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Routes in Mt Clark

Northwest Arete T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b


Standing as the highest point in the Clark Range, the mountain was named after Yosemite's first caretaker - Galen Clark. Visible from most of the Tuolumne high country, the narrow blade of the NW-SE summit ridge likely gave rise to the peak's nickname "The Obelisk." A number of easy scrambles exist, and of particular interest to the climber are the exposed Northwest Arete (cl.4) and the Southeast Arete (cl.3-4), listed as one of the 100 Classic Climbs of the High Sierra by Moynier & Fiddler. The peak has excellent rock quality, with golden polish, chickenheads, and clean cracks.
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Getting There

2 different approaches exist for Mt Clark.
One can hike from the Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley up the Mist Trail, then through Little Yosemite Valley, past Bunnell Point & Cascade and then cross country up open slabs and dense forest to the base of the NW arete direct. Significant elevation gain (7500' to summit!), but shorter mileage.

Alternatively, for a longer but more relaxed approach, head out from Glacier Point on the Mono Meadow trailhead towards Merced Pass, following the Clark Fork of Grey Creek eastward. Pass Mt Starr King on it's south side en route.

Carefully study a topographic map before starting out on either approach. For most parties this will be a multiday endeavor, and permits are required for overnight stays in the backcountry - check the NPS website for details.

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the west approach is not so relaxed. tried it last week, knew it was a lot of miles and vert in the forest, but fully underestimated the approach. camped just off the trail where the clark and gray creeks get close together. even with pretty good luck on the initial approach, after two hours of log hopping and weaving through mostly low angle forest, we looked up at 3,500 VF to the summit and pulled the plug. just way too many downed trees from the fires.

Thinking a basecamp at Obelisk lake and knocking off the NW and SE arĂȘtes may be the way to go. Oct 6, 2016
I haven't done the western approach so can't confirm if it's more "relaxed" like I had heard. It certainly has less total elevation gain, but is a fair bit longer. Fit parties with excellent cardio can go C2C from Happy Isles in a big day. I pulled it off in May of this year with many hours of snow travel and post-holing above 9000'. The Happy Isles approach is also underneath the canopy of the forest for most of the off-trail portion, and it is hard to tell if you are going the correct way as you cannot see Mt Clark until you are basically at the toe of the NW Arete. It was quite a relief to actually SEE my objective for the first time after 5-6 hours on the move... Oct 6, 2016
Richard - i know if you or Vitaliy post about approach times, I take it with a bucket of salt. ;)

there are trip reports on the web about the difficulty of route finding when approaching from the west, some taking the grey creek fork by accident. my wife and I are not the c2c types. I've scoped the approach from the merced river, up from upper Yosemite valley last year and it looked pretty brutal, mostly in terms of the vertical gain.

Not giving up yet.

Our consolation prize was bagging Merced Peak which is a ways out there but fun class 3 and a day on starr king. Oct 6, 2016
Split, I have done both approaches. C2c both times. Believe the west (not Happy isles) to be more mellow for sure. Thought both of them were cool in own unique way as the scenery is different and the way from Happy Isles is more scenic - less boring.
When I did these outings, we brought a rope and a single rack, but that was in 2010 and 11 when I did not do much technical climbing. Thought one step to be 5.6 and it is possible to make it harder/more fun, when the rack/rope is present. For a confident scrambler or someone who climbs, it wouldn't be too bad of a solo if confident with some mid 5th class.

PS: Usually I do my best to post approach times with other people in mind, maybe a bit earlier I did not realize my fitness was above average, but now I do better. Or at least I try! :) "Shouldn't take you more than 20 mins to be at the base of Mt. Clark from Happy Isles! bro!"

-Vitaliy Oct 6, 2016

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