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.
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.
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.
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.
BETA PHOTO: Anne (below the tree) on the 5.2 downclimb below t...
morning shade on Tenaya Peak
Cameron on one of the final Matthes towers
BETA PHOTO: the NW Buttress approach trail winds its way up th...
the NW Buttress slabs begin
and Tenaya Peak again
BETA PHOTO: NW Buttress route on Tenaya Peak
(left to right) Echo Peaks, Echo Ridge and the fin...
steeper section on the NW Buttress
looking back toward Cathedral/Eichorn after the sw...
Cameron about to top out on the Cathedral summit
looking down the 5.7ish summit hand crack
BETA PHOTO: Cathedral Peak from the summit of Tenaya Peak
what you'll miss if you car shuttle/hitch from Cat...
the Valley from the summit of Tenaya
meadow between Tenaya and Matthes
5.7 diagonal crack traverse crux on Matthes
BETA PHOTO: notch where the Matthes Crest traverse starts@SEMI...
BETA PHOTO: saddle between Echo Ridge and Cockscomb (accesses ...
looking toward Cathedral Pass and Cathedral
BETA PHOTO: options for getting from Matthes to Cathedral
almost to Cathedral
Echo Peaks and Matthes
Alwyne on the SE Buttress of Cathedral
(left to right) Cockscomb, Echo Ridge, and Echo P...
BETA PHOTO: Eichorn Pinnacle from Cathedral with descent route...
looking SW from the start of Matthes
topping out on the ridgeline proper on Matthes
slab/scree descent of the back of Cathedral Peak t...
view to the east from Matthes
Cathedral Peak from Cathedral Lakes
ridge walking on Matthes
and more stuff you'll miss if you skip the descent...
south summit on Matthes
boulder hopping in the drainage below Cathedral La...
looking south from the south summit on Matthes
trail to Tenaya Lake
|Comments on Tenaya, Matthes, Cathedral Traverse
|By Hamik Mukelyan|
From: Pasadena, CA
Aug 25, 2012
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.
|By vincent L.|
From: Redwood City
May 20, 2013
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 .
|By Scott Sinner|
From: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Jun 10, 2013
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!
From: San Francisco, CA
Jul 3, 2013
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.
Aug 17, 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).
|By trying hard|
From: Sierra East Side
Apr 17, 2014
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!