Northeast Buttress of Tenaya Peak, 10,280'

15 Jul 2001 - by Chris slide Gould

"Instinct tells me run away,
But faith proposes that I stay"

	"The Yeti", Clutch

While climbing on the Bunny Slopes Saturday evening, Cheryl and I had plenty of time to check out Tenaya Peak. From this perspective, a couple hundred yards east of Tenaya Lake, Tenaya Peak can look a bit intimidating - a large chunk of granite towering over the lake appearing dark and overhanging towards the top in the evening light. Viewed from the west end of Tenaya Lake a different picture unfolds - low angle slabs gradually getting steeper towards a moderate and fun looking summit.

On Sunday morning, Cheryl, Janet, Eric and I set out a bit before 8am to climb the Northeast Buttress of Tenaya Peak. We crossed a frost covered meadow at the east end of Tenaya Lake and then started bushwhacking our way up and right towards the run off from the giant bowl east of the buttress. Upon reaching the slabs, we headed up a grass and bush filled gully until we met the sun line and a couple from Colorado, the only other people on the route. Cheryl and Janet roped up and simul-climbed from here as did the Coloradans (not a bad idea) while Eric and I soloed up a couple hundred feet of 3rd class slabs. At the first good ledge we roped up as well and scrambled over easier terrain until we got to a plateau at the toe of the buttress, even with the bottom of the bowl.

The climbing ahead looked more interesting and we decided to start belaying here. There are many ways to go and for the first several pitches Eric and I stuck to the edge of the buttress while the party from Colorado climbed 30 feet to our right. After 4 pitches of easy fifth class with a bit of third class here and there, we arrived at a ledge that you could park an rv on. Here our line converged with the line the Coloradans wished to take. We had been expecting a long day, but it was 11am, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and we were only 2 or 3 pitches from the top. We decided to let them go ahead while we waited for Cheryl and Janet to climb up to our ledge and share their snacks.

The next pitch was Eric's and went up across a slab to a couple of flakes. After the flakes, he had to cross an improbable looking slab. Closer inspection revealed a series of 3 or 4 edges, just big enough for a toe and each about 2 feet apart. They looked natural, but the uniform size and spacing and two nearby fixed pitons had us wondering, could they have been chipped in an earlier era?

Up ahead the leader of the other party yelled down to his partner that the climbing was at least 5.7. At least 5.7 as in maybe 5.8? That's my pitch!

"I take a deep breath and count to ten,
Think about the nice places that I been."

    "Careful with that Mic...", Clutch

No more messing around with Eric's left handed rack, I reracked the gear gates _in_ on my harness and started up a corner system. After messing around for a couple minutes trying to get some gear in a dirty munge filled crack I moved up a bit higher. Here a nice clean crack sucked in a nut as soon as I got it off the rack. A bit higher and it did it again. That crack liked nuts so much that Eric had a hard time convincing it to give them back. All too soon the corner ended and I pulled up on to a ramp and easier climbing. We both thought 5.7 was a bit generous but I'll take it. All right, it was really more like 5.6.

The sixth pitch put us just short of the top. Eric picked an overhanging roof problem to top out a hundred feet or so east of the summit.

The views from Tenaya Peak are amazing. Name a peak in the park and as long as it's not directly north of Mount Hoffman or Tuolumne Peak you can probably see it from here - the Sawtooth Range, Dana, Cathedral, Echo Peaks, Matthes Crest, Lyell, Clark Range, Cloud's Rest and Half Dome, you name it. Especially impressive is the view of the Valley between Half Dome and what I think was Mt. Watkins.

As for the descent, most hardened Yosemite veterans would probably take it in stride. Whether you think it's heinous or an adventure depends on point of view. We headed west down the ridge to a rocky outcrop where we cut back east across a talus field. At a thick stand of trees we headed down to some heavy bushwacking and third/fourth class slabs, low angle but exposed and occasionally wet and mossy. Several "I think it goes"'s, "umm..."'s and "uh-oh"'s were heard around here. After the slabs a bit more talus and bushwhacking got us to the beach at the east end of Tenaya Lake. A less adventurous way probably exists.

p.s. Cheryl gets extra style points for leading 3 of the first 4 pitches in her approach shoes.

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