Elevation: 12,590 feet
Route: West Ridge (5.6, 1,500 feet)
Drive: 4 hours
Guidebooks will tell you that Peter Croft once called the West Ridge of Conness the best route he’s done in the Sierra backcountry. If you rope up for all of it, it’s 12 pitches of climbing on clean Sierra granite, with enjoyable finger cracks and great exposure. The summit view extends over Tuolumne Meadows all the way to Half Dome. Combine this route with Conness’ North Ridge for a mega-day of ridge running.
CLIMB IT: The first few pitches are fourth and low fifth class with a couple of 5.6 moves—after that, cruise as close as possible to the arête for the best rock, and negotiate two exposed notches above the sheer southwest face on your way to the summit. Dozens of variations exist, as well as plenty of places to pass other parties. Plan 3 to 4 hours for the approach, and stay off the climb if clouds are in the vicinity—Conness attracts storms, and retreating from mid-route is difficult and dangerous. From the summit, descend the hikers’ route southeast onto the summit plateau and retrace your steps.
GET THERE: From San Francisco, drive to Manteca, and take Hwy. 120 into Yosemite National Park and up to Tuolumne Meadows. After passing Tioga Lake, turn north onto Saddlebag Lake Road, and park at the Sawmill Campground. Follow a trail to the Carnegie building and continue west cross-country up a broad canyon toward the south ridge of Mt. Conness and up onto the sandy summit plateau. Cross the south ridge and drop down to the west, descending a class two to three gully all the way to the bottom of Conness’ south face. Contour around to the West Ridge.
BETA:High Sierra Climbing, by Chris McNamara; summitpost.org