Friday, July 17, 2009

Mathes Crest

On Friday my climbing partner bailed on me for the second day in a row. We had plans to do a big route in Toulumne. I decided to make the best of a bad situation and came up with the idea of soloing the entire Mathes Crest 5.8. I left the van around 8:30AM, a bit later start than I would have liked but I knew I would be able to move fast. Down the trail I went with the IPOD blasting out some of my favorite tunes, I was excited to be moving fast and about the adventure ahead. I left the topo and route description behind, so that I could experience the climb without any bias, just like a First Acent I seemed to find the trail to Mathes without any problems, just when I thought I had lost the trail it would reappear. I had scoped the Crest from the summit of Cathedral earlier in the week so I had an idea of where I was going. The approach to the base took 2 hours and 20 minutes, the last half took more time as it involved some cross country travel and route finding. I took a short rest at the base to drink some water and eat, I did not rest for long as I was being attacked by moskitos. I quickly put on my climbing shoes and started up the wall, I ended up going up a more difficult line to gain the ridge probably 2 pitches of 5.7 and 1 pitch of mid 5th class. I passed a party of 2 that was finishing up the 3rd pitch. Once on the ridge the fun began with great exposure on both sides and incredible 360 degree views. The climbing involed lots of 3rd and 4th with a few 5th class moves. I tried to stay on the ridge itself which meant more difficult climbing but better climbing at the same time. I quickly reached the south summit passing another group on the climb and the last that I would see on the route. Once I down climbed the south summit and was at the base of the North tower, this was decision time, either bail now and avoid the most difficult climbing of the route or commit to rest of the climb which I knew would involve some more difficult climbing. I rested for a bit, and decided to go for it, I started up a wide crack which I later found out was 5.8 OW, I struggled a bit with the wide crack but it soon eased to more moderate climbing and before I knew of was on the North Summit. I signed the summit register and decided to check out the rest of the crest. Most people rap off the North Summit and end the climb there, however there is still another half mile of climbing that contains excellent rock although increasing difficulties. I eventually made it the exposed 5.8 downclimb off the North summit. It took me a while to figure out the most secure way down and finally I was through it, I was relieved to get that behind me. However what I did not know was that there would several moves just as hard along the rest of the ridge. The climbing was unreal and was having so much fun and soon I was at the last tower on the ridge, it involved some tricky down climbing then I was on flat ground. The entire ridge took me around 3 hours to comple and that is including a couple of rest along the way. The last half mile took the longest because it contained the most sustained climbing on the route. For the decent I decided I need some more adventure and would take the most direct line down which would be shooting the gap between the Echo peaks and Unicorn Peak. With a little 3rd and 4th class climbing and some snow glissading I was now in an apine meadow that I followed streams down. Eventually these drainages steepened and I had to do some down climbing on slick rock and some snow. Finally with a little bush wacking I was back on the main trail and on my back to the road. The decent took about 2 hours, which put my car to car time around 7 hours and 45 minutes. This was one of the best climbs I have ever done and certainly the biggest solo I have ever completed. If you have not done the Mathes Crest you should, it is a blast.

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