The Pass Opens
Highway 120, which connects the Eastern and Western Sierra via the Yosemite high country, is scheduled to open Friday May 11th at noon. With the Sierra snowpack at a record 29% of normal levels, the lowest since 1988, Tioga Road will open a full month earlier than last year. While the lack of snow bodes ill for California's water supply in the coming year (state officials are already predicting shortages and possible restrictions this summer) the early opening of the Tioga Road is great news for fans of the climbing in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows, which is only accessible during the summer months when Highway 120 is free of snow.
At 8500 feet, Tuolumne Meadows is a wonderland of granite domes in a pristine alpine setting, offering climbers a cool and quiet refuge from the sweltering heat and Disneyland tourist scene found in nearby Yosemite Valley. Tuolumne is famous for its breathtaking vistas of the High Sierra, for its granite domes and golden faces peppered with the feldspar crystals that remain when the granite has partially eroded away (love 'em or hate 'em, the "knobs" provide a unique and often puzzling climbing experience), and for classic crack lines at every grade. If you're new to climbing in Tuolumne, be aware that Tuolumne is also famous for its puckering runouts, occasionally above 70's-era 1/4 inch bolts, so pay close attention to your route choices and to the letter 'R' that may appear after the difficulty grade. If clinging to a knobby slab 30 feet above your last piece of gear isn't your bag, Tuolumne also offers some excellent alpine bouldering. The newest edition of the Reid/Falkenstein Tuolumne Meadows guide includes a small portion of the bouldering, but for those willing to explore or ask around there are many more pebbles to be found hiding out in the woods. Whatever your climbing preference, Tuolumne season is here, so if those Valley crowds and rising temperatures are getting you down, head up the road to the high country where the air is cool and thin and the domes are endless.
Camping in Tuolumne is restricted to the single campground, which usually fills up on weekends, so plan ahead for accomodations- travel outside the park to the east is sometimes necessary to find a place to sleep. Bring your bug spray - wet conditions at the beginning of the season create a perfect breeding ground for relentless swarms of mosquitos.
Labels: hot spots, Yosemite