Trip Report
Matthes Crest in Technicolor: A Trip Report Brought To You By Instagram
Thursday September 13, 2012 2:20am
..................NOTE: All photos for this trip were taken on my lowly iphone. For once I decided not to bring a real camera and just forget about photography and climb. I used Instagram to oversaturate and artisticize all my shots from the trip. I kinda think they turned out cool. So heres a little TR with some average quality photos turned kinda artsy craftsy with the help of a free app. Thanks Instagram.........

Francois Matthes lived in a world of black and white. He did not own an iphone or know what Instagram is, but he probably would have dug it.
Credit: micronut
He was born in Amsterdam March 16, 1874. He was a geologist, a member of the USGS and a graduate of MIT. His book, François Matthes and the Marks of Time: Yosemite and the High Sierra, was bound in charcoal cloth board. Not very colorful.
Credit: micronut
He was a visionary. And the wild, wicked spine of a mountain rising above the High Country of Tuolumne which bears his name has haunted my days and nights for nearly a decade. I saw a photo of The Matthes Crest many years ago and like most climbers knew that I would someday find my way up and onto that wild, windblown ridge.

Adam and I walked in with heavy packs, over Echo col, and camped at the foot of the beast nine years ago. I was so overwhelmed with the length and majesty of the thing that I straight up declared "we're not ready for this thing man." We fished in the lazy waters below the dragon and scrambled a nearby peak and vowed to return.

A couple years later, we came back ready to rock and roll. I led the first pitch in the icy gray of a fall morning and then we promptly got off route, way to the left, somewhere in the steep terrain over a massive void. Adam popped a knob, I heard "Falling!" from below and got weighted for the first time in my life in the mountains. We made it to the crest, but the way ahead looked soooo long and the demons in my head started shrieking. I was spooked and we bailed under blue skies.

Matthes to me began to feel like Smaug the dragon from JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.
Adam and I were smitten though. And we would stop at nothing to plunder the goods hidden somewhere up there along the Dragon's back.

Fast forward to last weekend. We are stronger climbers now. Nine seasons together in the Sierras and countless epics, bails and successes have hardened us into battle worthy soldiers. This time we would come and take. We would march in there and storm the fortress. There would be no retreat. Matthes Crest would fall and we would take our rightful place on the the summit.

We roll into the Meadows, crash under the stars and wake up to the perfect sound of the river burbling twenty feet away. We sit and contemplate the dawn of a new day while Ron tells us that "The whole universe is right here, waking up right now guys. You just gotta let it fill you up and listen to it. Let it beat in your heart. You guys are gonna have a blast back there on Matthes. You're here for the right reasons, you know that?"
Adam and Ron Kauk having coffee as The Meadows wake up.
Adam and Ron Kauk having coffee as The Meadows wake up.
Credit: micronut

AFter another cup of coffee and a breakfast biscuit from the Grille, we spend the day chillin, craggin and soaking up the power and majesty of the place.

Credit: micronut

West crack was on the agenda, but three parties ahead of us kinda snuffed that idea. We did a couple routes to the right and I led the first pitch of WC to get my act together for the next day. What a great place.

Credit: micronut
A party of two at the first belay on West Crack
A party of two at the first belay on West Crack
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

We park by The Grille, and its obvious it's the place to be.
Credit: micronut

We're packin and rackin' when I spy some old aquaintences that I always seem to run across when I'm in the area. Lynette and Logan give us some righteous approach beta for Matthes and we're dialed in in no time. The Medlicott trail is hands down the way to get back in there. Thanks yall.

Credit: micronut

Snowhazed, from here on The Taco, introduces himself to me and wishes us luck on the crest. Its hard to do, but we pull ourselves away from the crowd, shun an offered cold beer, and get in the car and head to the trailhead. Its time to shoulder pack and get it on.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

We bivy about an hour from The Crest and enjoy a night under the stars.
Credit: micronut
In the morning, Time stands still. I could lie here forever.
The mountains around us say..."Good morning men, welcome back, today is your day."
Credit: micronut
We break fast and head out right on time, the hike to the base is sweaty. Its lookin' bluebird. There she is.

