Located in the dead center of Yosemite National Park, Mt. Hoffmann (10,856′) is a perfect climb–great 360-degree views, super challenging & thus rewarding, spectacular formations at the top, a mix of trail types. Def a fave.

Twelve of us got an early (9:15am) start–early when you’re mobilizing a group that now includes six teenage boys. We drove two vans to the parking lot and trailhead for the May Lake High Sierra Camp–about half-hour west along Tioga Rd, then up a spur road.

From the trailhead, it’s about a mile and a quarter and 500′ up to May Lake, which was so pretty this morning..


May Lake is at 9270′. But our plan is to climb to the summit of Mt. Hoffmann (not visibie from May Lake and behind those two granite formations). It’s only about a mile and three quarters from the lake, but it’s about a 1500′ gain, so it’s steep.

The trail starts on an actual trail, some of it is ducked but most is well carved out. Once up the first pitch there are great views back down to May Lake…


before it meanders back through a more foresty part. Then it heads straight up the side of the mountain, steep and random. There are an infinite number of routes; you just pick your way… all roads lead eventually to the high plateau.

Here’s a funny description I just came upon:

The trail up Mt. Hoffmann is steep and rocky, and some of the steepest parts are covered with decomposed granite, one of the most insidiously slippery substances nature has devised in its campaign to add slapstick to the world. Between this and oxygen’s inexplicable fear of heights, plan on a slow pace going up.

And I must say, he is absolutely right.

On this day, Peter and Ben hustled ahead, Tyler hung with them for a while, then fell back. I picked a route that soon became a very solo route way off to the right, and didn’t see or meet up with anyone until I saw Dean across the hugely expansive gravelly plateau and we walked the last quarter mile together. Jim was up already and by the time we got to Jim, Peter and Ben had set out on the final scramble to the actual summit.

Jim, Dean and I waited a while for the others to arrive, and when they didn’t, Jim went back to find Tyler, which he did, and most of the others, as well.


They arrived at the base of the final ascent and decided that was as far as they wanted to go. Jim and I headed up.

The final boulder part is usually scary for me, but for some reason it wasn’t– I was having a great time with the climbing, pretending I was some sort of serious rock climber. Ha. The four of us–Peter, Ben, Jim and I–ate lunch at the top top, and took in spectacular views. Of course.

There is a fair amount of space up there and you can walk around and even climb various piles of boulders. You can see virtually the whole park. Here is Half Dome and part of Cloud’s Rest:


The only other person we saw up there was a young woman, Mina, who staffs one of the High Sierra camps, there on her day off. She was great.


And we had this guy to deal with. You can see a bit of the antenna’s guy wire and a bit of smoke in the background to the north. There were a lot of fires burning in Yosemite this year, though we were not bothered by smoke by the time we got there.


I like this one of Peter, so cool and relaxed, braces freshly off:


Monica and Dror, even though it was their first day of hiking and were not quite acclimatized, decided to join us at the top. Heros!


After a while up top, we all headed down, Monica and Dror joined up with the John Frame clan while Peter, Jim and I stayed up there and explored the edges a bit. It’s so huge and dramatic, there was nobody up there… like having this giant park to ourselves. For scale, you can see a human in the lower, center of the picture. That’s where the trail ends if you’re not going to Mt. Hoffmann’s summit. May Lake is 1500′ below the ledge over by that boulder pile. In fact, that boulder pile is probably one of the prominent structures you see from the Lake.


Here is a closer-up shot of the boulder pile, and me for scale:


And the view from the other side of that pile… there’s May Lake. I understand it was named for Charles Hoffmann’s (a member of the 1863-67 Whitney Geological Survey) eventual wife, Lucy Mayotta Browne. Little Yosemite trivia.


Here’s Peter at one of those edges: P1170631

Looked like weather was coming, so we headed down.

We all congregated at May Lake again, hung out a bit, then made our way back to the cabins and dinner.