Mount Hoffman, Sonora Peak

31-July-99

By: Pete Yamagata


Having picked up on an article in the August 1999 issue of Sierra Heritage magazine about Mt. Hoffmann, which is roughly said to possess the best view in Yosemite National Park taken in a brief time period for visitors (John Muir), I enjoined Rose Certini to accompany me in our high passes loop this weekend.

We took Highway 108 from Oakdale to drive east past the informal roadside memorial for the three Yosemite sightseers. Their disappearance in February was well covered by the news media, and resolved in a highly unfortunate way. Their rental car was found burned here near Long Barn, with the killer caught only after confessing to dispatching a park naturalist.

Coming to the signed St. Mary's Pass Trailhead just a mile or so west of Sonora Pass, I chose to make my fourth ascent of Sonora Peak via the description in Gary Suttle's California County Summits. From the pass, a use trail takes off up the peak. It crosses a wide, gently sloping, sandy field, solid with pennyroyals, then becomes more distinct while heading up the peak proper. A wildflower aficionado would have a great day with all of the blooms, using a macro lens for close-up photography.

My associate had become rather leisurely-minded, so we topped out after 3 hours (2 miles, 2,000' gain). The view of the Northern Sierra is rather all-inclusive, with Mt. Rose to Mt. Ritter visible.

After dinner in Bridgeport and camp ($7) in Lee Vining Canyon, we drove to the May Lake Trailhead Sunday morning, and took the 1.3-mile trail to May Lake and its Sierra High Camp. One comes to the lakeshore, then, for the peak, turn left (west) to follow the unsigned trail to the top. It climbs through a talus field, then up through scrubby pines to the final 200 feet, where the trail enters class 2 terrain. The guides don't mention this class 1 trail that comprises 95% of the route. One ambles directly up the natural staircase of granite slabs to reach the roomy summit, marred only by the radio facility. An empty metal box marked SRC and Mt. Hoffmann lay detached and partially bolted on a nearby slab. I placed a large register book with nesting cans upon learning the intent of another hiker to leave a piece of paper.

Tower Peak, the Sawtooth, the summits about Tioga Pass, the Clark Range, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, and the Cathedral Spires of the Valley mark the extent of the view. The Coast Range was discernible today above the layer of Central Valley smog.

The one way distance for Mt. Hoffmann is about 4 miles, with 2,000' gain


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