South to North Traverse 5.7
About the Climb
Matthes Crest is a beautiful long knife edge ridge that sits in a spectacular and remote area of Tuolumne Meadows. Although it is not a very sustained climb (most of it is a 3rd and 4th class traverse), it is a very popular outing because of its length, moderate grade, scenic hike, and exceptional character. The Matthes Crest traverse is usually done from South to North because it allows some upward progress, but it can also be done from North to South, which requires more downclimbing.
The South to North Traverse features lots of scrambling and traversing along an exposed crest for nearly half a mile. Most of the fifth class sections (up to 5.7) are encountered on the first and last sections of the climb. This traverse provides a great backcountry and alpine experience in a spectacular location, along with breathtaking views and unequalled exposure. It is no surprise that this is such a popular outing for free soloists, and it makes sense to simul-climb most of the route when climbing with a rope. If you rope-up for every pitch, it will take significantly more time, and you should expect to get passed by several other parties.
Most parties decide to rap down once they reach the North Summit, but it is possible to continue traversing along the crest past this point. However, the difficulties increase and involve sections of 5.8 downclimbing.
If you're looking for more climbing and summit bagging, several combinations are possible. The most obvious choice would be to climb the Southeast Buttress (5.6) of Cathedral Peak or the North Face (5.4) of Eichorn's Pinnacle on your way back to the trailhead. Other routes are also encountered along the approach near Echo Peaks. But perhaps the best combination of all would be to start with the Northwest Buttress (5.5) of Tenaya Peak, cross over to the South to North Traverse of Matthes Crest, and then finish with the Southeast Buttress (5.6) of Cathedral Peak. Now that's a big day!