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Re: Matthes Lake area TR

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Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 12:20PM
Drove up from the Bay Area last Thursday; left home c. 05:00 and got to the TM wilderness center about 2 minutes before 10:00, having made a couple of brief stops along the way. Nowhere to park along Soda Springs at 10:30 (zillions of day hikers), so we parked at Cathedral Lakes TH and took the shuttle back to the store/grill. Managed to take the wrong direction up through TM campground, and ended up doing an impromptu inspection of the backpackers camping area (surprisingly nice); easy enough to go XC to the Elizabeth Lake TH from there so no real harm done.



On the trail up to Elizabeth, DW was really feeling the altitude change, so progress was super-slow (about 1 mph average). Fortunately a short rest at Elizabeth put her to rights and we made adequate speed thereafter.



Saw a nice Mountain Garter Snake at Elizabeth Lake.



Following the use-trail up from Elizabeth to the pass was fairly easy - it fades out in a few places, but a quick cast around with a practised eye will pick it up again quickly. Great views from the pass itself.



There is still water in Echo Creek canyon, so it's campable anywhere after the pass. Lost the use-trail over to Nelson because we turned off too early, but easy XC anyhow. Two other groups at Nelson, but no bother.



Got up late, this time it was my turn to be feeling the altitude, so we puttered about around Nelson but gave up on our original plan to visit Reymann. Headed off to Matthes about 11:00. Easy to follow the trail downhill, but we made an error heading up the ridge between Echo Creek and Matthes Lake (first picture below), and ended up cliffed out so had to descend quite a bit until we could lateral across to get up to the saddle.



The last part of the climb had several class 3 spots with enough exposure to make us thoughtful; we had to hand packs up in one place.



DW's initial reaction to the exposed class 3 was "we'll never do that again", but after half an hour thinking it over she agreed that it was not actually that bad, just stressful due to being a new experience, so "OK, we could do that again".

Involuntary "WOW: as Matthes Crest came into view at top.



We bagged the best camp spot at Matthes Lake, which was surprising crowded, with 4 other groups camping and others passing through (the second night, it was just us and one solo camper).



Saturday we went up and found the "Greg Aiello video slot canyon" (exactly where I thought it would be, and very easy to spot at the NE extremity of the head of the Matthes Lake valley). This is a really cool place; well worth a visit.







After enjoying the slot canyon, we went over to the saddle between Echo Ridge and Matthes Crest - lots of nice granite slab hiking, but made more interesting by the need to cross multiple micro-canyons descending from the head of the valley.



The climb offered an ever-changing perspective on the surrounding peaks.







The view down to Echo Lake was marred only by a bright orange tent placed illegally in full view 20' from the outlet creek of Echo Lake - other climbers camping down there were all nicely concealed in the bushes and trees.



Finally, we dropped down to the saddle between Echo Ridge and Cockscomb to get views of Cockscomb, Budd Lake, Cathedral Peaks, and Unicorn Peak before heading back to our camp. All afternoon there was heavy cloud, thunderstorms and rain pretty much everywhere around us, but somehow we were spared.







Back down to our camp for dinner and into the tent just in time for the rain to finally reach us.

Sunday the plan was to laze across to Upper Cathedral Lake, set up camp there, and maybe go up Tresidder, then exit via Budd Lake the next day. The trip around the end of Matthes Crest was fairly easy, but we stayed too high and thus had to do a bit of boulder scrambling (it is probably easier just to cross the low saddle at the end of Matthes Crest directly east of Echo Lake).



The valley around Echo Lake had great views of the "easy" side of Matthes Crest ("so that's how all those climbers got up there" ) and Echo Peaks, but dark clouds were gathering.



We got a few spatters of rain as we came up to Cathedral Pass, then the heavens opened big-time just as we started to hunt for a camp site at Upper Cathedral Lake, including pea-sized hail.



Funnily enough, the only other time we have been backpacking at Cathedral Lakes, two years previously, we also got hailed on!

The rain just kept on pouring down, and after a while we decided that there was no good reason to camp in those conditions when we were less than four miles from our car, so we called it quits and headed out down to TM. It rained all the way down to TM, kept raining as we drove out (absolutely slamming down as we passed Tenaya Lake), and didn't really tail off until White Wolf, so we felt we had made a pretty smart decision. After rain and 54F in TM, it was a little surreal to find temperatures around 100F in Oakdale at 20:00. Made it home by 22:00.

