Tuolumne Meadows - Yosemite
High in the sky at over 8000 feet in elevation, Tuolumne is the largest sub- alpine meadow in the Sierras. When almost every other Sierra bouldering area is cooking in the heat of summer that is when The Meadows calls. Surrounded by stone, Tenaya Lake marks the western gate of the main Tuolumne climbing and bouldering areas and makes a perfect place to have a scenic picnic or take a dip on a hot summer day as well. The Tuolumne area is the ideal summertime boulder playground with perfect cool conditions to complement Bishop and Yosemite Valley’s ripe fall, winter and spring bouldering seasons. Closed in winter, there is only a window of climb time each year for Tuolumne which equals about half the time you get at other areas with all year access. This shortened window of opportunity makes Tuolumne a place to be appreciated, cherished and respected each and every visit. With a rich bouldering history that reaches back to the roots of Yosemite climbing lore and first ascents by the original “Stonemasters,” Tuolumne has always had a reputation for its unique knobs and challenging, uncharted and untamed rock in a wild alpine environment. Superb High Sierra granite with diorite knobs protruding from solid gold, white and black domes, cliffs, and boulders describes the rock. Thin and slabby, run-out face climbs on huge granite domes describes most of the routes. The bouldering is often very similar, just condensed into a shorter, more intense but equally hair-raising experience. In the end, of course, it’s always a very rewarding, satisfying and memorable experience. Head-spinning highballs, splitter cracks, balance slabs, thin and tenuous knob pinching face climbs, and epic long traverses describes the majority of boulder styles. A few overhanging problems are in the Tuolumne area but they are not the norm. The steep stuff is, however, excellent and on mostly well-featured, solid stone with burly, powerful moves mixed with the classic technical granite moves and quite often a heinous mantel top out. Bouldering in Tuolumne is an experience not to be missed.
Tuolumne Meadows is located 1.5 hours northeast of Yosemite Valley. There are literally thousands of boulder problems at Tuolomne, those featured here are located at the Knobs, the obvious boulders scattered on the slabs and hillsides to the northwest of the parking alongside Tioga Pass Rd, after the Tenaya Lake and opposita Pywiack Dome. All are within a five-minute walk of the road.
FOOD AND ACCOMODATION
The only campground in Tuolumne is the Tuolumne Meadows Campground, which is centrally located and very large (over 300 sites). Half of the sites can be reserved in advance at www.recreation.gov (reserve them at least 2-3 months in advance for peak times) and half of the sites are on a first come, first served basis (stand in line in early morning to ensure you get a site.) Sites cost $20 per night with a six-person, two-car limit. Be aware that mosquitoes can be particularly fierce and bears patrol the campground so proper food storage is mandatory. Located 7 to 12 miles east from Tuolumne Meadows are ten Forest Service campgrounds, many of which are first come, first served. Several of these campgrounds are at elevations higher than Tuolumne Meadows and can help with acclimation. Twelve miles east of Tuolumne Meadows, the campgrounds in lower Lee Vining Canyon are lower altitude, more sheltered from the wind, and near to services in Lee Vining. You will pay between $12 and $17 per night on a first come, first served basis. The prices at these campgrounds have climbed steeply in recent years, in some cases more than doubling in less than a decade. Along Highway 120 toward Yosemite Valley are several additional campgrounds with moderate to long drives (30 minutes to one hour). The campground reservation office in Tuolumne has information on current campground conditions.
Tuolumne Meadows has some of the best weather of any alpine rock climbing area on Earth. That said, Tuolumne is in a massive mountain range that receives severe thunderstorms, lightning, and rare major Pacific weather systems throughout the summer.
All climbing in Tuolumne is accessible from Highway 120. Because of its high elevation, Highway 120 east of Crane Flat and west of Lee Vining is closed in the winter. The road closes on the first snow of the year (usually November) and opens sometime in late May to June, depending on the snow year. During the winter, it is possible to climb in Tuolumne, but few people make the arduous ski in.
During early season (late MayJune depending on snow year), Tuolumne conditions are often the best: no crowds, no mosquitoes, and long days. However, some approaches and climbs may be wet or snowy. Around June 15 the crowds arrive in Tuolumnealong with the mosquitoes. The crowds are not bad relative to Yosemite, but you will probably have to wait in line for the most classic routes. The mosquitoes on the other hand, can be terrible. Be sure to bring long pants, long sleeve shirts, and bug repellent. In September, the crowds and mosquitoes leave Tuolumne and while the climbing conditions are still great, the days become short and the nights frigid.
Thunderstorm cycles are common in the summer. Typically, the storms hit in mid- afternoon and slowly increase in strength over several days, clearing up each night. However, heavy thunderstorms and rain can set in for days at a time. And in a few recent summers, an almost total lack of thunderstorms over the entire summer have perplexed locals.
Tuolumne Bouldering highlights 20 of the best bouldering areas in and around Tuolumne Meadows by supertopo
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