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Matthes Crest
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Matthes Crest Traverse - South to North T 
North Ridge of Matthes Crest  T 

Matthes Crest Traverse - South to North 

YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 2500', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Chuck and Ellen Wilts, June 1947
Season: Late Spring, Summer, Early Fall
Page Views: 51,684
Submitted By: Jordan Ramey on Aug 15, 2007

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Matthes Crest.

Closures for Peregrine Falcon Protection MORE INFO >>>


Approach Time: 2-3 hours
Descent Time: 2-3 hours
Time to climb the route: 3-6 hours
Sun Exposure: sunrise to late afternoon
Height of route: ~500', length 1/2 mile to North Summit or 0.8 miles to the end.

Generally, people do the traverse from South to North. This is because the crest slopes upwards in that direction and therefore you will end up at a higher elevation. Doing it North to South would involve more downclimbing.

Probably best to Simul or Solo much of the route. To rope up for every single pitch would take a horrendous amount of time.

Start the climb at the South face above a patch of pine trees and stay a bit left. The climbing is <5.6 here and climbs very textured / featured rock upwards onto the ridge. Follow the path of least resistance. Once on the crest itself, just follow it along. When in doubt, check out both sides of the crest and traverse along the easier one. The crux of the climb comes on the left side (West) of the crest directly below the South Summit. Strenuous and physical climbing up a good crack leads to easier climbing and then the summit. Sign the register.

From the South Summit: Do not rap, but rather climb back down the ridgetop for 100' and traverse past on easy ledges on the East side of the South Summit. Trying to rap often results in snagged ropes here.
Simply continue the travers and downclimb the next section, placing pro for the follower.

From the North Summit: Many parties stop here and rappel off the crest (2 double length rappels on the West side). There are many rap stations that appear so bring some webbing in case the stations need new webbing.

Continuing the climb offers great climbing, but the climbing difficulty increases so it is recommended you be solid at the grade. I'd say some of the downclimbing was 5.8.

It is probably best to bail off the West side at just about any point. There appear to be many rap stations at random intervals on the face. Multiple short rappels are best. Be prepared to leave slings and or gear.


Start at the extreme south end right above a patch of pine trees. Climb the face to the ridge then continue either to the North Summit or the end.


Light Alpine Rack

Nuts: 1 set
Cams: 1 each 0.5" - 1", 2 each 1.25" - 3"
Many Long Slings

Photos of Matthes Crest Traverse - South to North Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Soon after gaining the Crest
Soon after gaining the Crest
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking back at the North summit from the 2nd half...
Looking back at the North summit from the 2nd half...
Rock Climbing Photo: Roddy, Carlos, & Matt on the Matthes Crest.
Roddy, Carlos, & Matt on the Matthes Crest.
Rock Climbing Photo: Nearing the South summit on the Mathes Crest trave...
Nearing the South summit on the Mathes Crest trave...
Rock Climbing Photo: climber on Matthes Crest
climber on Matthes Crest
Rock Climbing Photo: Matthes from 13,500 ft.  June 16, 2008.
Matthes from 13,500 ft. June 16, 2008.
Rock Climbing Photo: Michelle on the step across (photo by Daniel)
Michelle on the step across (photo by Daniel)
Rock Climbing Photo: Panoramic, looking south.  September 23, 2009.
Panoramic, looking south. September 23, 2009.
Rock Climbing Photo: pulling the 5.7 diagonal crack crux
pulling the 5.7 diagonal crack crux
Rock Climbing Photo: the full traverse
the full traverse
Rock Climbing Photo: East face of Matthes Crest.
East face of Matthes Crest.
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on the north tower.
Climbers on the north tower.
Rock Climbing Photo: Two guys free soloing Matthes Crest South to North...
Two guys free soloing Matthes Crest South to North...
Rock Climbing Photo: Camille fishing something out of her pack, near th...
Camille fishing something out of her pack, near th...
Rock Climbing Photo: Pablo on fun part of a ridge
Pablo on fun part of a ridge
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on Matthess Crest
Climbers on Matthess Crest
Rock Climbing Photo: matthes crest in middle
matthes crest in middle
Rock Climbing Photo: Ryan about to reach the N summit
Ryan about to reach the N summit
Rock Climbing Photo: fall in Tuolumne
fall in Tuolumne
Rock Climbing Photo: Jake on The Matthes Crest Traverse.
Jake on The Matthes Crest Traverse.
Rock Climbing Photo: The southern part of the traverse, from the west.
The southern part of the traverse, from the west.
Rock Climbing Photo: J on one of the many easy ramps
J on one of the many easy ramps
Rock Climbing Photo: antiques
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking North from near the Summit of Matthes Cres...
Looking North from near the Summit of Matthes Cres...

