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Routes in Tenaya Peak

Northwest Buttress T 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
Tenaya Peak, North Face Direct T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Type: Trad, Alpine, 1400 ft, 14 pitches, Grade II
FA: unknown
Page Views: 33,370 total, 250/month
Shared By: Adam on Dec 23, 2006 with updates
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection Details

Description

This route features very easy climbing, but great exposure and views. Most of it can be simulclimbed. There are only two or three somewhat technical pitches near the summit.

Low down there really is not one best way to go. Just up. From a large ledge halfway up the face, the ridge starts to lead the the west side. Most will simul-climb or solo the bottom 3/4. Up high you can make it easy or hard. We stayed on the right side of the ridge and belayed on great ledges (kept some pitches short because this route has some loose rock). I think that you can find a 5.8 pitch out left just before the summit, but this looked loose.

Location

Don't even think about getting on this thing until the snow is off the ledge that's halfway up the climb! If you are lucky enough to watch this slide off, you'll understand.

Approach

Leave the parking area and try your best to find the game/climbers trail up the drainage on the left of the face. Once up on the slabs, just head up and right until you feel like you want a rope.

It's a bit easier walking near the lake to the trail. Follow the trail left until you see a large clear (relatively brush-free) area directly below the lowest cliff. Head straight up aiming for the left edge of this cliff band. You will find a trail leading up and left along the base of the cliff (at first). The only hard parts to follow are a bit of dirty slab and when the trail leads into the bushes (past a huge fallen tree) and you seem to be going further left than you want. Don't worry, it comes back right. Also, the 4th class (either up or just left of the little waterfall) is WAY easier than trying to bushwhack left to get to the starting ledge.

Descent

Once on top, you can go the long way or the long way. We went down the west ridge to a grove, then north (towards Tenaya Lake) and back east across the large grass bench and back to the parking lot. I don't think this is the best way. Steep, slow, cross-country hiking.

The other way is to head southeast and hit the Clouds Rest Trail back to the road at the west end of Tenaya Lake and hitchhike back to your car.

Protection

Small rack. No fixed gear on the route that we saw.
Matt Williams 1
Catheys Valley, CA
 
Matt Williams 1   Catheys Valley, CA
 
Here's a link to a gpx file if anyone wants it. It follows the ridge more on the descent and avoids the ledges.

dropbox.com/s/1xubp9zx2f1i8… Sep 28, 2016
Rude Boy
San Francisco, CA
  5.4
Rude Boy   San Francisco, CA
  5.4
The 5.8 splitter at the top is awesome if you choose to do it. There is a lot of variation going up so it can be a little easier or harder depending on the exact line you take. May 22, 2013
If pitching out most of the climb for some easy beginner trad experience appeals to you, I'd take a moment to reconsider the magnitude of this climb. It's not a strictly bad idea, but keep in mind that especially if you don't get an early start, the common afternoon thunderstorms can appear much earlier than you anticipated. Additionally, it's true that what looks like it should be one pitch is actually several. I (novice trad leader) and my partner (beginner trad leader) got in way over our heads on this one. Between the general slowness of pitching everything out, and his added time figuring out how to build anchors, we turned this into a 13 hour C2C adventure in light rain to the sound of distant thunder. Oct 24, 2017
For those considering a solo attempt be aware there is a lot of ice and soft snow on the last three pitches or so as of 10/7/17. Oct 9, 2017
David L
San Francisco, CA
 
David L   San Francisco, CA
 
Did this climb with some friends as 2 pairs. Amazing climb! We simul-climbed the early pitches before roping up near the summit. Unfortunately got caught up in a massive thunderstorm on one of the final pitches. The ensuing lightning, thunder, 30+ mph winds, 3mm hailstorm was one of the sketchiest situations I've ever been in. It went from blue skies to hell in the span of about 1 hour.

If you are planning to do this climb plan to be off the summit by noon! Yosemite thunderstorms are no joke! The forecast for that day way 20% chance of thunderstorms. Also in retrospect I would have made sure me and all my climbing partners had a waterproof shell (we just had down jackets). Having a waterproof layer would have given us some more options in terms of riding / waiting out the storm.

