Type: Trad, Alpine, 7500 ft, Grade IV
FA: unknown
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Shared By: fossana on Jun 27, 2012
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


The only thing better than the spectacular Matthes Crest traverse is to link it up with two other classic Tuolumne cruiser routes, the NW Buttress of Tenaya Peak and the SE Buttress of Cathedral Peak. You also get a sampling of what Tuolumne has to offer, from smooth slabs to wildly exposed knobby fins to choose-your-own adventure crack climbing. These three peaks form an obvious circuit from Tenaya Lake and make a great outing for any Tuolumne enthusiast. Many options exist for extending the link-up if you haven't gotten your fill.

NW Buttress of Tenaya Peak (5.4, 14 Supertopo pitches)

Note that this route holds snow so it's best to avoid it until dry. The route is shaded in the morning so plan accordingly. There isn't a direct trail from the Tenaya Lake parking lot so either take the trail to the lake until you find the one that heads back NE or trample the meadow and cross-country through the trees toward the left-hand side of Tenaya Peak. You are aiming for the shrubby ledge system to the left of the route. As of June 2012 the trail was well worn and cairned.

Supertopo has a blow-by-blow description of the route, but you can just as easily follow the crack systems up the obvious buttress. The route eases you into the steeper, more difficult climbing up higher. Several summit options exist of varying difficulty, including a 5.7ish hand crack and a 4th class option out right. The true summit is southwest of where you'll top out.

South to North Traverse of Matthes Crest (5.7, many pitches; ridge is 1 mile in length)
From the summit of Tenaya Peak head east between Tressider Peak and Columbia Finger then southeast after crossing the Cathedral Lakes trail to reach the southern end of Matthes Crest. You'll be able to see Cathedral from the Tenaya Peak summit as a bearing point.

It's 2.5 miles as the crow flies and the only place you will likely follow a trail is the final ascent up to the notch that marks the start of Matthes.

From the golden boulder choose a line up the knobby crack systems that lead to the ridgeline proper (5.5). The ridgeline is mostly class 3-4. If it seems too hard look off to the sides; there is usually an easier ramp down below. For soloists the easiest way off the south summit is to head back in the direction you came until you can downclimb to a tree on the east side of the can also do a more direct downclimb at 5.7. From here traverse north into the notch that divides the summits.

From the notch mantle onto the ledges until you reach the leftward trending diagonal crack (5.7) which is the official crux of the route. Alternate: 5.8 corner offwidth From here climb the 5.4 chimney on the left side of the ledge to the north summit.

Don't stop now. Continue on for more class 4 to low fifth class exposed fun. The final tower provides another short section of exposed 5.7 if you wish to partake. If not, you can downclimb off the west side (class 3-4) just prior to the second to the last tower.

SE Buttress of Cathedral Peak (5.6, 5 pitches)
From the end of Matthes Crest work your to one side of or over Echo Peaks/Ridge to Cathedral's SE Buttress (~1.6 miles as the crow flies). The most direct route is to aim for notch between Echo Ridge and Echo Peaks (left side of Echo Ridge). There are multiple routes up the SE Buttress. Refer to Supertopo if you need specifics. The most recent edition now includes the full traverse.

Extra credit add-ons
Echo Ridge (class 4), Echo Peaks (class 3 to 5.7), Eichorn Pinnacle (5.4)

From the top of Cathedral downclimb the 4th class summit blocks to reach the class 3 ledge system. If you are heading back to the Cathedral Lakes trailhead you will want the high saddle to the NE that leads to the trail that skirts the east side of Cathedral Peak. If you are heading directly back to Tenaya Lake continue down slabs/scree and through swamplands to the southern side of the main Cathedral Lake. You'll find a footpath along the shoreline. From the western end of the lake follow the drainage down slabs and cobbled river beds toward Tenaya Lake. I did notice a faint trail in certain section of the drainage but I gave up trying to follow it since it didn't really seem to offer any advantage over going straight down the drainage. About 1.5 trail miles from the lake you'll come across a bridge that leads to a good trail back to the lake and your car. The direct line mileage for the entire descent is ~2.7.

Availability of water will vary. In late season the seasonal streams between Tenaya and Matthes may dry up and require a detour to the lakes. The northern slopes below Echo Ridge/Peaks, however, tend to hold snow later and are a more reliable source. Worst case you can detour to one of the lakes.


The route starts and ends at the Tenaya Lake parking lot just NE of the lake (bathrooms available). Alternatively, one could set up a car shuttle at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead or take the Tuolumne shuttle/hitch from here to lake, but then you would miss hiking the cool drainage below Cathedral Lake.  Note that the shuttle was not running in 2018.  If you plan on taking the Tuolumne shuttle check the NPS site first.  The shuttle was not running in 2018, and its long-term status is uncertain.

