Tuolumne Meadows is the alpine granite wonderland sibling of Yosemite Valley’s long aesthetic crack climbs. Tuolumne is known for its easy moderate alpine climbs like Cathedral Peak as well its runout dome slab climbing where ‘R’ protection ratings (i.e. a fall could cause serious injury) are more common than bolts. I think the place is pretty but I’m in the minority of not being a fan. In my opinion, the cracks are often irregular with marble-golf ball sized rock crystals, the bolted climbs are scary and the moderate classics attract shitshows like gravity. However, I couldn’t turn down a climbing weekend with my super strong friend Leo to give the harder classics a go.
Leo and I planned a link of up of On the Lamb (5.9, 4 pitches) as an approach to Oz (5.10d, 5 pitches), as an approach to Hobbit Book (5.7 R, 4 pitches). Each a classic in its own way.
On the Lamb is climb you won’t find anywhere else. A horizontal dike that is split down the center to form a hand-size crack producing a trad-protected, 500 ft long hand traverse with abundant jugs and mostly friction for feet. How did a horizontal crack-dike even form across the entirety of Lamb Dome!
Oz can be called the cleanest crack in Tuolumne and can collect its own waiting line, even with it being 5.10+. P2 hosts some face moves that made a V8 boulderer fall the first time through the crux.
While P3 is the 5.10 💰 with sustained, continuous finger locks in a beautiful corner to a mega roof.
If leader-follower are both strong (I wasn’t) they can strike off right for a traverse of Gram under this huge roof. …or like us, finish Oz off to the left to the summit of Drug Dome.
We were getting a little tired at 3pm when we started Hobbit Book, which kept us from trying the new fun climb Valinor (2019 FA). While the massive corner is an aesthetic feature and views great, this climb wasn’t memorable. The ‘great’ P3 with 50 ft runout through a small section of plated patina is unique for Tuolumne, but poorly featured when compared to similar plating at Shuteye Ridge or City of Rocks.
It was a long, easy, couple hour hike back to the road past some crazy big mushrooms. We topped off the night by cooking dinner at Olmsted Point, looking down towards Half Dome.
We spent our second cold morning on Sunday climbing up Lucky Streaks. At 8:30am it was 40 degrees and the 5 other cars at the trailhead were already forming the great Regular Route (5.9) conga-line up Fairview Dome. Our classic (Lucky Streaks) we had all to ourselves.
The P3 pitch was super memorable and featured a variety of fun moves: lie-backing, mantels and other face climbing-like movements.
The climbing was generally good but I get pretty spooked with trad-protecting face-climbing styled pitches. The crack 300 ft to the summit of Fairview Dome from the top of P3 was pretty continuous but irregular and with large crystals. Most of the time it involved some combination of fingers, hand or lieback combined with grape-sized crystals for feet. Given I’m not really a face climber, this felt pretty insecure on fiddly gear. There was a memorable undercling traverse, but the flow was all off from my style.
Overall it was a great weekend, with many classic routes, continuous movements and a wonderfully great human being of a partner in Leo. However, it did kinda confirm how I feel about Tuolumne’s crack climbing: not great crack-style flow, awkward and insecure.