Show All 84 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Matthes Crest Traverse - South to North Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Apr 11, 2016
By caughtinside
From: Oakland CA
Aug 15, 2007

Hey Jordan, nice write up!

I was thinking about adding this myself, because I was in the group of three that you guys passed. Awesome day out there! You guys were flyin'.

Only a couple things I'd add:
I think the second half of the traverse is significantly harder. more 5th class, and most of it is downclimbing. I do feel however, that you can protect it pretty well for the follower, you just have to be thoughtful and put in a piece after you do a downclimb move.

Because it was more technical, I placed more gear on the 2nd half, which meant we had to stop and tag gear more, which slowed us down. But, I think the better climbing is on the second half, and you're missing out if you rap halfway.

Finally, we started our day by simuling up Tenaya peak and then going cross country to Matthes, I would highly recommend this! More climbing (easy) and you get to tag another summit.

Our rack was 12 nuts and 6 cams, buncha slings. it was 7 cams but my friend dropped one. Oops!
By Jordan Ramey
From: Calgary, Alberta
Aug 15, 2007

We did the fast and light approach. Our rack was two OP link cams (used only 1 once), a set of nuts, a bunch of slings and a 7 mil twin rope doubled over. Tim climbs super fast so I was running to keep up.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 21, 2007

In 1985, we backpacked in for a more leisurely ascent. You can also check out other climbs on the way in and out, like the Echo Peaks. However, obtaining a backpacking permit may be more difficult these days.
By bbrock
From: Al
Jan 22, 2008

One of the most memorable climbs I have done. We did it North to South. There was some very exposed and tricky downclimbing involved, checking in at least 5.8 maybe 5.9. Anyway it was intense and I felt like there was a real possibilty to get the chop. The grade of the climb is really irrelevant. This climb is an abosulte thing of beauty. I have a Patagonia poster framed in my living room of this climb that Bird Lew signed for me. I look at it everyday and smile remembering what was one of the best days I've had in my life.
By Greg DeMatteo
From: W. Lebanon, NH
Apr 7, 2008

Without a doubt a gem of the high Sierra.
By Joe Stern
From: Moab, Utah
Jun 29, 2009

Really fun, unique climb on quality rock in a pleasant setting. Strongly recommend continuing past the north summit and finishing the ridge. If you're soloing or moving quickly otherwise, an obvious addition to the day is Cathedral Peak, right on the way back to the trailhead.
By fossana
From: my van
Apr 29, 2010

+1 on doing the full traverse
By Tommy L-D
Jul 30, 2010

+2 on doing the full traverse.

Really how could you only do 1/2 of this awesome thing?
By Peter Lewis
From: Bridgton, Maine
May 25, 2012

Did this route way back in the late 1990s and it still remains one of my fondest memories of a day in the mountains. It's a big day, but we simul-climbed most of the route and it was a cruise. There is one section of the ridge where (no kidding) you are grabbing the crest with both hands (it's just a couple of inches wide) while traversing with your feet on knobs. Magical.
By fossana
From: my van
Jun 27, 2012

I soloed the last 2 towers for the first time yesterday. Most people bail off left where you can almost walk-off (reports of a 5.8 downclimb). I found one section of exposed 5.7 with some hollow sounding flakes on the last tower but no 5.8.
By Richard Shore
Jul 10, 2012

It would be a shame to rappel at the North Summit, as the best climbing/exposure is on the second half! The very last (northernmost) tower on the ridge proved to be a bit of a challenge - a deceptive 4th class foot traverse along a ledge on the west side dead-ends just 20' shy of the route's finish. I found a few bail anchors here. One can ascend a steep (5.8+?) corner to gain the top of the tower, and then walkoff, or maybe retrace your steps and find an easier way. I'd agree that most of the cruxes on the second half involved downclimbing cracks and/or knobs.
By Chris D
From: the couch
Jun 24, 2013

Awesome ridge, and for all the talk, the approach isn't as big a deal as you'd assume. The majority of the ridge from the top of the south headwall to the south summit is pretty much an incredible walk interrupted with some easy 4th class moves. The ridge was mobbed (on a beautiful June Saturday), but it was very easy to pass slow parties.

I have to kind of laugh at all the "I can't imagine why anyone would rap off the North Summit instead of doing the whole ridge" stuff. Strength? Stamina? Technical climbing ability maybe? Maybe weather? Motivation? While I was belaying the first pitch I chatted for a while with a soloist who had just finished Tenaya, and was headed to Cathedral after he finished Matthes. I bet he couldn't imagine why anyone would do less than that. Ha!