Credit: micronut

Adam is an animal. No backin' down. The first three pitches float by. He charges the gates and we are sittin' on the crest in a windless, splitter sky in no time at all.
Credit: micronut

The ridge is long and narrow and exposed and breathtaking and more cool than the photos can ever make it look.
Credit: micronut

Adam stays in the lead, and we pitch it out, belaying every single pitch. I'm not in the mood to simul climb. Call me a wimp, a sissy, whatever. We still manage to stay just ahead of the simuling parties behind us all day and we're having a blast. A party form Truckee that started a bit after us us bails for some reason. Bummer, hopefully they'll be back. We charge ahead. Life is good.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Clouds begin to build. Watching the sky is giving my gut problems. "Please hold off....please old gal, give us a shot at this thing." We climb on. The dragon sleeps.
Credit: micronut

Adam is fearless. He leads us upward, there is no turning back now. We enter the treasure room. This is where heroes are made.
Credit: micronut

The ridge goes on and on and on. And on. Its alpine perfection. The reason we all climb. Some soloists pass us. Everybody is lovin it. Here's a shot of Bill and Bob. We end up with them on the summit and rapping together. Good meetin' you guys. Well done up there.
You can just see Bill on the spire, just to the left
You can just see Bill on the spire, just to the left
Credit: micronut

The clouds begin to wrap us up. It gets nasty for a bit and hail bounces off my helmet for three minutes in a staccato rythm that doesn't even bother me. We will succeed today. I can tell. The stress in my veins dissipates as the skies clear and Adam sits ahead of me on the ridge with a big old grin on his face.
Credit: micronut

Its mid day by the time we round the bend at the South summit and The North Tower comes into view. It'll make your jaw drop. I'm a husband and a father of four and a business owner and a regular dude. I'm not a full time climber. I may never lay eyes on the Patagonian massif. But today, right there behind Adam is my Fitz Roy.
Credit: micronut

Adam does a great job on the final pitch and soon the summit unfurls beneath our fingertips.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

The skies brighten. The wind quiets down for a moment. Our hearts beat in balance with the massive stone mountain beneath us. A crescendo of relief floods from our weary bones. We are alone and smiling and straddling the narrow, bony summit that has waited for us for nearly a decade. What a gift.

Alone. A great way to be until you realize that you made a big mistake and left the second rope in the pack at the base of the summit pitch cause "man this pack is so heavy I'm sick and tired of it. I'll leave it right here and grab it when we rap right back down"

How many years have we been doing this?????? Doh!!!
Bill and Bob are right below us and it looks like we'll end up rapping togther. Good times. New friends, a fun summit to share.
Credit: micronut

While we wait, we sign the register and I sketch a little Tolkienesque image of The Crest for the can.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Bloody smudges on the paper in the register.  cool.
Bloody smudges on the paper in the register. cool.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

Pretty soon it's time to go. Men weren't made to stay on summits forever. We rap. The lines come down freely. We start walking home.

Credit: micronut

The sunset is magical on the surrounding peaks as we head past Cathedral and the Echos.

No bad for a picture taken on a telephone eh?
No bad for a picture taken on a telephone eh?
Credit: micronut

Its pitch black by the time we round the bend at Medlicott Dome and the last mile or so grinds on and on. Soon, our headlamps reflect the steel of a bumper and the glass of an FJ windshield. We're back in the land of mortals. A three hour drive awaits. There is no fanfare. No triumphant entry. Just a swig of warm Gatorade, a fresh shirt and a couple swipes of deodorant for the drive home.

We came. We saw. We got to sit on top. Mr. Francois Matthes would be proud. And for now, that's enough.

  Trip Report Views: 6,278
About the Author
micronut is a trad climber from fresno, ca.


Gym climber
  Sep 13, 2012 - 02:25am PT

Mountain climber
The Ocean
  Sep 13, 2012 - 02:27am PT
So spectacular.
Mathis is a pure must do.

Thanks for bringing a little more beauty to those of us who were not there.
David D.

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2012 - 02:32am PT

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Sep 13, 2012 - 02:33am PT
Thank you!
mountain dog

Trad climber
over the hills and far away
  Sep 13, 2012 - 03:31am PT
Great pictures. Great report. Great climb.

Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
  Sep 13, 2012 - 10:36am PT
Great times! Thankful for the opportunity of adventure.
The Alpine

The Sea
  Sep 13, 2012 - 10:55am PT
Great job going back and nice pics.

