Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Mt. Conness Hike (Part 1)

(GPS: N37 57.145 W119 18.665)

This will be the first of a few entries on this mountain hike.

Two years ago when I was on Tioga Peak I viewed the area I would hike and climb this year. Last year, after I had climbed Mt. Whitney about two months earlier, I attempted this hike the day after my drive from So. Cal. For some reason my legs were just not moving right. After taking longer than I thought I would to get to where my pictures will start in this blog, I turned around. At that time I thought I would never be able to get to the base of Mt. Conness, not to mention the summit.

This year, after climbing another mountain the week before, I reached the summit. Since I had just climbed another mountain, and had climbed Mt. Whitney a month before, I was not as motivated to do this one. I was relaxed, but also ready to turn around at any point if I did not like the conditions.

I took a ton of pictures and video for this hike. I am skipping the first part of the hike which starts near Saddlebag Lake. Basically, after about two hours of going through an alpine forest I finally reached the following area:
This is the south slope from the east side. There are more direct routes to Mt. Conness, but this is the easiest one to do. The key is you have to be here later in the season or it will have too much ice. If one has an ice axe and crampons then one could try this, but mistakes can be fatal. Since it was not a great snow season there was really no issue here, but going down was kind of slow and rough.
This is near the very top to get to the pass. I had seen the rectangular rock at the very top online in someone else's pictures. I saw it from way below when I was there, and it was my target to get up to. It took about thirty minutes to get to the pass which is filled with scree and class 3 rock. In all honesty, even when you see the later sections near the end of the hike to the top, this is probably the most difficult part of this route.
I looked back down from where I had climbed. I then looked to the right of me which is in the northern direction and saw where I had to go next. There is a trail in the sand here which was good to see.
I looked back and saw how far I had come in about two and half hours.
It is always fun to find different ways of entering Yosemite apart from the main vehicle entrances. You may not see them in the picture below, but you should be able to click the pictures and see two different lakes. One down below is really marshy looking like a jigsaw puzzle. The other is in the distance.
At this point I was just glad to have gotten over the pass and much further. I knew for sure I could reach the base of the summit (aka the summit plateau). Whether I could get to the top or not was a different story. It took another thirty to forty-five minutes until I finally saw the actual peak summit.
There is a famous Ansel Adams picture of Mt. Conness that is taken from Tenaya Lake. The mountain top can be seen from other areas, but from the area at Saddlebag Lake I started at one cannot see the top. I had hoped to get more around Saddlebag Lake to take pictures of it during the last weekend of October, but the storm conditions were too bad so I did not even bother trying.
There still is some gradual uphill hiking here, but it is all trail. Much like other summits I have climbed there is a good portion of it like walking along a sandy beach, but with a bunch of granite rock around.

At this point the final ascent to the summit starts to look like a stairway. I think of it as a type of snake. I was very excited to see this since I had seen it in pictures, but never thought I might actually experience it. I knew the "scary" parts were about to come with the most exposure.

The Guardian of Mt. Conness (Youtube Version)

The Guardian of Mt. Conness (Vimeo Version)

For The Guardian of Mt. Conness video I used the following from Incompetech: Heavy Interlude, Coming Storm - Preview A, Mechanolith, Faceoff, and Virtutes Instrumenti. The non-Incompetech Spaghetti Western sounding piece is called "I Diavoli Dello Spazio" from a science fiction movie called Snow Devils.