Sunday, August 28, 2016

Matthes Crest - Type I fun

"The best climber in the world is the one having the most fun"
- Alex Lowe

If Alex was right, Michael Putnam and I were the best climbers in the world on Saturday. 

What we climbed can only be described as a delightful adventure in the mountains. It was certainly in my top 5 for favourite climbs of all time!

Matthes Crest - A delightful adventure in the mountains
Despite having just gotten back from the Rockies, and having just started teaching a new semester at the University, I found myself heading back into the mountains again. Michael Putnam, had the weekend off, since he works retail that does not happen very often, so I agreed to head up into the mountains with him. 

We set our sights on Matthes Crest, something that has been on my tick list  for a longtime. Its a freestanding knife edge ridge, a very unusual formation, the route traverses a classic "sidewalk in the sky"

Matthes Crest - We traversed from the South to the North Summit, then descended the notch
Michael picked me up at 7:30 pm on Friday, then we headed out to Touolmne meadows. After some shenanigans trying to get a camp site, we ended up camping in a road side pullout on the road to Yosemite creek. We woke up bright and early, and were on the approach trail by 7am. We set a good pace and passed several parties who were also on their way to Matthes Crest. Along the way there were the standard stunning views of the High Sierra. 

Michael is psyched.

We hiked passed Cathedral peak. Looking awesome as always. 
We got to the base in a bout 2 hours, and as typical in rock climbing classics in the High Sierra, there were a bunch of people lined up to climb it, several on the climb, and a bunch of people arriving right after us.

We rested a bit, then I started leading next to 2 other parties on route. Good times. The start is a couple of pitches of 5.4 climbing. Steep but really easy. Actually pretty good rock. Because the climbing is so easy it was possible to climb next to other people on route. Which we did.


This is awesome
Once on route, one of the themes of this trip became apparent, I was going to run into a lot of climbers that I knew, recognized, or knew by reputation. I think it goes to show that the climbing community is not as big as it sometimes seems.

First, on the approach, we ran into a group of 4 climbers from our local climbing gym, Metalmark, then when I got the first bely, I saw I bearded face I recognized from Troy's facebooks posts, Mitchell Quiring. Very friendly affable guy, with a passion for the mountains. 

Mitchell, nice to meet you! We need to climb some mountain together!

After the short headwall, it was onto the ridge proper. My face was a grin, and it continued grinning for hours on end. Such a cool route, 0.5 mile of ridge climbing.

Ridge climbing at its finnest
Michael and I simul-climbed the ridge, we probably could have soloed, but we though it was good practice to simul.

Cool ridge

Michael short-rope
Michael travelling some cool looking terrain
As we approached the south summit, the ridge became more exposed, and technical so we did short bits of mini-pitched climbing through the tricky sections

On one section of the ridge, some soloists passed us, and they turned out to be Richard, his friend Devin, and his girlfriend Laruen. Richard and I have done a few peaks together including Mt Morrison, Mt Langley, and Mt. Shasta. Small world. We chatted for a few minutes, then continued on. 

Michael looking suave with his kiwi coil
Once we were close to the south summit we got a view of some dudes on a highline stretching between the North and South summits. Very badass, and defiantly not something I would be comfortable doing! Good for them! 

Highline madness. That takes a calm head.

We down climbed to the notch and then headed up to the North Summit. It was supposed to be a 5.7, but since we did not consult the topo, Michael ended up leading the 5.8 off-width variation. A bit gnarly, and a bit burly. Good on Michael for leading that one, I think I might have cried like a baby and hung on some gear if I was leading. But of course, being a rope gun, he just crushed it.

This feels harder than 5.7....
Then the summit! Whoop! We sat for a few minutes and enjoyed the views of the ridge, watched the bottlenecked hordes near the south summit. I'm glad we didn't get stuck in that!

Life really is great, right Michael?

Such a cool climb

Fun day. But I am dehydrated an tired. 
We were both dehydrated and tired, so rigging the rappel took way longer than it should have, but we managed. Then we rapped down the notch, and met up with Mitchell and his buddy. 

A long trek back to the cars, then my just reward, a nice cold beer from the cooler

Touolmne beer - victory is mine!
We then headed to the mobile at Tioga Pass with Mitchell and his buddy for some post-climb food.

Sweet. Mobile.

Vegetarian chilli. So nice after a day of climbing.
Overall, such a great climb. Really one of the best adventures you can have in High Sierra. The climbing was beautiful, fun and easy. But at the same time, the length, the exposure and the views make it classic. Truly one of my favourite routes to date. It was great to share the day with Michael, and to meet Mitchell on route. It was really cool to see so many Fresno climbers out there (we met yet another Metalmarker on the way down). 

I highly recommend this route to anyone who love climbing, the mountains and does not mind a long hike and a big day. 

Next weekend is my wedding anniversary, so we'll have to pick a nice mountain to climb to celebrate! 

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