Wow man, Matthew Crest is one seriously fun climb. The standard south-to-north traverse starts out with a couple of 5.6-ish pitches followed by a long sustained knife-edge ridge, then ends with 5.7 pitch up a tower on the north end. Most people call this the end of the climb, though some parties continue past the north tower to finish off the whole crest.
The approach is a real bear, though. My climbing partner, Patrick, and I did the whole thing in an exhausting 12 hour day. The trail begins at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead, goes past Cathedral Peak, up and over Cathedral Pass, then angles off-trail to the west where you head for an obvious notch in the south end of the crest - the start of the climb.
Patrick led the first pitch. There were three other parties starting at the same time, so we moved climber's left to a non-standard starting spot. This proved to make route finding a little more difficult than it should be. We eventually got back on route and swung the second lead. This leads to the top of the ridge where the traverse begins.
We un-roped at this point and free-soloed the rest of the ridge, making a brief side-trip up to the South Tower, an unnecessary but very cool spot for a breather. We then descended to the notch below the North Tower, where we roped up. Patrick took the lead. this pitch begins with a tricky hand-traverse, then eases up for another 100 feet or so to the top of the tower.
I left this part for the end of the post so hopefully nobody's reading this far. I got stuck at the hand traverse - a mere 15 feet of foothold-less climbing - with two parties looking on. How embarrassing. I gotta get back in the gym I guess. Sheesh. Anyway, Patrick rappelled off the North Tower and we descended from the notch and hiked out the 5 miles back to the truck.
Awesome day - but aaargghh, I now have to make the return trip just to knock down that 15 feet.
Well folks, it's official. Sierra Journal has arrived. Today the expansive editorial and photography staff has been recognized by Wend Magazine. Our photo "Mount Dana Reflection" (below), was chosen as the winner of this week's Friday Photo Contest.
So many people to thank. I'd like to thank the Academy. My friends and family. The dude at the camera shop who helped me pick out my new DSLR. The guys at the taco truck across the street.
I know, I know. I write a blog called Sierra Journal and I haven't yet climbed the classic of all Sierra classics? Somehow time and events have conspired against me when it comes to the great Mount Whitney. The Mountaineer's Route, East Face and East Buttress have long been on my tick-list, but somehow I just never got around to getting down there to do the deed. Until this last weekend, that is.
Being partnerless, my plan was to head over to the East Side to do some leisurely wilderness wandering, maybe scope out some climbs on my list, and maybe do some bouldering at the Buttermilks. On a whim I decided to see if I could get a last-minute permit for the Mountinaeer's Route on Whitney.
At 8 AM on Saturday, as they opened the door at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, there were 20-30 people waiting in line to try their luck. The park ranger guy came out, had us pick a number from a hat, then served us in that order. My number? I pulled a 2! Sweet. But there was nary an overnight permit for the North Fork (the trail that heads up to the Mountaineer's Route). But I was lucky enough to get the last overnight permit for the Main Trail. So I put on my peak-bagger hat and away I went.
This is a long, hot, dusty slog of a climb up to the highest point in the lower 48 states. I got moving around 10 am and got up to "Trail Camp" (about 6 miles in and around 4000 feet vertical from the trailhead) at 2 pm or so - just in time for a good afternoon cloud-burst. I happily took a little nap, listened to the raindrops fall on my tent fly and read the latest Eastside magazine (pretty good publication, btw).
Next day I was on my way at 6 am. The trail immediately goes straight up some 2000 feet via an endless set of murderous switchbacks. Then you cross through a saddle and onto the west side of the ridge where you traverse north for a couple of miles, pass by the backside of Keeler Needle, and make the final gentle ascent to the summit of Mt. Whitney.
There were maybe a dozen people on the summit. One group had just finished the entirety of the John Muir Trail (Whitney is the southern terminus). I'd love to tackle that someday. Where to get the time?!
Time to break out the macro lens (or, at least, flip the little dial to macro mode) to get those beautiful close-ups of our famous Sierra Nevada wildflowers.
The SF Chronicle is predicting a banner wildflower season in the region due to the spring's unusually cool, wet weather. This has primed the region for warmer, drier weather when the flowers will bloom in all their glory.
Nature lovers could be in for a treat soon at Lake Tahoe.
are hoping several weeks of unusually cool, wet spring weather will
make for a banner wildflower season in the Sierra Nevada.
"Things around the basin are just getting started. Now that it's
going to warm up, it's going to happen fast," said Karen Wiese, author
of "Sierra Nevada Wildflowers."
While some flowers won't start to bloom until October, the best time
for wildflower viewing in the region is typically between now and the
end of July, she said.
Lupine and camas lilies already are cropping up in Hope Valley,
about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe. In a couple of weeks, nearby Carson
Pass will be another splendid place to stop and smell the flowers,
The Cables Route is the standard day hike up Half Dome. It's an all-day affair and is no joke - particularly in inclement weather conditions. Yet another reminder to be careful out there - even on seemingly easy terrain. Weather can turn even the tamest of routes into a nightmarish epic.
Late Saturday afternoon, when Manoj Kumar fell to his death while attempting a descent of Half Dome within Yosemite National Park, there prevailed what a park spokesman described as a "perfect storm" of circumstances.
Saturday is the busiest day of the week on a cabled ladder system
that enables climbers to negotiate the 425-foot sheer granite dome to
and from its summit.
But by early afternoon it had become cold and blustery, with rain
and fog and sporadic hail. Many hikers had aborted their climbs but
some had not. The granite and the cables had become slippery. Some
hikers froze in fear. Others tried scurrying around on the outside
edges of the cables.
An investigation continues to determine exactly what caused Kumar,
40, a Northern California software engineer, to let go and plummet
nearly 200 feet, but he might have been on the outside edge of one of
After Kumar fell, 41 climbers were assisted in what the park called a "controlled evacuation" that lasted until dark.
Scott Gediman, a park spokesman, said Saturdays can be tricky even
in good weather because it gets so crowded. It's not atypical to have
70 hikers on the three-foot-wide cable system by early afternoon.
There's no scripted order within the cables, although most hikers
ascend on one side and descend on the other.
1. GREAT climb for beginners out there who are looking to learn the ropes on multi-pitch alpine rock.
2. GREAT early-season climb for working out the winter bugs.
I met up with my climbing partner in the parking lot on the northeast side of Tenaya Lake at about 7:00am or so. We got to know each other a bit (having met and made plans online via a climbing club), sorted gear and headed up around 7:30.
The weather was looking awfully sketchy. It even started snowing on us at one point just below the crux pitches of the climb, which gave us pause. We contemplated a bit, then said, "Eh, screw it, let's go." So we did.
We simul-climbed (used a running belay) for the first several pitches, then swung the last three leads. The terrain down low is very tame, but a ton of fun. The whole climb is mostly clean, slabby granite. There was some snow to negotiate, but it wasn't too bad. We had to move to climber's right onto slightly more difficult terrain. It never got stiffer than 5.6, though.
The top two pitches are solid 5.5 with some fun lie-backs and stemming moves. There's a ton of room up there, though, so you could go any of a million ways.
The bummer? I forgot my camera in the car, so no pictures (except the one above, which I took from the car after the climb). This is a double-bummer, because I just bought a new SLR and was eager to try it out. Oh well. I have some good pictures in my head, I guess.