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Hiking Stats as of 11/14/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Aug 21, 2014 - Hoffmann, Mount / North Peak

 

Partners: (None)

Distance: 15.41 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,860 feet

Trip Time: 8:07

Maps and Stats:
I had Thursday and Friday off work, and was excited to take my first trip to the eastern Sierra in over a year. Most of the time I like to make the full round trip drive and hike in a long day, which makes the eastern Sierra, with its 5-6 hour drive, off limits. Unless I have time off work that is, when I can spend a couple nights at a motel and spend my days bagging peaks instead of driving. Thursday morning I took the dogs out for a walk, and left my house at around 8 AM. I had programmed a lot of peaks into my GPS, with a tentative itinerary of doing either Mt. Morgan (South), Mt. Agassiz or Cloudripper on Thursday, Mt. Julius Ceasar on Friday, and then one of the two remaining Thursday choices on Saturday before getting home Saturday night. I had also programmed Mt. Hoffmann and North Peak, each a half day hike in the Yosemite area as a back up plan in case something didn't work out. As it turned out, there was a lot of road work on the Tioga Road through Yosemite, and I began to worry about being able to get to one of my 3 peaks with enough time to summit and get back before dark. So I pulled out my backup plan, and decided to take on Mt. Hoffmann and North Peak. In retrospect, this was by far the correct decision, as my plan to take on a bunch of 13k peaks without acclimation was a bit foolish. Better to warm up on these 2 peaks. Mt. Hoffmann would be my 30th WSC peak and North Peak my 31st WSC and my 23rd SPS Peak.

MT. HOFFMANN

Mt. Hoffmann is located right in the middle of Yosemite, and has very easy access with a road that leads to within a few miles of the peak. The May Lakes road is easily passable by any car, and I arrived at the parking lot at 10:30. The lot was completely full, so I circled back and parked in a open spot on the side of the road and got started. Right from the start Mt. Hoffmann is visible, and there is a nice easy trail leading up to May Lake, from which point Mt. Hoffmann rises prominently in the background. There were several people on the trail up until this point, and I had hoped that the trail to Mt. Hoffmann might be a little less crowded, as is usually the case for most peaks that I've climbed. This didn't really happen, as there were people around for most of this hike, despite being a random Thursday afternoon. As I got started up the slope , the views quickly opened up back towards the Yosemite high country, and by noon the summit, with its unfortunate antenna, was well into view.

I reached the summit at 12:10, a brief hike to be sure, especially for a WSC peak. This doesn't mean that the views weren't spectacular, however. From the top, thew views stretched from Mount Dana to the east, the High Country, Tuolumne Peak and a nice zoom view to Half Dome. I took a shot of myself with Half Dome in the background and after less than 10 minutes I started back down. By 1 PM I was nearing May Lake and by 1:30 I was back at the TH after a 3 hour round trip up and down Mt. Hoffmann. I'll have to try this one again sometime when there is some snow cover, as this would seemingly be a better challenge in those conditions.

NORTH PEAK

Access to North Peak is provided via Saddlebag Lake, an area I visited a couple of years ago for a trip up Mt. Conness. North Peak is renowned for its climbing routes, although being a mere hiker I was looking to keep it class 2/3. The Saddlebag Lake road is just east of Tioga Pass, and covers about 3 miles on a gravel road that is passable by any vehicle. This is the road that also provides access to Tioga Peak, which I'd climbed as acclimation for Whitney in each of the last two years. I arrived at the parking lot at 2:30, and upon arriving at the lake I noticed that a boat was shuttling people back and forth. This could have saved some time, maybe 20 minutes or so each way, but I was here to hike, not ride a boat. So I took the easy trail that ran alongside the lake, gaining no elevation at all. As I reached the end of the lake, North Peak came into view. This area is remarkably scenic, and I had forgotten just how much so. There are lakes, streams, waterfalls, and of course mountains surrounding the entire area.

There was a good use trail that turned away from the end of Saddlebag Lake and took me to Gemstone Lake, from where North Peak rose impressively in the background. Access to North Peak is provided after heading up a few rocky slopes from which a stream flows down, fed by the melting of the snows and ice on Mt. Conness. As I went up the first ridge I could only imagine what the waterfall coming down would look like at its peak in spring. I now wished I wasn't in such a hurry, but I had to keep up a good pace to avoid hiking in darkness and to allow myself enough time to get to Mammoth for a good nights sleep before the next day's adventures. Once I got up above the waterfall, there were a series of lakes, known collectively as the Conness Lakes. At this point I made a bit of a navigational error, leaving the lake to start up the slopes towards North Peak, figuring I would cut down on the steepness of the ascent by taking on some of it early. I wound up having to go back down to the lake and found a use trail along the far side which then led to the slopes which would take me straight up to the ridge between North Peak and Mt. Conness.

This part of the climb was lots of fun, heading up steep class 2 rock that was sufficiently large to mostly stay in place. As I got higher I could see the Conness Glacier, set against Mt. Conness and one of the higher Conness Lakes. Have I said that this area is incredible? By 5 PM I hit the ridge between Conness and North Peak, and from there it was an easy 20 minute scramble up to the top. I took a summit shot of myself, and located the summit register and signed in. So how about those views...Conness to my right, the Conness Lakes below, Saddlebag Lake in the distance, the mountainous terrain around me, and the steep cliffs of North Peak that attracts climbers looking for some class 5 challenges.

I started down a bit after 5:30, enjoying the memorizing views towards Conness. Once I got back down to the lower Conness Lake I did a better job of route finding, traversing the large boulder field and winding my way back down to Gemstone Lake as the sun began to set. I hooked back up with the trail that wound around Saddlebag Lake around 7 PM, at which point I kind of wished I had a ticket to take the ferry back. But it was only another 30 minutes until I was back at the car , ready for the 45 minute drive to the Motel 6 in Mammoth Lakes, from where I would set up my base camp for the next 2 days of eastern Sierra peakbagging.

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