions with unimaginably beautiful and myriad opportunities for seat-of-the-pants exploring.

Dan, and a distant "Finger Eleven"
An epic breakfast burrito like the previous day's--a concoction for which I simply MUST come up with a name one of these days--accompanied by coffee, cider, and some oatmeal made for another spicy, hearty start, and soon we were walking out of camp, heading downslope off the flanks of Cathedral Peak in a southwesterly direction, toward the glittering Cathedral Lakes district to see what we wanted to climb.

A look back at our line on Cathedral
Peak. You can see

We'd briefly considered walking south a few miles to do the Columbia Finger, but ultimately decided on a pair of twin peaks just north of that: Tresidder and a jutting finger of rock joined to it on climber's right by a huge bowl and col / ridge with no apparent name on the topo map. With a 10,000+ foot summit, we decided it would be fun to bag that one, too. We dubbed it "Finger Eleven" (pic at right), and undertook ascending it first.

Tresidder Peak
We'd gone light and left the crampons behind, opting for just ice axes to keep us secure on the moderate snow and rock slabs up through the bowl to the summit and connecting ridge. Good call. One highlight of the approach hike was a dramatic network of rushing waterfalls in the forested and snowy granite hills, and it gave us pause a few times to find a good way through without falling in and getting wet--a legitimate concern at this point, given Dan's proven propensity for falling in rivers haha. "Don't fall in, Dan. No running into the river this time."

We negotiated it successfully, and right around the spot where we took our first break--a gorgeous narrow ridgetop--the massive hulks we intended to climb came into view as they began to peek over and between a set of undulating ridges and valleys that ran longitudinally from our position. We had some amazing vews of Echo Peaks to the left and rear, and looking back toward our point of origin, we were now able to see a completely different perspective on our line up Cathedral Peak and the Eichorn Pinnacle yesterday.

There was tons of fresh running snowmelt water all over the mountain, so finding a water source and refilling our bottles was never much of a challenge. At one water stop halfway up Finger Eleven, we spotted a marmot wandering around on the mountainside... super cool. Haven't seen one of those since I was a kid!

The cliffs beneath Finger
Eleven's summit
We continued upward, the spikes on our ice axes alternately clinking on acres of solid granite slab steps and crunching in soft-ish midday snow. We went pretty much straight up the right shoulder of the gigantic bowl between Finger Eleven and Tresidder, bearing for a band of cliffs near the top that sported what looked like a notch we could shimmy up through.

As we approached that band of cliffs, though, we ran into a wall none of us were comfortable climbing without proper protection, so we instead skirted around left and upward, and then we popped out on the broad, gravelly summit ridge, basked in bright midday sun.

A big standalone 10-foot high outcrop of granite boulders in the middle of the clearing appeared to be the highest protrusion around, so we scrambled up it and called that the summit, after which we did some exploring out on the actual finger of rock we'd been seeing all day long from below.

The summit of Finger Eleven. You can see upper Cathedral
Lake in the background onthe right side of this shot.
Turns out that finger of rock was a stack of boulders that fell away sheer on three sides, with thousands of feet of exposure to the north and west sides, plus several hundred on the eastern side that dropped steeply to a snowfield that plunged all the way down to the shores of Upper Cathedral Lake. Dan and Peter climbed out a ways on the outcrop, and I snapped some pics. The views were 360 degrees, and just unbelievable.

We ate some lunch and goofed off up there for a bit before deciding to do a traverse of the ridgeline that connected Finger Eleven to Tresidder.

Me on Finger Eleven, Tresidder's
pointy summit blocks in the

Once off the summit of Finger Eleven, we dropped down a few hundred vertical feet before gaining it again on the ridge approach to Tresidder's summit pinnacle blocks. It was an easy traverse across the mountain to Tresidder's massive, spur-filled granite block summit. The climbing was pretty solid, but again, my mountaineering boot stiffness was causing knee roll problems that would have sent me off the wall to a possibly quite serious injury, so again, I stayed below after an attempt to scale it.

Dan and Peter on the summit of Tresidder
Peter and Dan had no such problems, however, because they were in their much more flexible hiking boots, so up they went, and conquered the tower. Radddddd!
It was time to head back to camp. The snow was getting soft enough, so in keeping with my strict adherence to a backcountry policy of leaving only assprints behind (haha), we glissaded down the steeper part of the Tresidder bowl, and heel plunged our way back down the rest of it. And randomly, a little lower during a top for some reason, a frickin snowball fight broke out between Peter and Dan! WTF! HAHA

After I turned the camera off for that clip, we paused for a minute, and then Peter asked me to turn the camera on again. Not knowing why, I obliged. Apparently, Peter had decided he could take Dan down in a snow wrestling match and wanted it on video, but... Hmmm... instead (complete with video proof), he got his ass handed to him.

Tresidder on the left, Finger Eleven on the right
HAHA that was a random outburst, though, and funny! I wonder if AMW (Acute Mountain Weirdness) is a legitimate high altitude medical condition? Anyway, we made it down safely, and a look back over our shoulders a while later clearly showed us what we'd accomplished that day. Not bad!
Shortly thereafter, we arrived back in camp after the climb of Tresidder and Finger Eleven, where we ate, relaxed in the dappled late afternoon sunlight and generally reveled in the brilliantly perfect weather we were experiencing.

We chillaxed for a while--and then I think I musta contracted my own case of AMW. After some lazy time basking on sun-soaked rocks at the edge of the lake in our bare feet, we decided we wanted to saddle back up and hike around the lake, and up the Cathedral Peak basin we were camped in to see what we could see, and maybe do some more sliding.

Climbing the snowfield
beneath Cathedral 
With ice axes in hand, we climbed up to the little bergschrund of our private little snowfield amphitheater and did indeed enjoy some long glissades back down to the bottom of the upper bowl. It was FANTASTIC fun, and perfect weather for it--and once again, the vistas were panoramic and mindboggling.

There were several great moments: Dan accidentally crushing his balls on his first slide down, all the while filming his own ball-destroying POV with another video camera; Peter's flailing last ride down the hill; me, being nearly killed by a monstrous claw; Peter, unintentionally striking a positively Sir Edmund Hillary On Everest pose for a photo... the list goes on. :-)
On our second climb back up--because on a slope like that, just one slide is never enough--Peter attempted to roll a huge chunk of ice down the hill, but unfortunately, failed. The whole angle of repose thing... in action!

Me, sliding the Cathedral Peak cirque's snowslope

Eventually, my turn came for sliding, and off I went down the hill. It was totally awesome. Between the long slides down the slopes of Tresidder and the two big glissades here at camp, we got a LOT of slipperysliding in! WAY fun. And then we stomped our way back down to camp, cooked some more food, and yep... I'm pretty sure by this time, we all had seeeerious AMW.

There was some subsequent discussion about whether we ought to pack up tonight and hoof it back to the car and go stay in Peter's family cabin just outside the park, but there seemed no reason to rush away from such serene surroundings.

We spent the night, awoke early, broke camp, and headed back down to the car on Tioga Road amid the worst swarms of mosquitoes I think I've ever experienced. We were eaten alive, and were still killing insects miles down the road that had flown into the car to get us while loading up to leave as hastily as we could.

All in all, this was an amazing, memorable, spectacular experience... and now I'm soooo hungry for more Tuoloumne. :-)

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