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
|Comments on Matthes Crest Traverse - South to North
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
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.
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|
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.
From: Bishop, CA
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.
From: Bishop, CA
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 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. 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. Drop down INTO THE TREES and contour (STAYING 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 traverse and on the left side of the Crest(easy 2nd class) and contour left toward a break (flatter area) in the ridge line that forms Echo Peaks. As you get closer to the break you will find a use trail. (There are only 2 or 3 of the Echo peaks to your left and more of the Echo Peaks ridge line to your right) From there continue to 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 descend the way you came in.
I had a conversation with Peter Croft and the only thing I will add to his descent information is from him: "From the end of Matthes Crest continue heading NNE to the flat spot I mentioned. You don't go west, you don't come close to the Echo peaks and are to the right of Echo Ridge"
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?
From: Boulder, CO
5 days ago
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.