You realize you're gonna have to go back again, right?

The best part of the route is AFTER the raps. I still have no clue why the supertopo says to rap???

The plus side is that the Matthes has got to be one of the best routes to repeat over and over.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:08am PT
You realize you're gonna have to go back again, right?

The best part of the route is AFTER the raps. I still have no clue why the supertopo says to rap???


The plus side is that the Matthes has got to be one of the best routes to repeat over and over.


It is suck a beautiful place. And you can traverse north to south from north too. Or do whole thing from north or from south. Presents different challenges and different views. It is awesome. Thanks for the report homez!
Josh Nash

Social climber
riverbank ca
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:15am PT
That's so awesome. You guys have the best trip reports.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:17am PT
Thanks Micro. And thanks for shoe-horning in a bit of history with Matthes. This should happen more ofte on TR's. Looks like a very fun trip!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:30am PT
Excellent as always!

Social climber
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:48am PT
Great photos. Love the strange colors and lighting, like old Kodachrome or Ektachrome slides, circa late 70s, stored badly.

The writing is excellent, too! Inspiring. Matthes Crest is now firmly on my list of "must-do" climbs....
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:48am PT
Nice TR. Good to see such nice pictures.

Trad climber
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:57am PT
Just...beautiful. Thank you.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Sep 13, 2012 - 02:16pm PT
As always, this is a superb TR, but I find it even more impressive knowing all the pics were from the phone.

Great job! Thanks much.


Ice climber
Bernal Flats, CA
  Sep 13, 2012 - 02:35pm PT
Great tale! Thanks for taking the time to tell it with style.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Sep 13, 2012 - 08:33pm PT

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Sep 13, 2012 - 08:56pm PT
^^ what duke said. sooo many nice pics and damn, the pending weather and clouds really just adds to the aesthetics of many of your pictures. that last one of cathedral over the lake in the light is a real gem.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:05pm PT
Nice job guys!
Great pics and story line!
You re one of the best here, micro!

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:12pm PT
The history is a nice touch - you guys always keep it fresh.

lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:20pm PT

Painting from the '80's

Nice TR


Trad climber
moab UT
  Sep 14, 2012 - 12:07am PT
Good job an a great route men!
keep slaying those dragons!
I loved the history as well.

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Sep 14, 2012 - 12:58am PT
"Daddy, what did you do in the Dragon Wars?"

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Sep 14, 2012 - 01:02am PT
Yeah man! Auspicious meetings during store lurk!!

There's one pic of your bro up close- effing stellar.
The Larry

  Sep 14, 2012 - 01:05am PT
Three thumbs up!

Trad climber
the basement of Lou's Tavern
  Sep 14, 2012 - 01:20pm PT
We enter the treasure room.

This made me smile real big. Along with all the tasty pictures. Nice to have this to read while at work, thanks for reminding me to check this thing yesterday Micro.
this just in

Justin Ross from North Fork
  Sep 14, 2012 - 01:24pm PT
Great looking route, same with the trip. That granite reminds me of gothic cathedrals. TFPD

  Sep 14, 2012 - 01:25pm PT
Great report, but ditch instagram. It just makes photos look yellow.
Fathead 235

Trad climber
  Sep 21, 2012 - 01:22am PT
Great Report and it was a Great Day! You guys cruised it! The instagram photo's are excellent and the one of Bob and me is surely the best ever taken of either of us!
Rock on!

Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
  Sep 22, 2012 - 07:22pm PT
Awesome TR! Great work, guys. It was fun to relive Matthes thru your pics and storytelling. Thanks!

Trad climber
  Sep 22, 2012 - 08:52pm PT
great report micro, amazing photos, looks wild

Trad climber
Menlo Park, CA
  Oct 10, 2012 - 01:01pm PT
Hi Micronut, could you say hi to Adam for me. We had a great time climbing with his family this past weekend on the Glacier Point Apron. A great time was had by all! I loved your TR. Great photos, makes me want to ditch my camera.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Oct 10, 2012 - 02:23pm PT
The way you share your experience has a freshness and unjaded enthusiasm that gives me a big smile to read. It transports me back to my own sense of glory being in that place :)

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Oct 10, 2012 - 08:01pm PT
Hey Bill,
It was nice meeting you guys. Great job up there and thanks for rappin with us and saving our bacon. Email me and I'll send you that photo of you fellas. And Hamerthumb, thats a will do!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Oct 10, 2012 - 10:05pm PT
Nutman-Your best TR ever, nice merging of history and now. All those photos from your I Phone? awesome
Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
  Oct 10, 2012 - 10:16pm PT
I'm envious.

