..................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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
We park by The Grille, and its obvious it's the place to be.
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.
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.
We bivy about an hour from The Crest and enjoy a night under the stars.
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."
We break fast and head out right on time, the hike to the base is sweaty. Its lookin' bluebird. There she is.
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.
The ridge is long and narrow and exposed and breathtaking and more cool than the photos can ever make it look.
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.
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.
Adam is fearless. He leads us upward, there is no turning back now. We enter the treasure room. This is where heroes are made.
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.
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.
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.
Adam does a great job on the final pitch and soon the summit unfurls beneath our fingertips.
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.
While we wait, we sign the register and I sketch a little Tolkienesque image of The Crest for the can.
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.
The sunset is magical on the surrounding peaks as we head past Cathedral and the Echos.
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.