Tom Harrison. Tuolumne Meadows & High Sierra Camp Loop Trail Map
Chris McNamara. High Sierra Climbing (Supertopo)


optional: alpine rack, 60m rope
Expect no fixed anchors.


Hamik Mukelyan
Manhattan Beach, CA
Hamik Mukelyan   Manhattan Beach, CA
If you start at Tenaya Lake and finish at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead, you get to run down a good trail after Cathedral Peak and can take the shuttle back to your car. NB, the shuttles stop running at 7 pm. Aug 25, 2012
vincent L.
Redwood City
vincent L.   Redwood City
A lot of good info here . Another really fun day is to hike into Elizabeth Lake , the trailhead is in the back of the TM campground, and climb Unicorn (4th class) and then wander over to Cockscomb ( easy 5th ) and then onto the Northern end of Mathes Crest . From there you would climb North to South ,which some would consider 'backwards' , but who cares .

After that you could tag an Echo Peak or two , or Cathedral of course . But talk about unlimited possibilities , only your personal fitness and stamina will determine where your day will end . May 20, 2013
Scott Sinner
Bishop, CA
Scott Sinner   Bishop, CA
This one's good to go for the season as there's only the occasional snow patch, nothing to slow you down. Definitely recommend the Echo Peaks! Jun 10, 2013
Rude Boy
San Francisco, CA
Rude Boy   San Francisco, CA
This was a lot of milage for not very much climbing. It would be better to cut out Tenaya Peak altogether and add in the Echo Peaks/Cockscomb/Unicorn for much more climbing and less cross country travel. Jul 3, 2013
The idea of adding the Unicorn and Cockscomb is now included here on MountainProject (as of August 2013) in a different traverse route -- see
northwest Cathedral Range Traverse

Ideas for climbing or traversing Matthes Crest from its North end are now in this route description Aug 10, 2013
Very worthwhile, after traversing to the N end of Matthes Crest, is to climb next the East arete of Echo Ridge. Its upper section is yet another knife edge ridge. Mostly class 3 moves but very sustained and exposed. For maximum fun, take it exactly on the top of the arete whereever possible: "balls over the razor". Or if hanging to the side, then switch sides frequently -- and look for chances to hang off the steeper side. (But I did bypass one high fin).

More on traversing Echo Ridge and Peaks in
northwest Cathedral Range Traverse

After that, there is yet another knife-edge ridge connecting across Echo Peaks 1 + 2 + 3. (Peak 3 also happens to be the highest of the Echo Peaks). Easiest to access from the col between peaks 1 + 2, but likely there are more intereating ways on or off.
(I'd give higher priority to the Echo Ridge traverse).

Afterward a simple way to Cathedral Peak is to retrace track to Wilts Col. It is also possible to descend West side of col between Echo peaks 2 + 3, starts as fun scrambling, but lower gets into loose rock.

Cathedral Peak has a great summit block and a great summit view -- even if you do not feel up to climbing the famous SW Buttress route at the end of a long day out ...
Now as of August 2013 there's an improved trail (with stone steps) up around the East side of the rock peak from the base of the SE Buttress. From the top of the trail, scramble up about 15 ft NW then traverse horizontally near some bushes around the N corner onto the NW face. From there if you haven't done it before it's a mini-adventure (no trail, no markers, like the amazing John Muir on his First Ascent) to get to the true summit (which is great). At least one class 4 sequence (which might feel like class 5 especially when climbing back down). Aug 17, 2013
trying hard
Sierra East Side
trying hard   Sierra East Side
classic meadows circuit. Bring enough water to last. I recommend 3 liters. There is a lot of ground to cover here and water is life! Apr 17, 2014
Has anyone considered adding in Conness and then heading down the ragged peak trail to link up with the triple crown? For a north of 120 linkup built around Conness, any suggestions on other climbs in that area? Jul 6, 2015
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
Adding a link to the thread discussing Trevor Z's question:
mountainproject.com/v/conne… Jul 8, 2015
Will M.
Will M.   Oakland
@trying hard We just took a small water bottle and a small bottle of chlorine drops and treated water from streams so we didn't have to carry water weight. Chugged water before and after Tenaya and then between Matthes and Cathedral. This made jogging between peaks a lot easier. Jul 13, 2015
Soloed this linkup today, my first time on any of these three peaks. Car to car in 6.5 hrs. I was hiking fast, but still taking rests here and there. For a soloist, 5-8 hours is a good window.