Complete photo album with captions.

Best thing about this trip? NO MOSQUITOS - HURRAH! smiling smiley



Edited 11 time(s). Last edit at 03/01/2014 12:33PM by Royalist.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 02:15PM
Berry nice.

Couple of comments.
A - you can simply park at the Elizabeth Lake TH... smiling smiley
2 - over the last few years Matthes and Nelson popularity has sky-rocketed...

so ... you just can't expect to not see peeps there "in season"
It's just too easy and quick to get to.

(heck, if we have another winter like the start of last year.. I'll take a little
skating dayhike to Matthes for fun)

Have fun and Tanks for Sharon



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 02:47PM
Quote
chick-on
you can simply park at the Elizabeth Lake TH

Hmm! I specifically asked the ranger if we could park there when I picked up the permit; he said "oh no - you must park at Soda Springs." So - is parking at the Elizabeth Lake TH legal but discouraged, or is it illegal but never enforced, or what? And are there bear boxes at that TH (I didn't notice any, but I wasn't looking)?

Anyhow, in the end, we were very happy that the car was right there at the Cathedral Lakes TH so we didn't have to stand in the rain waiting for the shuttle.

Quote

over the last few years Matthes and Nelson popularity has sky-rocketed

We noticed that Budd and Nelson TH's are starting to show up full increasingly often. The ranger who issued our permit said last year was a record-breaker for all backpacking permits, and also the camp sites. He speculated that the lousy economy is making folks choose cheaper vacation options nearer to home. Let's hope the economy picks up and all those people go back to going overseas... winking smiley



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/18/2012 03:01PM by Royalist.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 03:49PM
Yeah, I don't buy the recent article about the demise of backpacking.
Hmmph!
I've been told the same stuff about amount of visits by rangers.
There's a LOT of people out there.

Parking at Elizabeth TH. Uh... It's a trailhead... Uh... it's got parking... it's got a bathroom...
it's got bear boxes... (almost certain)
But hmm, yeah, I dunno. We've parked there many times backpacking Nelson TH.
I've never asked if I could park there. I've never asked if I couldn't park there.
(of course if you go when the CG is closed... it's a moot point)



Chick-on is looking at you!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/18/2012 03:54PM by chick-on.
Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 03:52PM
Quote
chick-on
I've never asked if I couldn't park there.

This shows you are smarter than me! smiling smiley



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/18/2012 03:52PM by Royalist.
Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 19, 2012 09:53AM
While I wait for the pics to come up...yes, there is parking at the Elizabeth Lake Trailhead. I suppose you just drive in and park when the kiosk is closed, but when the kiosk at TM campground is open, they give you some kind of placard to put in your windshield when parked.

Same for if you want to unload at the BPr's camp, but that placard is for 15 minutes only. Of course, when the kiosk is closed people still drive in to unload for the camp through all hours of the night and park for as long as they want. (I know as the campsite I stayed in last Sep was across from the BPr unloading zone...dang busy...)




Great TR and photos by the way. smiling smiley (I need to be getting up there soon.)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/19/2012 10:07AM by hikerchick395.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 02:19PM
Excellent! Thanks for the visual on the slot canyon...I gotta get there next time I am at Matthes.
Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 03:44PM
Quote
Bearproof
Thanks for the visual on the slot canyon...I gotta get there next time I am at Matthes.

It's easy enough to find from Matthes, but if you want to get there from Echo Creek, it's here: N37 49.419 W119 23.176 You can pick it out visually from Echo Creek; it's just to the right (north) of the first major saddle left (south) of Cockscomb.

From Echo Creek, you have to go up the wall northwards a bit to the north of the slot canyon, then go south across a shelf (follow a line of trees) above a granite cliff to reach the head of the canyon. It looked exposed and potentially sand/gravel-slippery from where we stood on the broad ledge at the top of the slot canyon (as Aiello said, 30 people could camp up there). Don't sue me if you plummet to your death...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/20/2012 01:53PM by Royalist.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 03:17PM
Nice pictures and report (especially of the slot canyon), thanks. I'm liking my decision last year to follow a joint in the granite to a point north of the saddle, it was a pretty narrow joint and still exposed, but I was walking w/ my pack the whole time, so I guess I'd call that class 2.
Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 03:56PM
Quote
ttilley
I'm liking my decision last year to follow a joint in the granite to a point north of the saddle

