Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

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whttiger25
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Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by whttiger25 » Mon Aug 03, 2020 10:32 pm

Hello all. We are trying to get to the YHR south loop via Tuolumne Meadows and have a Nelson Lake permit. The Skurka approach route has us basically following echo creek all the way down to the trail, but I thought hopping into the Matthes Lake canyon to the west and then meeting the trail below Echo lake looked a lot more interesting. From looking at the map, it looks possible to traverse under and around the Cockscomb and then down into the trainage, or descend down the valley and climb up the ridge directly east of Matthes lake. A much less desirable third option looks like wrapping around so less steep slopes south of Matthes. Any experience with these routes? Thanks!








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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by balzaccom » Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:02 am

We hiked to Nelson Lake a few weeks ago. That granite wall to the west is more than I would want to tackle. Others may encourage you, but that is steep granite.
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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by whttiger25 » Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:42 pm

balzaccom wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:02 am
We hiked to Nelson Lake a few weeks ago. That granite wall to the west is more than I would want to tackle. Others may encourage you, but that is steep granite.
Were you looking at the walls to the west of Nelson? The route I was thinking of is about a half mile south of the cliffs that are directly west of lake nelson

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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by giantbrookie » Tue Aug 04, 2020 3:05 pm

As with any off trail itinerary there a ton of alternatives, so you should go with a route that takes you to places you want to visit and see. The topo map shows you the terrain you should avoid (ie cliffs) and there are many viable alternative routes that avoid the various cliffs. Given the sorts of priorities I have, if I were doing this I would go into Nelson via Johnson Peak Lake (ie ascend to JPL from Elizabeth L first) then wrap around the east shoulder of point 11135 to drop down on Reymann Lake then follow the stream down to Nelson. One of these days I plan to use this as a day 1 plan for a longer trip deeper into the Yosemite backcountry.

I have been to Matthes L. only once and dayhiked there from the Tioga Road upstream of Tenaya Lake. The route I took, which was very enjoyable gives you some insight into route options involving Matthes L. Leaving Tioga Road I first climbed over the wooded shoulder NE of Pywiack, then up the outlet waterfall of Lower Cathedral L to the lake then very briefly picked up the trail over Cathedral Pass before diverging to Echo Lake, then wrapping around the corner to Matthes.

If I was to connect this to Nelson via the route I described earlier the only missing step would be to head directly to Matthes L from Nelson via the saddle ESE of Matthes L. Whereas the gradient on the E side of this to the saddle looks reasonable on topo it just takes one cliff band to render this a non-starter. However if you look a smidge downstream there is a SSW-NNE swale that aims toward the outlet of Matthes from the Cathedral Creek drainage and the gradient is such that it would be a sure thing. It would be easy to wrap around from the 9200 level on Echo Creek (ie south of the steeper stuff). So if it was me, the game plan would be to check out the "direct" gully first. If that was a go, then I'd go that way, whereas if it was blocked by a cliff band I'd do the slightly longer detour to the south. There is no way I'd waste my time downclimbing Echo Creek all the way to the trail.

If you were to do something close to this, the one drawback is that getting back to TM would require walking along the road to TM after descending the Cathedral waterfall, but this can be skipped in several ways such as (a) simply taking the JMT to TM from Cathedral Lakes, (b) from Upper Cathedral L hit the saddle S of Cathedral Pk and descend Budd Creek to TM, (c) from south of Cathedral Pass aim for the W shoulder of Echo Peaks and head toward Budd L., (d) I think the saddle btw the Cockscomb and Echo Crest (high point W of Cockcomb) goes at class 2 but I haven't crossed it myself.

Anyhow the main point here is that when one does off trail travel there are always a ton of viable alternatives.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by balzaccom » Tue Aug 04, 2020 4:36 pm

whttiger25 wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:42 pm
balzaccom wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 7:02 am
We hiked to Nelson Lake a few weeks ago. That granite wall to the west is more than I would want to tackle. Others may encourage you, but that is steep granite.
Were you looking at the walls to the west of Nelson? The route I was thinking of is about a half mile south of the cliffs that are directly west of lake nelson
Sorry---when you mentioned the Cockscomb, that's what I was thinking.

From what I remember, that is pretty steep granite there. But there is always the chance that there's a ramp or series of ledges that would let you do it. I just wouldn't count on making it in time to meet the bus...

Here is a photo looking north from more or less 1/2 mile north of your path:

Image

And here looking down towards your suggested route:

Image

Maybe that section of trees would lead you up and over into Matthes.
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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by dougieb » Tue Aug 04, 2020 9:37 pm

I did this a couple years ago and there's a pretty easy notch over that ridge. It might be the one in the last picture that balzaccom shared. Use the map, get out there and have some fun! If you bought a route from skurka, you might try asking him about this alternative.

