Climbing
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Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade V
Elevation Gain
?
Distance
7.50 mi (12.07 km)
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Matthes Crest is a 1-mile, fifth-class ridge traverse in the High Sierra of Yosemite National Park's Tuolumne Meadows. This route is one of a kind, and it features wild movements, breathtaking views, incredible exposure, and excellent rock quality. It's undoubtedly one of the best traverse routes of it's kind in the United States. That said, the amount of technical terrain this route features makes it a step up from nearby Cathedral Peak. This is a serious, but feasible, undertaking for beginning climbers. If you are relatively new to fifth-class traversing, simul-climbing, and downclimbing, get a really early start, and bring a lot of water, food, and sunscreen!

To reach Matthes Crest, begin at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead in Tuolumne Meadows. There are a couple ways for parties to access Matthes Crest from this trail. The easiest is to follow the Cathedral Lakes Trail past Upper Cathedral Lake to Cathedral Pass. From Cathedral Pass head southeast following the drainage towards Echo Lake. Matthes Crest comes into view just below the Cathedral Pass meadow and puts you in line with the southern end of the route, where most parties will want to start. Alternatively, parties can head towards Cathedral Peak and take a cross-country route, which links up with the the northern end of Matthes Crest. For the alternate route, begin hiking on the Cathedral Lakes Trail.  At .5 miles, find a subtle trail branch to the left. This is the climbing access trail for Cathedral Peak. It is well-worn, but less obvious than the Cathedral Lakes trail, so keep your eyes peeled. After another mile or so, you'll reach the base of Cathedral Peak. Instead of hiking uphill toward Cathedral Peak, cut back left toward a shallow valley on another trail that is marked with cairns. This trail will take you up to Echo pass. Matthes Crest doesn't come into view until you are past Cathedral Peak. Follow the cairns down over the pass and over slabs to the far south side of the crest. The climb moves south to north.

As this is a ridge traverse, it is difficult to give a pitch by pitch description. Almost all parties will want to do some large blocks of simul climbing. The best way to do Matthes Crest is as follows:

  • Part 1: Climb one long or two short pitches until the angle mellows out considerably and you gain the ridge.
  • Part 2:  Simul climb until your leader runs out of gear. Switch leaders at this point, and continue on to the south summit. Break for water and food, and switch leaders.
  • Part 3: Downclimb to the notch between summits. Climb another pitch, placing gear, back up to the north summit. 
  • Part 4: Continue to traverse all the way to the final end of the fifth-class section. This should take two or three blocks of simul climbing.

Done efficiently, this style will give you the best chance of success in a timely fashion on this rather long beginner's route. From the end of the traverse, simply hike back along the south side of Echo Peaks until you return to the trail.  Hike out the way you came.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Pros

Excellent climbing. Incredible location. Unique style of route.

Cons

May be crowded during summer months.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

8,500.00 ft (2,590.80 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,500.00 ft (457.20 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Rock climbing
Big vistas

Location

Field Guide + Map

Comments

09/07/2015
Surreal Labor Day traversing Matthes Crest. Solid rap anchors available between the south and north summits. From the notch it's possible to down climb to a set of anchors for a single rap on a 70m rope.
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