Our group ended up splitting up, I toped out and descended rapidly to avoid being hit by lightning and the other half of our group bailed down the original route. If anyone finds gear we used to bail on the climb please PM me. Would be nice to get it back although at the time all we were thinking was how to get off the mountain safely. Sep 12, 2016
Brian Banta
Pacifica, CA
 
Brian Banta   Pacifica, CA
 
A great climb! Being a new leader was a bit conservative with the rack.... Nuts, BD cams .5-2 with double .75 and 1, and #2-4 Metolius, 5 QDs, 11 slings, and a cordlette. More than enough, but the advantage was being able to place 16 pieces of gear in one long simulclimb pitch. We used a 50m rope and pitched out the second half of the climb. If doing it a second time, or if I was a more experienced leader would bring a much smaller rack. Cordlette and double runners were very useful for slinging blocks and horns. Aug 31, 2016
Josh M.
Golden, CO
Josh M.   Golden, CO
A really beautiful climb. Beautiful position, glorious rock, and fun gear placements (if you're bringing a rack).

Adding another data point for anyone estimating the time/skill needed for this climb...

Two newb trad climbers (me + 1), definitely not in fantastic shape, typically leading 5.5, blocky/scrambly trad routes, and we did this awesome route, pretty casually, car-to-car (east end of Tenaya Lake) in about 10 hours:

Approach, ~40 mins: Take the main trail out of the end of the parking lot, heading toward the water. Take off to the left after a couple of minutes on a climbers trail. Subsequently lose track of that trail and all of the rest of the ones you stumble across on the way toward the obvious toe of the formation. Eventually you get to some obvious rock at the bottom of the formation (that is, you can now take a rock-only line to the summit). There was a party groveling up a damp first pitch, so we just kept following the climber trails up and climbers-left until we could pop out on a higher section of slab. Nice, flat spot to sort out packs and scout a line. We probably skipped a pitch or two this way.

Climb, ~6 hrs: We put our comfy climbing shoes on right at the bottom and started simul-climbing from the beginning. Tied into half of a 70m rope and brought a full rack of gear - stoppers, and small to #3 C4s (still learning how to place gear; having options is nice). Stopped to collect gear and swap leads five times (6 "pitches"). There were about three other climbing parties on the route, and a handful of people cruising through solo. Everyone was friendly; plenty of time and space to stop and chat with folks on the way. We started climbing further left than most parties, and also seemed to trend more toward the center for the last couple of pitches. If, like me, you're not (yet) into 5.7-8 hand cracks, you can get up and through the final headwall near the center at low 5th class.

Descent, ~3 hrs: heading SW from the true summit, a bunch of foot trails condense into a climbers trail that we followed downhill, just below (east of) the ridge for a while. We lost (and regained, multiple times) the trails and cairns, but just headed downhill (SW) and kept Mildred Lake on our left. We generally followed the lowest-angle slope we could find, as it tails around to the west and points you to that separate little summit due S of Tenaya Lake. Along the way, you get a stellar view of the backside of Half Dome. Since evening was approaching, we opted to hit the Clouds Rest trail before dark rather than negotiate the saddle between Tenaya and the separate summit. Headlamps and loud talking ("Hey bear! Hey bear!") brought us up to the Tenaya Lake Trail and around to the E beach while the sunset lit up the lake surface with pinks and oranges.

Look forward to doing it again someday! Sep 23, 2015
Lance Ranzer
  5.5
Lance Ranzer  
  5.5
Awesome climb! leave the rope and gear at the car. (seriously)
Me (8+ years of climbing) and my girl (1+ year of climbing) did this in 1.5hrs as our first free solo. Never once used the rope or gear. Plus you can pass tons of parties that were on rope (took them 3+ hours to get to top) Tons of way to get to the top, and of course you can pick the easiest ways via just looking around the sea of flakes and cracks to use.

Hike off sucks, long, long way down the ridge line and through tons of trees that go on for ever!! Finally meeting up to the trail head near lake. Jump in afterwards for a refreshing finish. Well worth it. Aug 19, 2015
kenr  
Approach
As of August 2013, I didn't think the approach was that difficult to follow. There's a .GPX file with a track for GPS navigation linked from this page .

