Maureen and I had been planning on climbing Matthes Crest in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park for a couple months. I really loved how casual we were in making plans, she just threw the idea out there, I said yes, I put it on the calendar, then a couple days before the climb I got a FB message saying to meet at the trail head at 7:30, bring a compass, and that was about it.
Maureen and I met at the Cathedral Lakes Trail Head and set out towards Matthes Crest. I had the compass, as she had requested, as well as a GPS and print outs from Peter Croft's book, The Good, The Great and The Awesome. We had plans on climbing up the 5.6 at the South end of the traverse, but didn't plan on running into 4 other groups with the same idea. It was a busy day on the crest. Maureen managed to squeeze her way up something and I managed to follow, with groups on either side.
We took advantage of the other people being on the route, as you can see from the picture below. We asked someone to snap this photo of us perched on the first pitch.
And so the traverse began. There was a group of 3 (2 women and 1 man) leading the way, they were soloing most of the route (meaning, no rope), 2 groups of 2 guys each, which were directly in front of us, and another couple+ groups behind us. Maureen and I were moving pretty quickly, simul climbing all the way to the 5.8 crack/dihedral. Simul climbing, short for simultaneously climbing, it is when you are both tied into the same rope, on opposite ends, climbing as the word describes, simultaneously, with a piece or two of protection in between you. The idea here is that you can move quite a bit faster. The catch is, if you or your partner falls, you are essentially the anchor on the other end of the rope. I would say, you would only want to simul climb if you are very confidant in your ability as well as your partners, which we both were.
At the beginning of the traverse we quickly passed the 2 groups of guys and were moving right along, chipper and having a great time.
We got to the 5.8 and Maureen appeared to walk right up it. I struggled a little bit but managed to get myself to the top.
I had an "anything goes" mentality to this climb, hence the scratches on my forearms, bruises on knees and the holes in my pants.
Beautiful views and smiles all the way around.
No need for a tri-pod when you have friendly people to take pictures for you.
This is what much of the traverse looked like. You can see Maureen leading the way and the rope connecting the two of us together. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the ramp just below Maureen was only about two and a half feet wide, dropping hundreds of feet on either side. Scary? Yes, a little but the business hadn't even started yet.
Here Maureen is climbing up a small crack on the traverse, still on our way to the North Summit.
Traversing along, following behind Maureen's lead about 40 feet, often keeping the rope in one hand as not to trip on it.
The North Summit! What a beautiful view. Maureen looks South into the National Park and down the ridge we just crossed. We signed the register at the summit 10,400 feet, had a little snack and decided to keep moving.
Many people rappel off the North Summit and forgo completing the ridge traverse to the far North end. And maybe we would have done that if it wasn't for the above mentioned book, The Good, The Great, and The Awesome by Peter Croft, where he says, in reference to rappelling off the summit, "...you'd miss out on some of the best climbing the route has to offer... so finish it off properly, climb down off the North Summit and continue traversing north along the arete..." So that's what we did.
We decided to carry on and the parties behind us admired our courage. I didn't understand why until we were committed to the decent. We understood that there would be some 5.8 down climbing but didn't think that there would be anything harder then what we had already done. Boy were we wrong.
Let me say that nothing was over or head or above our ability range. Let me say that neither Maureen nor I were ever scared or unsure of what were were doing.
Now, let me say that Matthes Crest was the most exciting and potentially dangerous thing I've ever done.
Here we are thinking, "We made it! All down hill from here!" Although we couldn't have been more wrong.
As we were descending from the summit and continued moving North on the ridge, 2 men, one older and one in his 20's passed us, free soloing. The 20 year old was wearing approach shoes. Maureen kindly asked, as we were a little unsure of exactly which way was the best way along the ridge, "Is this the 5.8 down climb?" The older man's, response, with a little bit of a cold chuckle, was something like "Yeah, this is the right way" and "there's quite a bit more to come."
As we continued, we soon found out that, yes, the party wasn't over at the North Summit, the party was just getting started. Unfortunately we weren't advised it was a business party and there was a lot more work for us to do.
Again, these photos do not encompass the amount of exposure and the risk involved but this crotch shot, taken through my legs while down climbing a ramp was one of the many "scarier" moments on the climb. The next piece of protection was below me 10+ feet. A fall here would have been detrimental.
Looking at the photo now, I don't really know how Maureen and I climbed this mass of rock, but we did. Straight up and over those jaggedy columns.
The below photo isn't Maureen or I, I took it from highsierrayoga.com, but I wanted to show what one particular section of the climb looked like. This section is referred to as "the wave." As you can tell by the exposure and sketchyness of this section, I wasn't too particularly keen on the idea of pulling my camera out and taking a photo.
Maureen and I looked down, like the woman in the photo, and got a sight that I don't expect to see too many times in my life. Looking down the face of the rock, hundreds of feet, was truly breath taking.
The below photo is from the far North end of the traverse, we made it, now just three more miles back to the trail head.
Another great adventure with Maureen, looking forward to more in the future.