By Jessica Capalbo
My first trip to Tuolumne Meadows was everything I needed and more. After a hot, dry summer lull with few climbing trips, I was craving the outdoors. The weeks leading up to the trip didn’t seem very promising, as a large forest fire was spreading just outside of Yosemite Valley. A few of our local crags, including Black Mountain and Tramway, were also closed due to fires. With conditions in mind, we kept a close eye on the air quality and ultimately decided that Tuolumne was our best bet for vacation.
From San Diego, the drive to Tuolumne is around 7 hours, which goes by pretty fast with a little stop in Bishop. If you’re driving through Bishop and want a bite to eat, I highly recommend Erick Schat’s Bakery or the Pizza Factory. The Gear Exchange and Eastside Sports are also nice places to stop and browse for all things gear related!
By the time we arrived to the park’s entrance, it was late and dark out. We drove in, set up camp, and went to bed. The next morning, we set out for our first sample of Tuolumne bouldering. The drive was wonderful! Even with a cloud of smoke from the fire, the view was one to remember, and since the smoke covered so much, I have a great excuse to go back!
The trip consisted of 5 consecutive days of climbing. We sampled different areas each day and climbed lots of easy and moderate level climbs. On the first day, we had our eyes set on free soloing Tenaya Peak, a 14,000 ft. face of mostly easy slab; however, as we began hiking to the peak, I realized the smoke was affecting my breathing, so we decided to bail to the boulders. Having cut into most of the day with hiking, we had a short day at the classic Campground Boulders.
The second day was a difficult one, although I’m relieved it happened early on in the trip. We spent the day climbing at The Gunks and after warming up, I became easily frustrated with a climb that I felt was well within my abilities. I decided to separate myself from the climb to think and breathe. I felt defeated and wanted to give up. Fortunately, after a quick little pep talk, I was able to hop back on the climb with a fresh mindset and sent shortly after.
Shifting my mindset on the second day was exactly what I needed to set the tone for the rest of the trip. Whether I was hiking up easy jug hauls or crimping for dear life, each climb I attempted felt fun and fulfilling, regardless of the outcome.
After exploring various areas of Tuolumne, I can confidently say that the Medlicott Boulders is my favorite area so far. The boulders are nicely tucked away between lots of trees about ten minutes from the main road. On the main boulder, there are three main lines. The unnamed arête on the left side was my favorite climb of the trip. It is a beautiful line of jugs that feel like they are meant to be climbed. The second line is an extremely aesthetic climb called Detached. It goes up the middle of the boulder and the last move is a dyno to a slot. Starting at Detached and traversing into the unnamed arête is another unnamed climb with fun movement through small slots. I highly recommend every line on the boulder!
On the fourth day, I watched my friends send an impressive highball called Texas Radio, v3. The boulder is rated R because of how tall it is, which is why I was perfectly content being the photographer of the day. A little too heady for me, but I would love to go back and try it someday!
The last full day of the trip was the most rewarding. We ventured out to the Solar Power boulder and hopped on some easy climbs before it started pouring rain. I thought this would be the end of our trip, but an hour or so later, the skies cleared and we took a dip in Tenaya Lake, which was more like a well overdue shower. After cleaning off, we climbed at the Pywiack Area. To my surprise, I was able to send Lost, But Not Forgotten, a boulder at my limit grade. It was certainly the best way to end a wonderful vacation!
Although each day of the trip was filled with lots of climbing, we barely scratched the surface of what Tuolumne has to offer. Not only are there hundreds of established lines, but there are countless talus fields to be developed. With cooler temps and a psyched crew, there are endless possibilities. I can’t wait for my next trip!