I usually feel the big Sierra days calling as winter melts into spring. Last summer, coming off a nonlinear second-year-in-a-row hip labral tear recovery (and a mysterious chronic gut bug that prevented me from eating hardy veggies, beans, and dairy for half a year??) wasn’t compelling me towards my usual summer pastimes of weighed stomping and thousands of feet of vert. So even as all my friends were packing up to get fried like eggs on big backcountry missions, my stoke stayed at ground-level and I continued perfecting my deadpointing between razor crimps.
Summer in Tuolumne is like a dream. I’ve been coming here for years to cry on the scary dome slabs, but only last season realised the bouldering is really really awesome. The rock is textured Eastern Sierra granite with plentiful crystals and improbable knobs. There’s overhanging 3D route shapes and unique movement, like stacked pancakes tipped sideways. Living an hour’s drive away in Mammoth, I wanted to get out there as much as possible, undeterred by the early summer road construction or the permitted entry. I had to rally friends to take bouldering detours on the way to Tioga Cliff or between their big objectives, since the usual strategy of finding spotters under your project doesn’t work when you run into 3 other parties total all season. The masses have shockingly failed to take notice of Tuolumne boulders, which retain their solitude despite their relatively short approaches, and being attached to the top-mobbed National Park of the country.
I find the easy range to be pretty underdeveloped, with v3 and below sparse or hair-raising, but the v4-5 zone was very engaging for me! and plenty of v6-9 for my friends to play on. Fun for the whole family. Here’s my 2022 season roundup:
Kauk problem v5 (The Knobs). this is the send that led me to finally believe I can climb v5. powerful, crimpy, precise moves (I guess this is my style??)
For next time:
Cellulite Eliminator stand v5 (The Gunks) - need to refine my left heel hook!
Black matter v6 (Tenaya Lake Boulders) - so powerful so sharp! gotta go back with more pads. I do love a crimp. Looks like it’s been downgraded to v5 on the Proj.
Unnamed v5 next to Detached (Medlicott Boulder) - it’s the sit start to the unnamed v4
Solar Flare v4 (Sunrise Boulder) - moderately overhanging crimps to a tall but protectable mantle. fun! Sunrise boulder is a lone, massive boulder on an open slab, with all-time views of Tenaya and Cloudsrest. Great hang.
Short Train v4 (Pywiak Boulder) - start horizontal and escape from a chilly creekside cave. very workable, kind of enduro. nice to have a couple pads for the talus-y landing. fun!
Summer Vacation v4 (Summertime Boulder) - it’s a hike, and difficult to find, but the climb has unique granite features in a scenic location. another tuolumne escape-the-cave triller. Directions: Turn left (uphill) off the lake trail at (37.83242, -119.45311). Boulder is at (37.82888, -119.45279)
Knobs Creek v4 (The Knobs) - tall but straightfoward, for vertical crimping enthusiasts
Spaceballs v4 (Raisin Creek) - tough!!! the tension required for shorter-spanned people is incredible. proud v4 for me. Location: (37.82868, -119.47559)
Slopers and Dopers v4 (Drug Dome Trees) - another route with cool movement for granite
Unnamed v4 next to Detached (Medlicott Boulder) - crimpy, technical sequencing and footwork, a bit overhanging, playing with body tension, funky visual feature. love it!
Unnamed v4 (Arena Boulder backside) - overhanging lowball transitions into surprising mantle topout! more harder (tall) stuff on this boulder, including the ominous Buttermilks Simulator.
For next time:
Cave route v4 (Olmsted Canyon) - very cool big moves between crimps under the roof felt SO hard. there’s a wild mantle move at the top as a treat
- Medlicott warmup boulder unnamed v3 - fun big movements! 1 min south of Medlicott boulder, location: (37.86200, -119.42924)
- Unnamed v3 at Pywiak Boulder - The finish to Short Train
- Sunshine stand v3 (Sunrise boulder)
- Solar eclipse v3 (Sunrise boulder) - both worthwhile and at a super pretty location
For next time:
- double dyno v3 - the dyno feels super sandbagged if you’re shorter
- leap of faith v3 - just feels impossibly tall at the top
- Machine World v3 - I kept meaning to come out here to work long traverse on a solo day, but I was busy all summer. 2 min approach and looks super fun.
In the classic Eastern Sierra style, there is no shortage of extremely sandbagged, harrowing v2’s. Standouts for me:
- Dark Helmet v2 - worth checking out if you’re at Spaceballs, warning about the spicy topout!
- v2 on Sunrise Boulder - I actually thought this was pretty fun, managed to do a ridiculous hand-foot match piano
Carefully read the descriptions in the book because many of the 0s and 1s listed are actually super scary slabs and not necessarily beginner friendly! Areas to play around it:
- The Knobs - People love to pull on knobs, fun for the whole family. Many v0s and v1’s that are fairly vertical.
- Puppy Dome - mostly scary slab highballs but you can find lines self-discovery style. and bail to swim in the river if you’re over the sandbagged routes!
After writing this all out and riffling through last year’s photos, I am so so so homesick for summer, missing the carefree days and the merry crew. It’s also a celebration of the friends I made this year who stuck with me through snow, heat, t-storm, mid-summer smoke scares, bushwhacking, injuries, loneliness, and getting super sick. The Eastern Sierra will always be home and I know I will be back. <3
- The season is whenever Tioga pass opens until whenever it closes (roughly May/June - Oct/Nov), with spring season possible (depending on snow pack) and fall being pretty cool and bug-free.
- There’s usually a few weeks of mosquitos in the summer. The timing depends on the snow pack, but I’d count on July or August being the most intense. most areas that aren’t under moist trees don’t get that bad, but definitely bring bug spray (or permethrin-treated clothing if you want to swim without getting bug spray into the super clean waters).
- You kind of need the book (or a friend with the book), because even with all its inaccuracies (I’ve taken a sharpie to some of the gps points in my housemate’s copy out of frustration), Mountain Project is very incomplete for this area (maybe related to its relative obscurity?)
- There’s water (and bathrooms) at the JMT station
- not much cell signal in Tuolumne, download your offline maps and beta ahead of time. Make a meetup plan and a backup meetup plan.
- The Tuolumne general store is open seasonally, don’t depend on it for food (especially spring and fall)
- There’s sometimes live music at the Mobile in the summer (Saturday?)
- If your fingers cry for mercy, there’s a great swimming spot on the river by Puppy Dome Boulders. Tenaya Lake is a classic of course. There’s some waterslides around Tuolumne, go look for them (wear shorts though LOL)
- The Tuolumne campgrounds have been closed for renovations for a few years :/ Anyway those suckers need to be reserved like 6 months in advanced
- There’s walk-in car camping outside the east gate/just past Tioga pass on the 120
- Put your food in the bear boxes (if there’s any at the parking spot) or lock your van. Bears will actually break in (they’re pros at door handles) and smash open your van fridge
- The bustability of sleeping in your van inside the park is high, I wouldn’t count on it
- Thunderstorms tend to happen in the afternoon, so you can often get a morning session in (just don’t forget to keep track of both sides of the sky)
- weather.gov is your most reliable weather source
- If the mushroom has gills, probably don’t eat it