Matterhorn Peak - a "Sierra-Nevada-Must-Climb" for two Swiss

Published by 360 Pro , 3 August 2014, 20h13. Text and phots by the participants

Region: World » United States » California
Date of the hike: 4 June 2014
Hiking grading: T4+ - High-level Alpine hike
Mountaineering grading: F
Climbing grading: I (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: USA   US-CA 
Height gain: 1600 m 5248 ft.
Height loss: 1600 m 5248 ft.
Access to start point:Annett's Mono Village, 13425 Twin Lakes Road, Bridgeport, CA 93517
Accommodation:Several campgrounds in this area, we stayed at Anett's Mono Village

Matterhorn Peak was one of the very first mountains which I put on my Sierra Nevada "to-do-list", even before I moved to California. A mountain with such a legendary name is a must for a Swiss and in addition the routes to its top seemed quite interesting. It seems like every mountain range on this planet has to have some peaks named "Matterhorn", even if the mountain's shape resembles not quite the original. Nevertheless it was tempting to climb at least one of the Matterhorn's in the US, thus it was easy to convince Alpine_Rise to join me on this tour to the "Matterhorn". We decided to climb it from Twin Lakes via the so-called East Couloir and for our way down we took the normal route via the SE slope to the Horse Creek Pass and down the Horse Creek Valley back to our starting point.

We arrive at Twin Lakes (Bridgeport) late afternoon the day before our hike and set up our tents in the Mono Village campground at the end of Upper Twin Lake. Since this lake is known as fisherman's haven we try our luck and Rise catches a trout which nicely complements our dinner. After some campfire romanticism and a short night we get up early in the morning before dawn. We eat breakfast and drink some coffee about 10 yards away from the car and make the mistake to not close the trunk of the car. The bears in the vicinity must have observed us and waited for us to sit down for breakfast and then sneak to our car, look for, find and steal some food. We notice when it's already too late and one of the bears is already on his way up a tree with our bread... a few minutes later only the empty plastic packaging flies down from the tree. Bread in bear, bear in tree - and us leaving for the trail. Well, lesson learned and we won't make that mistake again!

We start our hike shortly before dawn and first follow the marked Horse Creek Trail. The trail-head is kind of hard to find in the dark, but since we looked for it on the previous day in the daylight, we knew where to go and had no problems finding it  with our headlamps. The path is not the most efficient one to gain altitude, because it takes a few extended switchbacks. At around 8200 ft where we see our goal of the day for the first time, the Horse Creek valley widens up and is rather flat with a small lake created by an incredible beaver dam. This is the end of the maintained trail, but rather clear path traces go beyond this point and mostly follow the east side of the creek up the obvious valley.

At around 9200 ft we then leave the Horse Creek Valley and scramble in direction SW (some path traces) up to an unnamed little lake (ca. 9800 ft). From there we continue along the not very distinct ridge and at approximately 10450 ft we enter the big basin north of Matterhorn Peak (the Matterhorn "glacier"), where there's still plenty of snow. We traverse to the beginning of the East Couloir which comes down from the saddle slightly east of the summit. (In my opinion the route name East Couloir is a little misleading because the couloir is clearly aligned in direction S/N which happens to end slightly east of the summit.) At the bottom of the couloir we put on our crampons and then head up the rather steep couloir. After we reach the Southeast ridge of Matterhorn Peak we take off our crampons and deposit them there together with some other gear. The final scramble up to the highest point is a fun and relatively easy climb. The directer the route the more difficult, but nowhere harder than a T5, the easiest route may even be in the T4 range. The view from the top is truly amazing and we enjoy it for quite some time, try to name some peaks and eat some food before we start our descend.

In order to get back to the campsite in Twin Lakes we first climb back down to the saddle at the top of the "East Couloir". From there we slide down a snow field in direction south and find our way eastwards (on snow where possible/present) near the Horse Creek Pass (the lowest point between Matterhorn and Twin Peaks, approximately 10700 ft). The best route avoids the true pass on the west side, so we turn north little below 11000 ft, see also GPS-track. From there we then find our way down the Horse Creek Valley, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right side of the creek. The valley is filled with big blocks and loose scree, so we try to use as many snowfields as possible to gently glide down. After we get to the place where we left the Horse Creek Valley on our way up, we then retrace our steps back down to Twin Lakes.

The whole trip took us a little less than 10 hours, including long breaks to enjoy the beautiful scenery. If we had two or three days to climb Matterhorn peak, this would have been a very rewarding round trip circling the Matterhorn peak with the option of other, very rarely visited summits like Finger Peaks, Whorl Mountain or Crown Peak.

The day after Alpin_Rise starts for a wilderness trip in the remote northern part of Yosemite, a report is to follow.

Hike partners: Alpin_Rise, 360

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Comments (4)

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Vauacht says:
Sent 3 August 2014, 21h01
Nice trip, congrats! I see we missed out big time on Matterhorn peak! What a pity :(

The ascent over the East Couloir looks very interesting. Do you consider it for winter?

Alpin_Rise says: RE:
Sent 4 August 2014, 00h08
Ciao Vauacht,
seemingly, the East Couloir would offer very nice backcountry skiing (Diff around S). As it faces north, it conserves the powder pretty long. Best time would may be March or April, when there's still enough snow to ski down to Twin lakes.

I'll be baaack
G, Rise

360 Pro says: RE:
Sent 4 August 2014, 00h13
Thanks. Yes, the East Couloir, in fact pretty much all couloirs north of the Peak, are perfectly suited for winter outings (search the net and you'll find many reports and even videos). The steepness up to 40° is most likely an enjoyable run for any advanced skier.

Zaza says:
Sent 4 August 2014, 08h07
Nice one! You might want to revive this sleepy community with it. Also, the anchorman of Swiss alpine literature is currently working on some Matterhorn project. Who knows, maybe he’ll contact you for some photos...

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