The casual morning walk in, leisurely climb from the south end to the North Summit, and easy walk out as the sun set was about as good as any day of climbing I've ever done.
By John Robinson
From: Elk Grove, ca
Jun 14, 2014

I just did Matthes Crest on June 11, 2014 and think the following changes/additions to Croft's guide might be helpful: (the capitalized items are changes I suggest)
The Approach: From the Cathedral Lakes Trail head in Tuolumne, take the trail about ½ mile and look for a smaller unmaintained trail that goes left and follow this for 2 miles to Budd Lake. At about 2/3 mile before the lake the trail crosses to the left side of Budd Creek. THIS CROSSING IS WHERE THE TRAIL RETURNS TO THE CREEK AFTER BEING WELL ABOVE AND OUT OF SIGHT OF THE CREEK FOR A HALF MILE OR SO. This next section is often showy in early season. If this is the case, it’s easier to stay to the right of the creek out on open south facing slabs. I HAVE GONE UP THIS TRAIL PETER DESCRIBES AND HAVE NOT FOUND A TRAIL THAT TAKES OFF LEFT FROM THE TRAIL AND GOES TOWARD BUDD LAKE SO MAYBE YOU JUST GO CROSS COUNTRY? From Budd Lake head X-country up and right of the Echo Peaks. (REMOVE AIMING) STAY WELL BELOW THE TALUS FIELD AND YOU WILL ARRIVE AT A 50 YARD wide bench that contours to the west (RIGHT)of this group of peaklets. After this bench narrows YOU WILL FIND A USE TRAIL and as you round a corner you see Matthes Crest to the south across a (REMOVE SMALL) valley WITH A LAKE AT THE BOTTOM. Drop down INTO THE TREES and contour (STAYING WELL BELOW THE SLABS OF MATTHES CREST AND AIM FOR A LINE OF TREES BELOW THE NOTCH AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CLIMB. (YOU WILL FIND A USE TRAIL THROUGH THIS LINE OF TREES AND UP TO THE BASE OF THE CLIMB)
The Climb: REMOVE “Climb steep hand cracks right on the edge” and ADD: CLIMB STEEP GULLIES/CHIMNEYS (APPROX 5'WIDE), SOME WITH HAND CRACKS IN THE BACK.

The Descent: I went a different way than Peter suggested and it seemed like a good way to go: Continue in the same direction as you were going on the Matthes Crest traverse stay high and don't go down into the valley below you. Near the base of the Echo peaks you will contour left toward a break in the ridge line that forms Echo Peaks. (there is another break to the left of the one I describe but this one isn't as big and forms a sharper "V") (There are only 2 or 3 of the Echo peaks to the left on the ridge and more of the Echo Peaks ridge line and peaks to the right) As you get closer to the break you will find a use trail. Once you get to the top of the Echo Peaks ridge go down toward the LEFT side of Budd Lake and follow the trail out. If it is early in the season this may not be the best way out due to heavy snow, instead maybe the best descent would be the way you came in. I talked with someone who had gone the way Peter describes and he said it wasn't a good way to go. Please, if others can make suggestions on the descent I describe, post here and I will make corrections.
By ErichPurpur
Aug 4, 2014

I went and soloed this a few days ago (August 2nd 2014). What a cool feature! Car to car took about 8.5 hours and I was keeping a casual pace on purpose. I am not a soloist so I was a little apprehensive heading up there but found only 2 sections of what I felt was truly free soloing, the initial pitch to gain the ridge and the south summit. I felt the rope would have been an hindrance and would have been endlessly snagged on the many fins and corners, etc. Also, don't rappel after the North summit! How can you not do the whole thing?
By dseltzer
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 15, 2014
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Fun route, simul-climbing all but the very start and the very end took us about 6.5 hours, but we were taking our time. Hike into echo lake area day one, climb day two, hike out day three for a nice relaxing backpack/climb.

If you're reading comments thinking about doing this route.. bring a new (small) notebook for the north summit box! As of 8/14/2014 there is no notebook and a bunch of loose pages quickly filling up.
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Jul 5, 2015
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

A couple notes after having done this route twice (half the first time, the full the second).

1) The approach is weird, and none of the maps/beta/info I've seen really explain it well. After biffing it badly the first time and more or less hitting the mark the second, the best beta for when to turn off the Cathedral trail is in the forest AFTER the slabs, just before you head up to Cathedral. There's a creek crossing there. Cross the creek and follow the Budd Lake trail almost to the lake, then head right cross country around Echo Peak. There are some cairns up around there that will keep you high, skirting the base of Matthes Crest and saving you some elevation gain and loss.

2) If you want to do the full traverse, be mentally strong enough to solo 5.8. I'm not sure I'd call anything I did 5.8 on it, but if you're not in a position to solo the grade, you're going to have a rough time on the North half.

