08/12-14/2007

Matthes Crest and Third Pillar of Dana

 

On Saturday morning at around 8:00 am I left Pasadena for Altadena, CA to pickup Tim Triche.We ended up chatting with his pregnant wife for a little while before she allowed him to leave.Being 8 months pregnant, she made me swear not to kill Tim or let him kill himself in some manner (i.e. no freesoloing).So we headed off for the Eastern Sierra high country outside Yosemite National Park.After about 6 hours of driving through the scorching desert, we finally climbed up in elevation to the impressive Mono Lake outside Lee Vining.Mono lake is gigantic alkaline and hypersaline lake at about 6500í.So it is saltier than the ocean or even the Dead Sea.To give you an idea of how salty it is; it contains ~70grams/liter of salt.The ocean has only ~30grams/liter.This boils down to the fact that you can go swimming, but not for more than a couple minutes before it starts to burn like heck.So once we got here we stopped for lunch at the Mobile station, which is no ordinary gas station.It has a full trapeze set, a gourmet restaurant, and there was a wedding going on when we got there.I had a 14oz ribeye steak sandwich and Tim had some fancy salad thing.

 

After lunch we headed up to Twin Lakes and Mono Village to check out the approach (hike in) to the Incredible Hulk (a climb we both want to do, but is a bit to hard for us still).After getting lost in an RV jungle of Dish network dishes and Astroturf front lawns we finally found the trailhead out of the campground.Itís a summer weekend, so the RVs are out in full force this time of year.The hike was relatively short and we found the marsh crossing to head up the talus to the start of the climb.We booked back out to the Suby and headed to Mammoth Lakes for a little wine and dinner with Timís parents who are building a vacation home in Mammoth.We ended up crashing at their rented cabin for the night instead of camping somewhere.

 

6:00 am Sunday, weíre up and off to grab coffee and get into Yosemite National Park and start our day.Weíre going to climb Matthes Crest.A tremedously long knife-edge fin nearly a mile in length.We pull into our spot at the trailhead around 8ish and sort gear and stuff food into bear boxes.Our rack for the day (climbing gear) consists of ~10 nuts, 2 link-cams, some slings and 1 200í 7millimeter rope (extremely thin), some water and a cliff bar.We start off on the 6 mile approach right around 9am.We only get partially lost on the way in.We speed past some Euros who have two teetering backpacks full of gear.After our ďminorĒ detour we find Budd Lake and get reoriented.We cruise through the notch of Echo Peaks and descend into the Matthes Crest valley.After skirting the base of the climb for its mile length we head up the talus to the start.Thatís when we happen upon a party of three just starting the climb.We hadnít seen anyone for the last several miles, so how did these guys get in front of us?They said we could pass them if we were moving quickly, so we threw all our stuff on and took off.We were simul climbing the route, which means both people climb at the same time attached by the rope.As the first person climbs, they place gear and as the second person gets there he cleans the gear.As this was such a long and relatively tame climb, Tim and I could do this safely.So Tim took off at a terrific speed, nearly dragging me along the first several hundred feet.I didnít think climbing at ~11,000 ft would be that draining, but it is indeed.We passed the first party in about 5 minutes and kept on flying down the knife edge.After an hour or so we got to the first difficult section which was about the halfway point.We constructed a quick belay and Tim ran up the South Summit pitch, minutes later we were both on the summit signing the register, taking some pics and catching our breath.†† Then we were off again.Now the climb turns into lots of downclimbing, which can be trickier, but we were still making great time.After what seemed an eternity of climbing, we reached the very end of the actual climbing.We slung a cord around a rock horn and downclimbed the last 25í to a ledge system that finished out the ridge.

 

All in all, we climbed the actual route in 4 hours (very quick, most take 6+), but the normal route stops after only half the ridge, since the difficulty increases.We finished out the ridge in itís entirety in 5 hours (still very fast).After a few more shots, we were on our way out the other side of Echo Peak.I tossed some big rocks down onto a snow bank to see how hollow it might be and we decided to follow a rock gulley down and back to Budd Lake.The 6 mile hike out went much quicker than the hike in since we dropped ~3000í in elevation.We got back to the car right at 8pm, giving us a clean 11 hour car-to-car time.

 

We made it back to the Mobil station just in time to get a Poboy sandwich and a Mammoth Beer!They closed up (at 9) and kicked everyone out.We headed back into Yosemite and found a campsite and crashed for the night.

 

5am Monday morning and weíre up again and off to the Dana Plateau to climb the Third Pillar of Dana.We take off from the trailhead at almost the same time as 2 other guys (a guide and client) enroute for the same route.Tim tries to keep in front of them, but my knees are now killing me (trekking poles, I must get some). So we leisurely hike in the rest of the 5 miles.

 

When we finally crest the plateau I see an odd sight from far away that looks like some weird hung sack off a point on a boulder.It turns out to be a food sack on the end of a pole that has been attached to a boulder so that it is sticking out like a diving board.

 

Tim and I rest, eat some cliff bars, don our climbing shoes, gear, harnesses, and helmets.We take a hefty swig of my water (stashed at the boulder) and put a few things in Timís climbing pack and head down the descent gully.This thing is super steep and loose, which means we have to go one at a time and our shoes are constantly filled with gravel.Unpleasant in hiking boots and down right maddening in climbing shoes.After stumbling down this terrible gulley for an hour we cut over right over several rock ridges and finally through a saddle that reveals the Third Pillar.The thing is HUGE, around 600 vertical feet.We stumble / downclimb the rest of the descent to the 3rd class ledges over to the start of the climb.The guide / client are already on the 3rd pitch, so we should be completely out of each otherís way.I take off on the first pitch (5.8-9) and halfway up we hear voices.Two guys have come another way and are just below us.After I finish the pitch and belay Tim up, we exchange pleasantries with our new compatriots.They seem like they are going very fast and we let them cut ahead.They fly right up the next pitch (5.10a) and Tim follows after their second.Tim gets stuck at the 5.10a crux section (fairly hard) and it takes the better part of 3 hours for us to get past it.Itís now late in the afternoon, weíre only halfway up, so we decided to bail as opposed to continuing upward to harder climbing and possibly having to leave more gear behind.We ďdonateĒ a few slings to some old rap stations and rappel back into the gully.The worst part about this is that now we have to re-ascend the terrible gulley all the way to the rim.The climb would have bypassed all this mess, but an hour later weíre back up at our bags.Having finished the last of Timís water itís nice to see that marmots havenít eaten my water bag or shoes.We repack and head out.By this point my knees, which hurt yesterday are killing me again with all the downhill hiking.I make some walking sticks out of tree branches and continue down albeit at a slower pace than Tim.We follow a rushing creek all the way back to a high country meadow then back through a dense evergreen forest.We finally reach the eastern shore of Lake Tioga just as dusk settles and make it back to the car right at about 8:30.We then super punch it and just make it to the Mobil station for our final meal of lobster tahquitos.†† After that, itís a short 5 hour drive back to Pasadena.We get in right at 2:30 and I drop off Tim and head home to sleep before I have to be at work at noon Tuesday.

 

All in all a tremendously fun trip.Somewhat sad we didnít get up Dana, but weíll just have to try again!