My second backpacking trip ever in Yosemite was to Young Lakes, a hike that I still remember as very difficult and strenuous. Of course, I was in no kind of hiking shape at the time and my pack weighed about 50 lbs, so when I realized I would be on the same trail again with a stronger body and a daypack I was interested to see if the trail was as difficult as I remembered it to be.
The answer is no, of course not. In fact, it is actually one of the easier hikes in Yosemite! It’s amazing how much experience skews your view of what constitutes ‘easy’. That’s why I never trust guide books that give ratings on a Easy-Difficult scale. But I digress. Why did I return to this trail? To hike a peak, naturally!
Back in…2000? 2001? …when I hiked in to Young Lakes I was impressed by the toothy peak that the trail carefully circled at a distance. It looked intimidating and completely unclimbable to my inexperienced eyes. Recently it popped up on my radar again and I was surprised to read that this peak, Ragged Peak, was a quite doable class 3 summit. So what else to do but pack up and go?
We started off from the Dog Lakes/Lyell Canyon trailhead near Tuolumne Lodge. One can also use the main Lembert Dome parking lot – the trail is mostly the same and just splits in the first mile. At first the trail switchbacks up the slopes of Lembert, but after gaining a few hundred feet it flattens out (to a gentle climb) by Delaney Meadow and eventually towards the meadows of Dingley Creek to the south of Ragged Peak.
Once the trail emerges at treeline, Ragged Peak is clearly visible in the distance. From here, we left the trail and headed out across the meadows. Behind us we see one of the best views I’ve seen in Yosemite. The picture above was taken just as I turned around for the first time. It just got better!
Route finding is very simple and straightforward. We aimed for the nearly flat open plateau immediately below the peak, and once there we picked out a use trail up the steep, sandy slope.
The final bit is a slog through the sand, but the super easy descent on that kind of terrain makes up for it! Once on summit ridge you’ll find lots of open space and cool rock formations on which to hang out for a while. The north face of Ragged is stunning, and the view into Roosevelt Lake and Mt Conness can’t be beat. But you’re not done – there is still a bit of a scramble to the true summit.
Anticipating a rough scramble, I left my camera with my pack and headed up the final rock pile. Easy going at first, but I definitely needed all fours and I wasn’t sure what the actual high point was. I just kept climbing up easy class 2 rocks until I couldn’t get any further. I had two options to squeeze up a bit higher but I wasn’t sure on either. I went back to my climbing partners and brought them back, and after looking around I had them spot me on one of the cracks so I could hoist myself to the next level. I was worried it would just be empty and airy, so I wanted someone behind me in case I had trouble maneuvering my way down. Fortunately I spotted a nice flat rock and finished scrambling up the crack.
Now I was sitting on a rock with this view in front of me:
For scale purposes, I think the boulder to the left of the bottom of the yellow line was about 7 feet tall.
I had actually printed this out from Summitpost before doing the peak. Yup, definitely the route. I had to stem between the rocks in front of me then shift everything to the rock on the left, then swing a leg over the top. It was a fun little bouldering problem. There was a good looking small rock on the other side for my feet, but I couldn’t see my next move options. I wasn’t comfortable shifting my weight on to the small rock without seeing where I would go next, so I dangled there in a most unladylike position for a while while trying to wiggle my way to a better view.
I tried it about three times before I realized I really needed someone there who was taller and could spot the next move, or someone who had done the peak before and could coach me. If I knew the move was good I would have made it without seeing the hands, but I just didn’t know, and I didn’t want to get stuck on a 1 ft wide rock with 1000 ft of air beneath me. So I regretfully turned back, about 5 ft from the summit. Booooo. But I guess that just means I have to go back!
Anyways, it wasn’t completely unclimbable as I first suspected on that backpacking trip long ago. I will go back, and I will stand on the summit!