Thursday, July 18, 2013

Climbing at Tuolomne Meadows, Hobbit Book: 06/27/2013

Mariuolomne Dome, Yosemite National Park.  Hobbit Book is the huge crescent-shaped corner that splits the dome.  Photo credit:
With its huge granite domes, soaring peaks, and the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada, the scenery and the climbing at Tuolomne Meadows are world-class and at the same time completely different from Yosemite Valley. There are enough classic climbs at Tuolomne to fill a weeks long road trip, but we had just one more day. So we turned to some climbing friends for route suggestions and settled on Hobbit Book.

Weeks ago, while planning our trip, we decided we would climb with a guide. For us, on a trip like this, a guide makes sense. No need to transport our ropes and rack across the country, no route finding worries or concerns about leading above our ability. With a hired rope gun, we can move quickly and efficiently, packing maximum climbing into our day. I’ve led enough hard (for me) pitches that I’m happy to let someone else take the sharp end when I’m on vacation. Having already made the decision to climb with a guide made it easy to settle on climbing Hobbit Book: more than just a rock climb, Hobbit Book is an all-day adventure with a lengthy, complicated approach that would have been impractical for us to undertake on our own.

Talus time! Nate and Beth head up in bright morning sun

Sometimes the easiest route goes under the talus

Beautiful slabs above the talus

Roped up on the 4th class approach ledges - great views and exposure before the real climbing even begins

We met up with our guide Nate around 8:30am and began the approach hike by 9. Easy hiking quickly leads to the base of Drug Dome’s sheer north face. That’s where the talus begins: giant, house-sized talus that eventually leads to slabs and exposed 4th class (we roped up) ledges on Mariuolomne Dome. I consider myself pretty good at route finding, but I can say with confidence that there’s no way in hell I’d have found the start of the climb on my own.

Nate running up pitch 1

Beth and Nate at the second belay ledge, pitch 3 lies above

Nate running it out on pitch 3

Beth climbing pitch 3 - it's all there!

Beth approaching the hanging belay at the top of pitch 3

The climbing route begins at a wide, comfortable ledge that’s already 500’ off the ground, and follows a huge left-facing corner for four long pitches all the way to Mariuolomne Dome’s 9,970’ summit (the tallest dome in Tuolomne). The odd name is a concatenation of Mariposa and Tuolomne – two counties whose border crosses the base of the dome.

A couple shots of Nate at the start of pitch 4

Me near the top of pitch 4

Beth topping out

Climbing as a party of three is a bit different. Essentially, the leader (Nate) climbs on one rope and trails a second rope, then simultaneously belays both followers (Beth and me) on separate ropes, one behind the other. Each follower unclips their rope from the protection, the second follower removes the pro. Three climbers and two ropes makes for a lot of rope management issues at each belay, but that’s second nature for a good guide like Nate.

Looking down at Fairview Dome from the top of the climb

What a beautiful summit - that's Tenaya Peak, Cloud's Rest and Half Dome (L to R) above Tenaya Lake in the distance

Tresidder Peak is the double-pointed summit on the left

Cathedral Peak and Eichorn Pinnacle, Echo Peaks, Tresidder Peak (L to R)

Close-up of the beautiful hidden lake directly below Mariuolomne Dome's summit

The first pitch starts out easy enough with a laid-back open book, but above that feature everything is steep and exposed all the way to the top. Belay ledges are tiny – cramped for our party of 3. Pitch 3 is the money pitch with steep moves up a face that the last glaciers polished to a beautiful golden-black patina. It’s all there, but protection for the leader is scant, with a 60’ section of run-out 5.7 above the pitch’s lone bolt.

Domes and peaks to the north

Gentle slopes at the start of the descent

This split gully leads back down to the talus fields we negotiated on the approach

An interesting view of Drug Dome on our way out, showing the intimidating 5.10 climb Oz. A climber can be seen on the face to the left of and just below the huge roof

Topping out after the 4th pitch, we unroped and enjoyed the 360-degree view from Mariuolomne Dome’s beautiful summit. Cathedral Peak stands to the east, massive Fairview Dome to the north. A small, hidden lake sparkled just below the summit. Tresidder Peak, Tenaya Peak and Tenaya Lake lay close by to the south, with Half Dome and Yosemite Valley in the distance. Taking in almost all of the terrain that we had covered during our week in Yosemite, the summit panorama was the perfect cap to our trip.

Credit for first photo:

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