The Unicorn in the Garden

17 Oct 1999 - by Arun Mahajan

Once upon a sunny morning ...

Once upon a sunny morning, a man sees a white Unicorn with a golden horn in his garden, cropping his roses. He rushes up to his wife and wakes her up. "There is a Unicorn in the garden" he says, "eating roses". His wife gives him an unfriendly look, "the Unicorn is a mythical beast". So begins a classic modern fable.

"There is the Unicorn from the meadows", says Ron Karpel, waking me up from my dozing. "The Unicorn is a mythical beast", I mutter. We have been driving for the past five hours after having started off from the Bay Area at a ghastly morning hour. So began our hike to Unicorn Peak (10880 ft) in our garden, Tuoloumne Meadows, on Sunday, 17 Oct, 99.

Starting from the back of the campground at Tuoloumne, a couple of miles of easy hiking on an evenly graded trail got us to an unmarked fork which headed west. Within a quarter of a mile on this fork, we came to Elizabeth Lake which we skirted from the north side till we came to the gentle class-2 slopes of Unicorn Peak's east side. Angling north-east on the slabs, we came to the small notch between the middle and north summits of the peak. At this point, there is a small arete of seemingly unclimbable rocks that lead to the summit. But there is a way by circling either to the right or to the left and a couple of airy class-3 moves later we were on a small platform looking at a large boulder on the route.

Here, we consolidated our packs into one and Ron pulled out his 9mm half-length rope and gave me a few hexes and cams and graciously let me lead. One may clamber directly on to the face of the boulder and use the knobs and other features on it to climb it but it was too much of a high step for me, so I decided to go on the left and under it. This is the only hard move of the climb as the left side is exposed. Carefully avoiding eye contact with the void below me and crouching on the small ledge under the boulder, wedging my hands in a crack between the boulder and a smaller rock I let my feet out into the void and found a small foothold and was able to slide to my left till I came to the rock on the other side and was able to stem with my left foot and thus get on and over the boulder. I did not have to place protection. A few more easier steps and I was at the top. Ron quickly followed me up, making light of that class-4 step and we were on the horn of the Unicorn. No register here, nor is the peak on THE LIST, which we found to be very odd indeed.

The long wait at the summit, not wanting to let go of an ending season, finally came to an end. This time Ron lead and I belayed. He set three pieces on the way down and I followed to the platform where we had left some of our stuff. The hike out was uneventful and we got back to the cars to make it a total of six hours, ending an enjoyable trip to a most striking peak.

Did the man in the fable get put in the booby-hatch for claiming to have seen a Unicorn in his garden? I wont tell you what happens. I will let you enjoy that fable for yourself. It is a classic too.

(references to The Unicorn in the Garden from Fables for our time, by James Thurber).

Michael Gordon added:

In "Close Ups of the High Sierra" the supreme bad-ass himself, Norman Clyde, suggests how both the Unicorn and Cathedral Peak are done together in a short day from Tuolomne Meadows. Ha!

Beren Erchamion added:

No register here, nor is the peak on THE LIST, which we found to be very odd indeed.

Thanks for an interesting story; I did want to add another small 'fork in the trail', or should I say, 'boobie in the hatch' to count :-)

Actually, the Unicorn is on a list or two; perhaps not 'the list', but what 'that' is depends on who you are. Check out the WSC list, a Sacramento-based list that no one has completed yet, although a few of us are slowly working on it. Of course, there's also Secor's and Roper's books, each of which, with a stretch, could be called 'a list'.

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