| Matterhorn to Wetterhorn Traverse (Alpine Junkshow Route)
This year's Fall Gathering brought me back to Matterhorn Creek and while Otina and I had planned to climb Matterhorn, in the back of my mind I was cooking up plans for the ridge traverse over to Wetterhorn...if things worked out. We met KeithK and Scott (edlins) at the turnoff in Lake City and headed up to the "official" Fall Gathering campsite. I asked Scott what he had in mind for the weekend, his answer was ideal..."the traverse." I have a ton of respect for Scott as a climber, this guy quietly does some impressive stuff in the mountains. So it was set, Scott and I would climb Matterhorn with the group and then head onto the traverse. This was all well and good, but all I knew about the ridge was that it connected the two mountains, I had no idea what class the traverse was or what the rock would be like. Beta out there for the full traverse is severely lacking to say the least, Roach simply says it would be "arduous"...his definition of "interesting" usually scares the crap out of me.
After an evening of indulgence the 5am wakeup call came too early but somehow KeithK, bergsteigen, John Frolich, Tundratif, edlins, and I all piled into Keith's truck and headed up to the the 4wd TH. I will spare you the details of the Matterhon climb because it will be covered in the official Fall Gathering TR and it consists of this: Turn right at first trail junction, turn right at 2nd trail junction, turn left up big grass slope, scramble on some fun rock to the summit. I thoroughly enjoyed this climb, this peak should not be skipped if you are in the neighborhood . On the summit we were joined by Doug Shaw, he was planning the traverse too and gladly accepted Scott and my's invitation to come along. I was more than pleased with this outcome, I now had a SAR member (Doug) and a climber who's abilities I respect a ton (Scott) along for the ride...let's make it happen!
After a little time on the summit Scott, Doug, and I headed down the west ridge of Matterhorn to start the traverse. I attempted to go over the top of the first tower and soon discovered just how arduous this traverse was going to be...the rock was incredibly loose and the downclimb wasn't going to happen. Within 10 minutes of starting we were already backtracking and having to downclimb loose class 4 rock. Our summit group (still on Matterhorn watching us) offered some "backseat routefinding" much to our amusment.
Initial descent off of Matterhorn (Image by Otina)
Climbing up the first tower (image by Otina)
We used a gully east of the first tower to skirt its difficulties and then stayed on the ridge crest to the 2nd set of towers. Trying our best to stay as "ridge proper" as possible, Doug and I scrambled to the top and once again found no safe exit. So we executed a sketchy downclimb on ass-tastic rock and found our way back down to Scott. Yet again, we were going to have to skirt the towers. There is a talus slope below the 2nd set of towers that allows for a very cautious crossing. I would compare it to being off route descending the "3000 feet of suck" on S. Maroon. (don't ask)
Skirting the first difficulty
Lets try this again
Doug on top of the 2nd tower (image by Otina)
Impossible down climb...again (image by Doug)
Talus slope below 2nd tower (image by Doug)
After the 2nd set of towers, we were able to stay close to the ridge crest, working around minor obstacles here and there, but nothing significant. Staying close to the top required pretty constant class 3 scrambling with decent exposure. As we neared the saddle the rock started to get better, a little more Wetterhorn-ish. At this point we met a group of 4 doing the traverse from Wetterhorn, sorry guys, I didn't catch your names.
Finally, some ridge walking.
Scott downclimbing another minor obstacle
Doug working his way along the ridge
Group of guys doing the traverse in the opposite direction (image by Doug)
Once we reached the Wetterhorn side there were just 2 more major obstacles to work around on the ridge. We managed to get around the first one fairly simply, just some loose rock over a huge drop...but that was pretty much standard for the day. The 2nd and final major tower on the traverse was more interesting, Doug managed to find a 6" wide ledge over a sheer drop on the south side. But it was solid, so we followed him across, Scott said it was very much like Broadway, just not as much air. Apparently, to Keith and Otina, who were watching our progress from the standard route on Wetterhorn, it looked much scarier than it actually was. We followed the ledges onto some class 3-4 moves on the south side of the ridge face for a little while until we were able to regain the ridge.
Doug's 6" discovery (image by Scott)
Can you find Doug? (image by Otina)
Scott's mini broadway (image by Doug)
At this point we were all pretty tired and the ridge just seemed to go on forever. Matterhorn got further away, but it felt like Wetterhorn never got any closer! Thankfully the rock quality had improved greatly and we continued to work our way along the ridge until we could see the entrance to the east face of Wetterhorn.
Looking back at our progress from the Wetterhorn side
Scott having fun
The east face just plain sucks without snow, it's basically a very steep dirt slope. One step forward results in 6" of sliding backwards, after about 10 minutes of this I hopped onto the rocks and did my best to avoid the dirt. Doug, Scott and I spread out to keep from kicking rocks at each other, and after a little cussing we met up at the notches on the standard route. As I neared the top I heard yelling from the summit, Keith and Otina had beat us to the top by losing an extra 1000ft...I guess the ridge traverse isn't exactly efficient. But seeing Otina on the summit gave me the motivation I needed to pick up the pace a little.
Otina's view from the summit as we ascended the east face
Looking up the east face (image by Scott)
Scott ascending the east face
Standard route found (image by Scott)
Final pitch to Wetterhorn summit.
We finally reached the summit of Wetterhorn after 3:45 on the ridge traverse, It was great to have Otina waiting for me up there...I needed a shoulder to cry on. We received our congratulations from Keith and Otina, sat around for an hour, and then the group, minus Doug, descended together, arriving back at camp in time for the madness that is the Fall Gathering. Doug found a more interesting way down the mountain and then magically appeared around the fire later.
Wait...you might hurt your ankle.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):