When I first thumbed through the new bouldering guide book for Tuolumne Meadows, I thought to myself, “Theres no good bouldering in Tuolumne.” But I was dead wrong. Spoiled by the glitz and glamor that are common amongst guide books today, I first missed the essential features that make this book exceptional. It’s not flashy, but that is by design; it represents the locals’ attitude towards climbing. It is not out to sell you with a full spread of a climber on Thunderbird v12, the boulder that put Tuolumne bouldering on the map, or the new Holy Rails v13/14. Instead it is a guide for those who wish to pay homage to the mecca that is Tuolumne Meadows.
Bouldering in Tuolumne is nothing new; climbers such as Royal Robins and Warren Harding established some of the earliest boulder problems. Discarding their ascents as merely amusement, they left these boulders unnamed. Over the years climbers have ticked many of the boulders. Often problems went unreported and unrepeated for years, hidden gems in the forest climbed many times for the “first time”. Today there are many climbers establishing new problems in The Meadows. This past weekend a group of Planet Granite Route Setters including myself were invited on a tour with a few of the current developers in Tuolumne Meadows. Matt Arnold, Creg Pheris, and Lucho Rivera have put up hundreds of new problems here and were kind enough to take us to some of the new stuff and a few old classics.
The new guide book lists over 1,200 problems at 32 different climbing areas. With countless features such as sun and shade conditions, pictures of the parking areas, and star ratings for each bouldering area. Rich bios from the current crew of climbers personalizes the guide, giving the book a face. It is obvious that the author, Charlie Barret, has spent a great deal of time focusing on the details that make a guide book extremely functional, elevating it from the depths of your pack into your hands as you follow its precise directions towards the promised gems.
The first day, we rallied at the parking lot for May Lake. This is the first area listed in the book, which is ordered west to east along highway 120. Matt Arnold spent a summer in 2007 at the high sierra camp on the edge of the lake and established many of the areas problems. May Lake is one of the most beautiful settings I have ever climbed in. The Tuolumne domed skyline dots the horizon while the deep sapphire water sparkles against the blue sky.
We climbed some warm ups on the edge of the lake. Matt showed us a project that are listed in the book, I got pretty psyched and made some
efforts to jump for the holds above the uneven landing, but even with six pads it was hard to commit to the jump. We then hiked a few minutes to the infamous Battle Tank, a large hunk of a boulder with a steep 30 foot roof. The rock in this zone is a swirly sedimentary mix a 150 million years old, and was transported 250 miles from the Mojave desert to the top of the Sierra Mountains during a tectonic upheaval. The problems range from vertical V0 to steep 25 move V12s. We crawled under the boulder to explore the holds on the belly of the beast, the cool air under the rock ignited my psych. I traced the obvious line with my eyes, a big rail that spans the entire roof. Matt sprayed me down for the flash attempt. Spinning around and knee baring through the roof I managed to flash “Heavy Artillery V9” which was pretty exciting. Lucho finished up the classic “Hand Grenade V8” he had been working. We then all tried a problem Creg had put up called “PBR Prow V6” We finished the day by hoofing it past the May Lake to another erratic called The Tank. This is a huge boulder with a dozen problems. Finishing off the day on “Crank Tank V7” and “Solo Endeavors V9” we hiked to the car in the evening light with sore legs and sun burned arms.
The Battle Tanks area is definitely worth checking out. It is one of the best zones in Tuolumne Meadows, getting three stars in the book and is worth every step of the hike.
The next day, we got an early start and drove to Olmsted Point, the second area listed in the guide. It can be pretty rough hiking around at elevation, so we were psyched that the boulders were road side. Danny, Antonio, and I got really psyched on “The Giving Tree V9/10” two really big moves on perfect crimps. I managed to send, and Danny and Antonio got super close, they’ll be back soon. We then also check out the an older problem called “Conquistador V8” and “The Roof V4”. We Finished the day with a swim in Tenaya Lake.
A new era is descending upon Tuolumne Meadows. Crash pads are joining ropes and racks on the sparkling granite, the age of the boulderer in Tuolumne has arrived. Never has Tuolumne seen so many psyched strong climbers seeking out new limits amongst the trees and glacial polished slabs of the meadows. The Guide book is a great tool to get going in Tuolumne Meadows; there are dozens of excellent lines to keep all levels of climbers busy for a season or two. Most of the lines listed in the book have been climbed only in the last 10 years, and new ones are going up every weekend. After spending a few weekends with the book, get out and see what you can find. Let’s spread out and minimize our impact while maximizing the climbing in Tuolumne Meadows.
“The climbing is epic and endless, it just depends on where your vision and feet can take it. Don’t let a book dictate what you do or where you go, be open and keep exploring.” -Matt Arnold
Interested in picking up a copy of the new Tuoloumne guidebook? We have it all of our Planet Granite gyms – and members receive 10% off!
Walker Emerson is a contributing writer for the Planet Granite Blog. He also sets routes at Planet Granite under the alias ‘Smash’. When he’s not plugging grips and jugging lines, he can be found on weekends clipping bolts at Jailhouse or sailing the granite seas of Yosemite.