The North Ridge of Conness is a striking line. I would call it more of a "ridge scramble" than an actual rock climb, so if you are expecting a technical rock route, you might be a little let down. With the exception of 2 short rappels at the Second Tower (bypassed by easy 5th class downclimbing), the rest of the route is 3rd and 4th class.
Even if soloing the route, count on a full day, as you will be covering a lot of ground.
Refer to the "Location" section below for general approach information. From the initial steep headwall, scramble up (4th class) to gain the ridge. Walk the ridgeline (mostly 3rd class with occasional 4th), staying left of the first Tower. At the Second Tower, either make 2 short raps (both have fixed anchors) or scramble down easy 5th class for 40 and 60 feet, respectively. From here, a handful of 4th class "pitches" to the summit. Stay close to the edge for maximum value. From the summit, take in the spectacular views of Tuolumne and down into the Valley before descending the East Ridge.
From the trailhead at Saddlebag Lake (10,060'), hike or ferry across the lake ($7 one-way, $10 round trip). Follow a trail for a short distance, then cross-country up the Conness Lakes drainage. No need to bring excessive amounts of water, as water is readily available all the way up to the toe of the glacier. At the last tarn, you will encounter a steep headwall to gain the ridge. Pick the path of least resistance (4th class). Allow a minimum of 2 hours for the approach.
A single rope may be desired by some parties for 2 short rappels that are readily avoided by an easy downclimb. A rack is unnecessary unless you plan on leading the 4th class sections. In that case, a light alpine rack will suffice.
From: Oakland CA
Aug 6, 2007
Really fun route! The beta here and in the supertopo are pretty right on. We brought a rope and a very light rack and simulclimbed from the second tower to the summit. Truth is, I was glad to have a little gear in, I know I did some moves that felt 5.6ish up there (but I probably could have looked around for an easier passage.) Not a problem, but the wind was HOWLING! Nice to have that security blanket...
Took us 9.5 hours c2c. We hiked pretty well, although we did lose a little time (no big deal, weren't racing) letting a couple rap our lines. If you solo this you could definitely go much faster, don't have to rig and pull the raps, and save that weight on the hike. We moved pretty steadliy, took a couple breaks and enjoyed the summit.
Jul 2, 2008
Very fun route. The second half is like Cathedral Peak. Duke and I soloed it ctc in about 10 hours with lots of time to relax and enjoy the scenery. We also summited North Peak on the way. Highly recommend this side trip.
Trekking poles are also recommended during an early season ascent. As of July 1st, there are many snowfields to cross on both the ascent and descent.
From: ABQ, NM
Feb 8, 2010
The upper third of this route is great, you can stay pretty much right on the ridge and enjoy the views. The rock quality is quite good and it is clean.
I down climbed this route after climbing the West Ridge, Mount Conness which makes for a great day out and lots of time spent on rock along ridges. If you are going to do this I think downclimbing the North Ridge is the way to go as it means climbing up the harder sections since they are rappels.
7.5 hrs c2c, but I was wishing I had cash to take the ferry back across the lake by the end.
|By Josh Cameron|
Jul 17, 2011
3 stars for the views, but 2 stars for the climbing.
|By Richard Shore|
Jul 10, 2012
I highly recommend climbing something on North Peak first as that descent drops you right at the start of the North Ridge on Conness. I did the right-most ice couloir on North Peak, which meant having to carry my crampons, axes, and mtn boots in a pack while climbing the North Ridge. Not too bad. The downclimb after the second tower was the crux of the whole route; steep but with good secure jambs. 7.5 hours C2C for the linkup. 2 hours approach to the base of N Peak, 2 hour descent from Conness back to the car at Saddlebag Lake.
Aug 12, 2013
Did it yesterday ... Lots of fun interesting climbing and opportunities for exposure in the upper third, if you stay exactly on the crest as much as possible. I suspect in the upper section lots of people get over-eager to just "get to the top" and start just following the "line of least resistance".
Approach is mostly friendly and pretty (except the steep dirt near the top), but I missed the most efficient line, which holds close to the North side of valley which runs east down from the Conness - NorthPk col. My mistake was at the W end of Greenstone Lake the ground was wet, so I avoided it by going straight West, but I should have turned NW at that point.
Navigation details at the second tower:
Here's what I remember from yesterday ...
The first (higher) rappel anchor is pretty much at the summit of the second tower. The ridge runs roughly NW-SE at that point, and the normal second rappel anchor is about as far SE-ward from the first as it is down-ward. That is, the second is diagonally below the first.
So I assume that you can aim the first rappel (one guidebook says it's about 30 ft) slightly towards the second anchor, but then each climber still must do some horizontal traverse scrambling to get from the bottom of their rappel to the second anchor.
(and it would be unwise to finish the first rappel too far below the second anchor -- so make sure you've spotted it before you go down very far -- better yet, before you start rappelling).
Second rappel (one guidebook says it's about 60 ft, which would require a rope about 120 ft / 37 meters) -- it makes sense to aim it slightly SE (toward the summit). Only go down until you feel comfortable traversing horizontally toward the summit.
(Of course if the strongest climber down-climbs after belaying (or lowering) the others down, could bring a shorter rope).
Make only one rappel? Because of the diagonal configuration of the two anchors, I don't see how it could work to use a very long single rope starting from the top of the second tower, and arrive at the bottom in any position very helpful for continuing to climb up the North ridge. If you want to make only one rappel, then you've got to do some ...
It's a good idea to first spot that second rappel anchor when Down-climbing -- say like 30 ft below and 30 ft SE from the summit of the second tower. Because if you make the obvious guess that the second anchor is somewhere directly below the first, you could waste lots of time looking for a workable down-climb route (as I discovered).
What worked for me was to stay overall fairly close to the crest of the ridge (which at that point is running SE down-ward), soon move to the NE side, then across to the SW side and on down to that second anchor. One guidebook says the difficulty is about 5.5, seems close enough. Some thoughtful + exposed moves the way I did it.
Next I started straight down from the second (lower) rappel anchor, then went SE (toward the summit) around a corner at an obvious place. Then I down-climbed a dihedral, holds felt pretty positive if used creatively with body position and footwork. Felt like not more than 5.6 - (though of course if you haven't practiced down-climbing 5.6 or harder on Top-Rope a few times, could be rather intimidating to try it first time at 11,000 ft).
Then as soon as felt comfortable, I traversed horizontally out of the dihedral SE toward the summit.
more climbing ... Two interesting and very exposed down-climbing sequences on the first tower: (1) Go all the way out to the end of the prong at the S end of the top of the first tower. Go down directly off the end of the prong. Finish a bit on the E side; then optionally (2) go down a ramp to the W side, then below the ramp diagonal down toward the E side. Finish by climbing up 10 ft to the crest of the ridge.
Aug 30, 2013
Geez, is there no adventure in mountaineering anymore...
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 2, 2013
^^^ Agree 500%