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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by whttiger25 » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:17 am

giantbrookie wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 3:05 pm
As with any off trail itinerary there a ton of alternatives, so you should go with a route that takes you to places you want to visit and see. The topo map shows you the terrain you should avoid (ie cliffs) and there are many viable alternative routes that avoid the various cliffs. Given the sorts of priorities I have, if I were doing this I would go into Nelson via Johnson Peak Lake (ie ascend to JPL from Elizabeth L first) then wrap around the east shoulder of point 11135 to drop down on Reymann Lake then follow the stream down to Nelson. One of these days I plan to use this as a day 1 plan for a longer trip deeper into the Yosemite backcountry.

I have been to Matthes L. only once and dayhiked there from the Tioga Road upstream of Tenaya Lake. The route I took, which was very enjoyable gives you some insight into route options involving Matthes L. Leaving Tioga Road I first climbed over the wooded shoulder NE of Pywiack, then up the outlet waterfall of Lower Cathedral L to the lake then very briefly picked up the trail over Cathedral Pass before diverging to Echo Lake, then wrapping around the corner to Matthes.

If I was to connect this to Nelson via the route I described earlier the only missing step would be to head directly to Matthes L from Nelson via the saddle ESE of Matthes L. Whereas the gradient on the E side of this to the saddle looks reasonable on topo it just takes one cliff band to render this a non-starter. However if you look a smidge downstream there is a SSW-NNE swale that aims toward the outlet of Matthes from the Cathedral Creek drainage and the gradient is such that it would be a sure thing. It would be easy to wrap around from the 9200 level on Echo Creek (ie south of the steeper stuff). So if it was me, the game plan would be to check out the "direct" gully first. If that was a go, then I'd go that way, whereas if it was blocked by a cliff band I'd do the slightly longer detour to the south. There is no way I'd waste my time downclimbing Echo Creek all the way to the trail.

If you were to do something close to this, the one drawback is that getting back to TM would require walking along the road to TM after descending the Cathedral waterfall, but this can be skipped in several ways such as (a) simply taking the JMT to TM from Cathedral Lakes, (b) from Upper Cathedral L hit the saddle S of Cathedral Pk and descend Budd Creek to TM, (c) from south of Cathedral Pass aim for the W shoulder of Echo Peaks and head toward Budd L., (d) I think the saddle btw the Cockscomb and Echo Crest (high point W of Cockcomb) goes at class 2 but I haven't crossed it myself.

Anyhow the main point here is that when one does off trail travel there are always a ton of viable alternatives.
Thank you for the thoughtful response. I agree on your analysis of the map and I think we'll just work my way down the echo creek canyon until we can see a good route over the ridge. It also looked interesting to try to follow the ridge from the col above Elizabeth Lake, under Cockscomb on the east to south side and then down directly into the canyon from there. I haven't found any beta on that route yet but it looks doable from topo. Will have to judge it when I see it. Thanks!

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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by rgliebe » Sun Aug 09, 2020 10:38 am

I've hiked the area above Elizabeth Lake with a full pack, and it just got too steep for me in the last 400 feet to keep going once I was above the tree line, so I bounced over to the pass into the Echo Creek basin and headed for Nelson Lake. I've tried to reach Matthes from the outlet creek of Nelson Lake that heads over to Echo Creek, but when you climb to the top of the ridge on the north side of that outlet creek about 2 miles after it leaves Nelson Lake, you will find that parts of the ridge are very narrow in places and unsafe to walk through unless you are extremely surefooted like a deer. The alternative is to drop down into the next valley where another creek starts that feeds Echo Creek, but it's extremely steep to get back up again on the north side of this valley, so I aborted my attempt and followed the creek out to Echo Creek where the trail is. I think the easiest way to get there is to start at Cathedral Pass and climb up to Echo Lake and then it should be relatively easy to reach Matthes from there as giantbrookie did. I was planning to use that as my exit route after I got to Matthes Lake, but I never got there.

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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by TehipiteTom » Sat Aug 15, 2020 10:18 am

Oldranger and I went from Nelson to Matthes in 2016 and IIRC we took the saddle directly southeast of Matthes Lake. Some steep slabby sections, but it was doable for me--and I'm an acrophobic wimp.

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Re: Advice on getting to Matthes lake from Elizabeth Lake, Tuolumne

Post by druid » Sat Aug 15, 2020 12:52 pm

giantbrookie wrote:
Tue Aug 04, 2020 3:05 pm
However if you look a smidge downstream there is a SSW-NNE swale that aims toward the outlet of Matthes from the Cathedral Creek drainage and the gradient is such that it would be a sure thing. It would be easy to wrap around from the 9200 level on Echo Creek (ie south of the steeper stuff). So if it was me, the game plan would be to check out the "direct" gully first. If that was a go, then I'd go that way, whereas if it was blocked by a cliff band I'd do the slightly longer detour to the south.
This is the route I took with my pre-teen kids a few years ago. We took a look at the direct route from Nelson to Matthes and decided it looked too steep. Since we had all day we instead headed south between the Nelson outlet and Echo creek to around 9150 where we crossed Echo, walked a bit west and then headed north up to the saddle SSW of Matthes Lake. Easy walking all the way. Caltopo shows nothing above 30°.
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