Sitting around a camp in Tuolumne with Kathy (of ryanclan fame), Shell, Greg (of ASCF and Supertopo fame), a friend Rob suggests a little climb in the Minarets. Not knowing much about the Minarets, I sort of blow him off saying, “yeah, yeah yeah, how about a little romp on El Cap”. But no…., Rob is stubborn since this is one of the 50 Classic Climbs (also known as the Classic Chosspiles of North America), so a few weeks later I find myself sitting at the Mammouth Lakes Ranger Station in Mammouth California (just north of Bishop), getting a wilderness permit. The guys in front of us are a bunch of morons, the type that you would hate to see in the backcountry, knowing they would be the ones starting the next forest fire. There are signs for, no fires in the back country, and the use of explosives by permit only. We joke with the rangers, asking for a backcountry permit and at the time could they throw in one of those explosive permits…. But nooo…. Damn those rangers , they don’t want us to have any fun.
Well, we drive up to the Mammouth Ski Resort, grab our packs, and hop on the bus to take us to the trailhead at Devils Pile Post. The trail sort of wanders through the Sierras on a trail the size of the Santa Monica Freeway, crossing the river several times, taking us past a beautiful waterfall, up to Lake Minaret. The view from Lake Minaret puts the views of Yosemite and Tuolumne to shame. We both agree that this has got to be the most beautiful spot we’ve seen in the Sierras. We finish the short hike to Cecile Lake and find a campsite. It feels good to put the pack down after the nine miles, even though its not heavy, maybe 30lbs max, but these scrawny legs of mine aren’t meant for it. After purifying some water out of Cecile Lake, since I don’t like the mountaineers method of weight loss, Gardia; we take off scouting the route.
The face of Clyde Minaret is fairly steep, not so wide but the features indistinct enough that much deliberation occurred about where the damn route went. By about 6pm we are back at camp making up the rest of our food as dinner, mmmmm… freeze dried chicken dinner. As the sun was setting we crawled into our bivi-sacs for some rest knowing what tomorrow would bring. As the sunset the magnitude was incredible and I spend about 15 minutes taking some photo’s.
As I settled into my bag I found myself fast asleep. But not for long, not sure exactly why a awoke, but at 10:30 I was awake, scanning the face. Then in the moonlight I see the two climbers making there way down the snow field to the left of the face. About 45 minutes later the two climbers dragged their tired butts past our camps, muttering something about it taking much longer then expected.
The following morning found us up at 5:30am wolfing down a bagel a drink of water and racking up. By about 6:30 we were at the base of the route and the sun felt good. The first pitch was fairly easy with holds miraculously showing up and solid handjams, probably the 5.9+ rating but no harder. The 100ft went fast, maybe 15 or 20 minutes. In no time Rob was at the belay racking for the next pitch. After some a long beautiful corner with thin fingers (maybe a 120ft pitch) Rob set the belay about 20ft below the top of the pillar. The next pitch finds me with 10ft of off-fist jamming, yuck…. The size I hate. After the off-fist I find myself mantling on top of the pillar, making a traverse trying to find which dihedral is the right on for the next pitch. The traverse is trivial but the dihedrals look the same. At the second dihedral over, it looks about right so I set the belay. Rob is quickly up and grabbing the rack for the next pitch. He quickly puts the pitch away . Climbing the pitch I notice, the holds are all incut but the dihedral rarely opens enough for gear. The climbing easy but the gear not so simple. I take the next pitch, wandering to the right, occasionally getting gear in. After a fairly runout section, looking down I could still see my last gear but not well, I sink a bomber blue cam, and 5 ft later clip a fixed grey camalot. Seconds later I mantle on top of a block that is the belay station. The next couple pitches continue like this leading to a corner system. Continuing up this corner, we find either the guidebook authors forgot a pitch or they really stretched there rope pitches long, since by the 9th pitch we’ve added another one. By this time we have also runout of water. But hey no problem, right- just a few more pitches and a quick run down the backside. The last pitches were no problem and by about 1 or 2pm we find ourselves on the summit ridge.
A half hour later we are on the summit, marveling that you can see Mono Lake and Tuolumne in the distance (maybe 35miles away). After a short stay we debate how to get off this damn thing. We continue towards the rear of the ridge, over a short pedestial. The topo says to go down a gully towards the gendarme. The first gully ends at a cliff…. damn, back to the top. My mouth and my mind reminds me that water would be nice, ok, really nice. After taking the second gully, we find the third class downclimb. It’s loose, but never too much so. It’s steep, but not steep enough to require a rope. It’s really long, long enough that after 2 hours your mind is scream’n for water, and to be off this loose shist. We traverse to the left of the gendarme and back around to its right. A couple hours later we find ourselves back at Cecile Lake. Ok, its water, but gaurdia or water, water or gaurdia….. ok, another 30minutes we’ll be back at camp with the water filter. Those minutes back to camp take forever.
Back at camp we filter some water, drinking it as fast as it can be filtered. Scarfing down the last powerbar, we feel surprisingly strong, a day of climbing 12 pitches, and a downclimb not quite from hell, all on a bagel and two powerbars. We pack our backpacks, feeling thankful that they are light. Its getting dark, and off to the right we see that someone has started a campfire. MORONS, don’t they know there is fire restrictions in place. The breeze is cool but we know that hiking out we won’t be cold. Thirty minutes of hiking deposits us at Lake Minaret, looking back to admire the elegent outline of Clyde Minaret in the dark, we find the face illuminated by the campfire which has now spread to the stand of trees that surround the campgrounds. MORONS!!!! Atleast the vegatation is sparse and the valley isolated. We hike fast, hoping the isolation of the valley contains the fire and the winds not so strong as to spread it. The area is the most beautiful we’ve seen and we would hate for it to go up in flames. The 8-9miles back to the trailhead is in the dark, but goes easily. By 11pm we call 911 from the trailhead to report the fire and to rest our feet. We’ve missed the shuttle (by about 3 ½ hours) so there is still another 9-10miles to hike back to the car. Butt the car means powerbars and soda, the breakfast of champions. Later that night (or is it morning) we sleep well, tired but not too much so. The morning finds us hungery so Schotzies Bakery it is, Ahhhh. Shotzies Bakery, an experience to be missed when the stomach is empty. Ok, I’ll be late for work but atleast I’ll be back at work in the afternoon.
The route should be done in one day or three days. After 7:30 you must park at the Mammouth Ski Resort and take a shuttle to Devils Pile Post (9-10miles). For a 1 day ascent, start at Devils Pile Post at 2-3am. You will be able to get to the climb by 6-7am and you will be back to the car at 11pm, for 16-18miles of hiking, and 12-13pitches of climbing, 2 pitches 5.9+ 1 pitch 5.9 and everything else 5.7 or 5.8. Very Gunkie in style with many incut horizontial holds.
Aliens: Took 2 green; suggest blue and green
Camalots from 0.3 to 3 (blue). Nothing bigger then a blue camalot is required
Nuts, small nuts and medium sized
Slings: plenty of long slings suggested; its blocky and wandering
Ropes: used 2x 9mm x 60m: very nice due to the wandering nature of the route