3) Our setup was a 60m 8mm half/twin folded in half. 5 cams (fingers to hands), 8 stoppers, 8 slings and we were pretty happy with that set up, not sure I'd take anything more than that again. Really liked the 30m link between us, too- that was better than a 60m in many cases.
By ACassebeer
From: Mojave, CA
Jul 6, 2015

If rappelling from the North summit, you can do so with one 70m rope safely. This requires some 5.1 down-climbing, similar to that on the backside of Cathedral. Dragging 2 ropes out there is not necessary.
By snowhazed
From: Oakland, Ca
Jul 26, 2015

There is a flake in the 5.7 handrail that gains the north summit that has become questionable. It felt different than the other 6 times I have pulled on it. Right where the handrail stops jogging left and the crack goes plumb. Not flexing or shifting, but sounds hollower than it used to be, heads up.
By John Robinson
From: Elk Grove, ca
Jul 27, 2015

Climbed this again on 7/25/15. The first time I climbed it I went all the way to the top of the South summit and did some kind of sketchy down climbing to the notch between the South and North summit. This time I didn't go all the way up to the top of the South summit but (just before starting up to the summit) I went right on a ramp toward a tree and continued on this ramp to the notch between the North and South summit. This may be considered cheating but I felt a lot less sketched out doing it this way. If you have a rope, by all means, go to the top of the South Summit and, after the summit, put gear in as you down climb.
By John Robinson
From: Elk Grove, ca
Jul 27, 2015

More info after Climbing this again on 7/25/15. Once you get to the notch between the South and North summits you will find a ramp. If you go to the end of the ramp you will find a corner, if you are soloing, and you are gumby like me, I wouldn't climb this corner. Go back on the ramp a ways and you can easily pull up onto another ramp about 10' above the first ramp. Again I wouldn't climb the corner at the end of the ramp but go back a ways and find a flake that goes up and left. This looks to me like a much easier way to go especially if you are soloing. If you have a rope, go up the corner. If you have other ideas, let me know by posting here. I could be all wet.
By John Robinson
From: Elk Grove, ca
Jul 27, 2015

More info after climbing this again on 7/25/15. People keep saying there is mandatory 5.8 or so down climbing after the North summit. I saw this "mandatory" down climbing but, because I am a gumby, I won't do it. If you are a little creative you can easily find ways around these down climbs by backtracking and traversing either left or right down from the ridge. In one case I go straight down left from the ridge about 50' and drop into a gully and go back up about 20' then find a ramp that I use to gain the ridge again. By doing as I describe, (IMHO) the North section of the climb is as easy as the South section.
By John Robinson
From: Elk Grove, ca
Jul 27, 2015

More info after climbing this again on 7/25/15. At the very end of the ridge just before the last tower, you can easily walk off the crest and head back home. I did this the first time I climbed the crest but felt like I was cheating. This time I tried to climb the last tower but couldn't find a way to do it without a rope so I backtracked and went down before this last tower. If you have a rope I would think you would want to climb this last tower so you could claim the entire traverse. (Any suggestions on how a gumby like me could solo this last tower would be appreciated)
By donaldm
Aug 28, 2015

Decent at south peak to get to rap stations on the west side of the notch between south and north peaks:

There are a whole series of "ramps" on the east side of the south peak. Which one? To get you around to the west side to gain the notch?

You make your way to the northern most ramp/ledge that is at the same elevation as the highest tree on the east side of the peak. The ledge is north of the tree. On the ledge move around the corner west and then make you way down to the notch. Go through the notch to a comfortable ledge on the west side which is also the start of the north peak climb. See the rap sling. Rap to the next rap maybe 40' lower and to climbers left ( north) You could also easily down climb to this rap location. From there rap to a final rap sling under a rock slab. You can do these with a 60 meter rope. Then 4th class down climb to the valley floor and trail out.
By abe r
Sep 10, 2015

Just a comment on the "5.8 downclimb" off North if you are doing the whole traverse.

This part had us most concerned and it definitely didn't feel harder than 5.6 probably more like 5.5. Pretty exposed with the hardest part about half way down where you have to step out onto a flake and kind of stem down.

If you are unconvinced, it is possible to protect the whole thing. Piton at top that you can back up as an anchor, first goes down and sews it up, 2nd cleans. Pretty safe tactic.

2nd half >> 1st half and 1st half I though was sweet.
By TomC
Sep 28, 2015

On the approach, I found it much easier to avoid Budd Lake, instead staying on the Cathedral climbers' trail until it starts to turn and head steeply up to the peak (currently right at a sign about staying on-trail to reduce erosion). From there you can head almost due S across a bit of flat and up some distinct but gradual gulleys to the right spot on the shoulder of Echo Peaks.
By John Robinson
From: Elk Grove, ca
Apr 11, 2016

I am still not sure where Matthes Crest Traverse ends. After I went up the north peak and across the "wave" there is what I think is considered the "mandatory 5.8 downclimb" I ended the traverse of Matthes Crest there but there is, what looks to me like, more climbing continuing. I tried to solo this portion but couldn't find a way that I was comfortable soloing so I found a ramp and exited. Can others give me information?

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