Sheri and I stayed the night in Oakdale on our way back home from dropping Danny at Stanford. We were driving by 6:30 a.m. the next morning, intent on climbing Tenaya Peak in Touloumne Meadows - the high country of Yosemite National Park. As we pulled into the parking lot at Tenaya Lake a party of three were gearing up. I correctly assumed they were headed for the Northeast Buttress - the route I wanted to climb. I approached them for some…approach beta. Steve Arnold, a very friendly education entrepreneur, appeared to be the leader of the group, told me that we could just go with them. I said we wouldn't be ready to go for a bit and he generously offered to wait, so Sheri and I quickly threw some stuff (water bottle, snack) into a fanny pack and hiked out with them.
|High on the route|
|Super fun climbing!|
|Selfie on the summit|
I climbed easily, in no rush, and stopped to take photos and sips of my bottle. I passed a couple of nice ledges and climbed through some short, cool steeper sections. All the while the steep summit cap loomed above me, worrying me only slightly because I knew there was an easy way to get through it and figured I'd find the way. I did and soon I was on top of the peak. The climbing can end directly on the summit if you exit there. The backside is gentle and I immediately spotted a worn trail heading down and west. I started to trot down this trail, yelling "Sheri" every minute or so.
But where was Sheri? I was hoping to see her on the descent, of course, and would have if she had been on the upper trail, but she wasn't there…yet. She traversed west when she left us and got to a steep slab that she didn't like. She sat at the base of it, waiting for me to come down. Eventually, though, the draw of the summit was too strong and the slab was starting to look doable. She cautiously smeared her way up in her vintage Exum Ridge shoes. Above she followed the route pointed out by Steve, which wasn't the one I took on the way down. I suspect when I was in my big boulder field, she was further west negotiating her way to the ridge. She continued to the summit while I waited at the lake, getting increasingly nervous about her. Last year I had worked myself into a near panic when I thought Sheri and Danny were lost and injured on the traverse between Harvard and Columbia (two Colorado 14ers). It was all in my mind then, so I tried not to get too worked up. I walked the road to the lake in case she had aborted the climb and was just enjoying the weather and views. No Sheri. I walked the beach of the lake. No Sheri. I returned to the car. No Sheri. I walked the approach trail until it split into the way we approached the climb and one of the possible descent routes. I waited here twenty minutes and then went back to the car. No Sheri. I thought of how I could find her without missing her again. I decided to wait longer.
|Looking down the route from the summit|
You might wonder why we keep splitting up. I do too. I tried to talk her into the climb with me, reading her all the descriptions about how easy it was. I'd have brought a rope if she had come along, but she was adamant that she wasn't interested in the climb. She ropes up these days only when it is necessary to make the summit. She tried to convince me to hike with her. Perhaps I should have, but I selfishly wanted this climb and convinced myself that everything would be okay. We were both very comfortable with the situation at the start and everything worked out in the end, but it would have been so much nicer if we could have communicated with each other. Perhaps the solution is satellite phones. :-)
I loved this climb. I could easily see myself doing it every time I pass by it. It would be equally fun as a timed, all-out effort, or a casual, eat-a-snack-on-a-ledge trip. Going pretty slow the entire time, this route would go in three hours roundtrip. I should have little trouble doing it under two hours on my next ascent. I might be able to get the roundtrip down to near 90 minutes. Stefan might be able to break an hour. It would make the ideal stage of the Tour de Flatirons if we ever expanded to a nation-wide Tour de Minions. Or maybe just a Tour de Yosemite version. We could do Tenaya Peak, Royal Arches, Snake Dike on Half Dome, Munginella on Manure Pile Buttress, etc. We could invite Hans and Alex to join us, but they'd want to include the Nose as a stage and that would ruin everything…