Yeah, it's far from clear that we took the best route. We actually got cliffed out trying to stay a tad further north of the saddle, so I'm not sure where you went up. The solo guy we met at Matthes said he came over well south of the saddle and it was just a (steep) walk up through trees. Anyhow, we made it and it was valuable experience/confidence building for the future, so it's all good.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 03:59PM
I went straight up the saddle, on the slabs to the right of the gully. Just as the rock steepened uncomfortably there was a small joint, no wider than my foot, going off to the right. I followed it up into more secure territory, and ended up probably a few hundred feet or so north of the main saddle.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 18, 2012 04:39PM
For those reading along at home... we also talked about it here:

http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,57059

Have fun



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 19, 2012 08:58AM
For my own purposes next year I need a little advice regarding the saddle crossing on Matthes Crest. I plan to go up the western side but have never seen the eastern side. The original poster on this thread claimed the eastern slope is the more difficult. I would like opinions from more than one person who has been there which way would be the easiest descent on the east side of the saddle down to Mathess Lake. I am not a Class 3 hiker and wish to avoid anything tougher than the northern slope of Echo Peaks, which I call Class 2. Thanks.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 19, 2012 09:47AM
Quote
tomdisco
For my own purposes next year I need a little advice regarding the saddle crossing on Matthes Crest. I plan to go up the western side but have never seen the eastern side. The original poster on this thread claimed the eastern slope is the more difficult. I would like opinions from more than one person who has been there which way would be the easiest descent on the east side of the saddle down to Mathess Lake. I am not a Class 3 hiker and wish to avoid anything tougher than the northern slope of Echo Peaks, which I call Class 2. Thanks.

The slope we're talking about is the east side of the saddle east of Matthes Lake, not the Matthes Crest. Roughly, the climb from Echo Creek westward to this location. I had aimed towards this point along the slabs just north of the gully, then swung north along a joint to avoid the class 3 Royalist is discussing.

The ridge west of Matthes, towards Echo Lake - when I was there last year I just went around it towards the south, mostly staying on the slab just above the forest, occasionally going into the forest.
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 19, 2012 10:05AM
Jim,
From the Crest to Matthes Lake is all Class 2. No question. Below Echo Ridge just head east-ish
toward Cockscomb... and then head down. Believe me. It's very very simple xcountry.
Look at his photo #14 (labeled Echo Peaks <actually it's Echo Ridge> <Echo Peaks are further west>winking smiley
that is the type of terrain you will hike on. Very simple.

Get to this location:


To the north you will see his photo #14 ish... Echo Ridge.
Drop your pack here and go out onto the Crest as far as you like. Come back... head due east
and work your way down to Matthes Lake.

Have fun
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 19, 2012 10:06AM
Hey Jim, Wutt dat billy guy sed. He purty smart.

(doz dat count as two?)
tongue sticking out smiley



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 19, 2012 02:50PM
Quote
chick-on
Hey Jim, Wutt dat billy guy sed. He purty smart.

(doz dat count as two?)
tongue sticking out smiley

Yep; counts as two opinions. Thanks. From the top of the saddle niether side looks as steep as I feared. All I had to go on for the east side was Google Earth and I guess I got sort of a warped view playing around with the tilt feature. Your photo looking down the knife edge of Matthes Peak is the one I've always wanted to take for myself. I will actually take the JMT past Upper Cathedral Lake because I've never been to the upper one and then cut thru the valley north of Echo Lake to climb the saddle.
Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 20, 2012 01:56PM
Quote
bill-e-g
photo #14 (labeled Echo Peaks <actually it's Echo Ridge> <Echo Peaks are further west> )

Fixed!
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 20, 2012 05:37PM
The return of bill-e-g !
Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 22, 2012 10:09AM
I have some questions about the Cherry Creek Canyon hike if you don't mind.

Steve
avatar Re: Matthes Lake area TR
August 20, 2012 05:46PM
Quote
Royalist
Quote
ttilley
I'm liking my decision last year to follow a joint in the granite to a point north of the saddle

Yeah, it's far from clear that we took the best route. We actually got cliffed out trying to stay a tad further north of the saddle, so I'm not sure where you went up. The solo guy we met at Matthes said he came over well south of the saddle and it was just a (steep) walk up through trees. Anyhow, we made it and it was valuable experience/confidence building for the future, so it's all good.
Awesome. Definitely a lot of exploring opportunities around there. Also a lot of opportunities to get cliffed out.
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