Brought two liters of water and iodine tablets. I filled up water once at Echo Lake, but I also crossed a stream just after Tenaya and another near the bottom of Cathedral, both of which looked clear. Seems there is plenty of water to be had.

Tenaya just felt like a really steep hike but Matthes and Cathedral were spectacular. Linking all three together made for a truly exceptional day of climbing. Jul 15, 2016
Andre H.
Andre H.   Boulder
Jul 19, 2016
Peter Borden
nyc, ny
Peter Borden   nyc, ny
What's the best way to approach the start to Matthes once you're over Tenaya and drop down towards Echo lake? Any way to avoid a steep bushwack? Aug 25, 2016
Vlad S
Vlad S  
If you look at the map - it will become pretty obvious. Go more or less straight through the notch between Tresidder peak and Columbia finger and that will deposit you at the Echo lake. From there keep going straight until you intersect the standard approach to Matthes. There isn't much bushwacking and the cross-country travel is relatively open, so you can scope things out as you go. Aug 25, 2016
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut

These show the tree density. I've come in from various points en route from Tenaya. Other than a few fallen trees it's not super steep or bushwhacky if you approach the crest from south of the normal way. Aug 25, 2016
Has anyone linked up Mt. Conness with the Triple Crown, a Quadruple Crown if you will?

Something like...

Tuolumne Meadows => Roosevelt Lake => Up W Ridge Connes => Down N Ridge Connes xc to PCT => Glen Aulin HSC => Tenay Lake => Tenay Peak => Matthes Crest => Cathedral Peak => home again home again : - ) Sep 4, 2016
Taylor Brooks
Los Angeles, Ca
Taylor Brooks   Los Angeles, Ca
Thanks for the amazingly detailed photos and notes! I've done them individually, but would like to try the enchainment after seeing this page. Appreciate the tips everyone contributed as well. Dec 6, 2016
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
Thanks and good luck, Owen! Dec 6, 2016
John Robinson
Elk Grove, ca
John Robinson   Elk Grove, ca
If you are doing this linkup without ropes I wouldn't recommend doing it on a weekend or holiday. Tenaya and Matthes Crest will not be a problem but when you get to Cathedral you will see a mass of climbers and, because it is an "easy" climb, many of the climbers will be inexperienced and might dislodge rocks or drop gear and, for a soloist, that is death. I was doing the triple unroped on Aug 26, 2017 (a saturday) and got to Cathedral at 2pm fresh and ready to go. A young woman was being attended to at the base that had been hit by a rock (she later died). After that encounter, and seeing a roped party on nearly every pitch, I decided it was too dangerous. Matthes Crest was also a zoo but, because most of it is horizontal, it isn't especially unsafe for a soloist, except for the first couple of pitches which would also be much safer on a less trafficked day. Aug 27, 2017
John Robinson
Elk Grove, ca
John Robinson   Elk Grove, ca
Cole Paiement, in a previous comment, says "Soloed this linkup today, my first time on any of these three peaks. Car to car in 6.5 hrs. I was hiking fast, but still taking rests here and there. For a soloist, 5-8 hours is a good window" My hat's off to Cole as I think that is a very good time. I think 5 hours would be an Alex Honnold time. I think 10 hours would be an excellent time for a competent soloist who is in good shape and acclimated. Last Saturday, after doing Tenaya and Matthes Crest, we made it to the base of Cathedral in 8 hours. See my comment above for the reason we didn't do Cathedral Peak. If we had been able to continue we probably would have been to the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead in 10 1/2 hours. Yes, I am elderly at 73, and not as fast as some of you young studs but I doubt if many soloists would beat our time of 10 1/2 hours. Aug 28, 2017
Oakland, CA
Sirius   Oakland, CA
Does anyone have stats from a gps type device you might have taken with you? Always been curious about total mileage and elevation gain/loss on this one. Aug 23, 2018
leeds, ut
fossana   leeds, ut
Thanks, Jesse. I've made a note in the description about the shuttle situation. Aug 31, 2018
Cory DeWulf
Camp Verde, AZ
Cory DeWulf   Camp Verde, AZ
We did the triple crown a week ago, started with Tanya and hiked to Matthes and finished with Cathedral only using rope for the last few pitches on Tanya, two pitches on Matthes and the whole climb on cathedral. It took us just over 10 hours and we took it easy knowing it was going to be a big day. My phone said it was 12.3 miles and my friends said 14.9, that’s not including the walk back to Tanya lake. The elevation was in flights of stairs and was over 280 floors on both of our phones. We hitched hiked back to the car from cathedral trailhead Sep 12, 2018