On August 7-8, Peter Lumeria, er McColgan, Jack Waters, Eric Hoffman and I headed down to Tioga Pass to climb the North Ridge of Mt. Conness. On Saturday, we decided to climb an easy 5.6 route on Lembert Dome to get used to climbing with each other, and to give Eric and I a chance to do a bit more leading. Jack and Eric went up first on one rope followed by Peter and I. There are a few friction moves on the first pitch and my humor-challenged climbing partners shared a few laughs over how I might want to change my name before leading it. The climb went smoothly enough and Eric and Jack walked off after the second pitch while Peter and I created a third pitch so we could get to the top of the Dome.
On Sunday morning, the 4 of us headed across Saddlebag Lake to Conness. Each of us was armed with our own photocopies of the topos and brief descriptions of known routes from 3 different guide books. After a couple hours of wandering through meadows, past waterfalls and hopping boulders, we approached the North Ridge. The most obvious route to the ridge was a miserable slog up a sand covered slope on the backside of North Peak.
Our route information was somewhat vague; saying to scramble up to the ridge between North Ridge and Conness, and then follow the ridge to the summit. Through the wonders of group intelligence quotients, we took this to mean there was a third class route directly below the low point of the saddle, which would be much prefered over the sand route. Accordingly, we headed directly to the low point only to meet a blank wall which Eric promptly declared unclimbable (at least by us.) After a heated debate, we decided to backtrack back down a talus slope, cross a snow field, and then climb up some very loose third class rock to the sandy slope below North Peak.
This route finding error and backtracking proved time consuming and by the time we got on the ridge it was past noon and the weather was looking somewhat threatening to the west. At this point, we knew our chances of finishing the climb before dark were shot. We dumped our climbing gear and packs and decided to go further up the ridge to get a better look at the route for next time. After a bit of third class climbing, we stopped to kick back and admire the view while Peter forged ahead. After Peter declared that it was mostly third class, I climbed up and joined him and we continued up to about 11,900' on excellent third and fourth class rock with a couple of exciting 4th class moves that put 500 feet of air below our heels. Just as we decided that we had gone far enough, snow flakes started falling. 30 seconds later they stopped but it was clear it was time to leave.
We'll get there next time.
Footnote: anyone wishing to get in aerobic shape should consider the Death Ride. Eric, fresh off of 4 months of training for the Death Ride, could clearly have climbed the mountain twice and been back at home and in bed in the time it took the rest of us to do the approach!