Yosemite Valley
  Oct 11, 2012 - 10:08am PT
As the story goes, Francois Matthes was ill in bed, nearing the end, when he was informed that the knife-edge arete near Cathedral Peak was named in his honor. He was, reportedly, quite pleased to hear this.

Great TR!

Social climber
  Oct 10, 2012 - 10:19pm PT
hey there say, micronut...

wow, thanks for the share... the pics even showed for me... not all, yet, but they are starting...

say, not sure what all these new phone-stuffs are, but my kids all seem to have them (none live around here, so i can't check out what these are)... but they sure are 'the thing' now, so it seems...

thanks for the intro too, i enjoyed that...

as to your quote:
We came. We saw. We got to sit on top. Mr. Francois Matthes would be proud. And for now, that's enough
that was fun, too...

god blesss...

Trad climber
  Feb 20, 2013 - 01:01pm PT
Hey Micronut.....what about the Medlicott trail makes it better for Matthes? Is it shorter, less steep, better views, etc.?

Boulder climber
Institute of Better Bouldering-DirtbagDad Division
  Feb 20, 2013 - 03:40pm PT
Missed this one when it was first in theaters, but glad I caught it this time around. Highly enjoyable on a mid-winter's day! Thanks!

Brought back some good memories. Definitely one to go back to!


Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Feb 21, 2013 - 06:15pm PT
Hueco Rat,

I really do think its shorter. Its only steep in the first mile, getting up to and a bit beyond Medlicott. But I think it's way prettier, with views under Medlicott, a great view out to the Southwest over the lake and Tenaya Peak. ANd once you hit the lake, its basiccally flat. You aim for Eichorn Pinnacle, heading East, then you hang a right and catch the JMT to head over the little "pass".
Easy Cheezy.

Trad climber
  Feb 21, 2013 - 08:15pm PT
Thanks, Micronut. Where did you stash your bivy gear? I hesitate to ask, but did you need a permit?

A long way from where I started
  Feb 22, 2013 - 12:16am PT
A Grand Day Out for sure.

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Mar 12, 2014 - 04:44pm PT
John M

  Mar 12, 2014 - 05:13pm PT
Thanks for the Bump.. Don't know how I missed this one.

Thanks for the trip report guys!

  Mar 12, 2014 - 09:17pm PT
Well how did I knott see this one before?? Fun TR, Matthes has got to be one of the wildest rock features around, so cool. Great work men.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Mar 12, 2014 - 09:44pm PT
Oh my, how'd I miss this! LOVED the intro history lesson. Your pics were so moving...capturing the event and the spirit in both the pics and narrative.
A stunning TR.



Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
Author's Reply  Dec 12, 2014 - 08:15am PT
Thank you susan!

Just giving the old Matthes Crest a rainy day here in Fresno bump.
Andy Fielding

Trad climber
  Dec 12, 2014 - 08:48am PT
Great TR Micro. I did this last year and have some pictures taken in exactly the same places which made your TR even more special. When we rapped it was onto a snow field which was a TR in itself getting off the thing.

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Dec 12, 2014 - 08:51am PT
Woooooah, the trip report that spawned your profile picture!

RIP green jacket...

Thanks for the rainy day distraction
the museum

Trad climber
  Dec 12, 2014 - 09:05am PT
Very nice! one of the best TR's on this forum for sure!

the museum
Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Dec 12, 2014 - 09:47am PT
Nice report, pics, and history! TFPU!

Sport climber
  Dec 12, 2014 - 09:58am PT

A great TR to repeat...

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Dec 12, 2014 - 10:04am PT
Bitchen. Great photos.
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Dec 12, 2014 - 11:36am PT
Love the old TR's getting bumped back up.
Great pictures, especially for a phone.
Brought back good memories of a very different, but most excellent, kind of climb.