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). Aug 14, 2013
boulderkeith
Boulder, CO
  5.4 PG13
boulderkeith   Boulder, CO
  5.4 PG13
The route definitely contains some 5th class slab on the upper portion of the route. The lower portion has a lot of 4th class. Definitely do the 5.7 finish. Straightforward and fun. We did the ledge traverse in the trees descent. It was pretty good at the top but either we missed the best point to turn downhill or it is not so great at the end. I would consider descending all the way down the ridge to the trail around Tenaya Lake if I do the route again. We had the gearloop topo. It was not great. A lot of the pitch distances seem short and didn't seem like the best belay spots. Oct 1, 2012
We found the only fixed pin left on the route at top of p8! After simul climbing the first 7 pitches, decided to pitch-out the "crux" slab pitches. Fun polished slab climbing! Exciting loose blocks with exposure to the top added to the experience. Just wish there was a better way off than the ledge traverse (forever) to the talus/duff descent back to the approach trail. Out to Sunrise seemed a little far-- Sep 22, 2012
Maxm
  5.3
Maxm  
  5.3
If you are following the easiest path (left side) have some fun and leave the gear at home. 1 hour hike up, 1.5 hour climb, 1.5 hour hike out.....5 minute swim in the lake. Aug 6, 2012
Kevin Heckeler
Upstate New York
  5.5 PG13
Kevin Heckeler   Upstate New York
  5.5 PG13
Definitely a couple 5.5 moves/sections, most of it is 5.3-ish. Some runout, but generally a G climb.

We descended down the west side, following the ridge for a while (trending down and right) until we could descend to the lake and caught the lake trail about 15 minutes from the car. We ended up on terrain that had no trace of man and was easy. Good way of getting to see some of the high country wildernerss.

We have nothing like this in the Northeast. 1500 feet of quality rock, some of it the best rock I've ever climbed on, and some good sections of easy climbing to boot. Prior to this the longest route we had ever done was 800 feet at Chapel Pond in the Adirondacks. We breezed this in about 6.5 hours up, 2.5 hours down, taking our time. We roped for the second half and climbed it traditionally. I guess you could simul climb it, but I don't know what the rush would be. I loved ever second being on the side of this wall and as you got higher the views got more amazing. Late day storms to the East made for spectacular backdrop against the jagged Sierra peaks. More awesomeness in one vista than the entire northeast has combined.

Don't be surprised if you see Marmots on the wall. They can sure climb. Oct 10, 2011
Chris D
the couch
  Easy 5th
Chris D   the couch
  Easy 5th
Don't bother with the topo; it makes no sense (you don't need it, either) and don't expect the fifth class climbing that Supertopo purports you will enjoy on every pitch. The gear recommendations in Supertopo include at least twice as much gear as you should need. We did this in 9 rope-stretching pitches and on a number of pitches placed no gear at all. Maybe two sections of fifth class, no more than 25 feet long. Lots of slab-walking, no hands required. The few sections of fifth class are fun, but could probably be avoided if you wanted to. I'm sure a more fifth class route could be contrived, but it wouldn't make any sense.

We got chased off the summit by thunder that started on the penultimate pitch and used a descent route that I haven't heard of. To use this descent, which we found quite pleasant and scenic, from the summit, follow the west ridge straight down until picking up a use trail below to the left. This trail can be followed, keeping generally to the right, to a point where you're on a flat platform with cliffs on all side except to the left, where you go back up 30 feet or so then continue switchbacking down ledges as you are able. Eventually, you'll come to a high cliff (150 feet?) where you can go right or left; go left. Follow a ledge down to a point where you're about to cliff out and a gully appears. Follow this gully down, then head back right hugging the cliff on your right, not descending to the bottom of the canyon on your left.

From here you will eventually be able to see Tenaya Lake. At this point, go east and down along game trails through the forest on soft duff, boulders, and cedar mulch (no bushwhacking) until you come out on the trail about 300 yards from the beach and from there back to your car.

I think I expected too much of the route. It's in an absolutely fantastic setting and the approach and descent are adventurous, but the actual climbing is not terribly special, nor is the rock. Still an awesome peak in Yosemite. Sep 19, 2011
Dave Alden
Seattle, WA
  5.5 PG13
Dave Alden   Seattle, WA
  5.5 PG13
Very easy climbing, great exposure and views though. Most of the route can be simulclimbed. Only 2 or 3 somewhat technical pitches near the summit. Feb 28, 2011
Karl K
Phoenix, AZ
  5.5
Karl K   Phoenix, AZ
  5.5
More approach info:
Its a bit easier walking near the lake to the trail. Follow the trail left until you see a large clear (relatively brush-free) area directly below the lowest cliff. Head straight up aiming for the left edge of this cliff band. You will find a trail leading up and left along the base of the cliff (at first). The only hard parts to follow are a bit of dirty slab and when the trail leads into the bushes (past a huge fallen tree) and you seem to be going further left than you want. Don't worry, it comes back right. Also, the 4th class (either up or just left of the little waterfall) is WAY easier than trying to bushwack left to get to the starting ledge. Aug 13, 2007