Route: Tenaya, Matthes, Cathedral Traverse (CA)

California, US
12.9 mi
Vertical Gain
7350 ft

Mike Womack submitted this classic, technical traverse in Yosemite National Park:

Start and Finish in the north Tenaya Lake parking lot. Start by climbing the NE buttress of Tenaya Peak (5.4 - 1500'), then climbing Matthes Crest south to north (5.7 - 5,200'), then climb the SE buttress of Cathedral Peak (5.6 - 600'). Then hike back to the north Tenaya Lake parking lot. All in all, it's about 7,300' of technical climbing with about 7 miles of hiking. 

The route is also described in detail on

Another option is to start at Tenaya Lake but finish at the highway near Tuolumne Meadow.  This is shorter, with less bushwhacking, and is probably a more "traditional" route for climbers.  A short (~6 mile) bike or car shuttle gets you back to Tenaya Lake.


Hey John,

Replied to your other comment regarding car-to-car or point-to-point. 


I have done this traverse in 5 hours and 2 minutes a couple years ago Tenaya lake to Tenaya lake parking unsupported with a full traverse of Matthes Crest S to N.

I did it prior in about 5:33 with Matthes traverse S to N summit traverse and downclimb from there middle because the 5.8 downclimb prior had a party and I haven't done it prior (wasn't super secure about it). So I went back and did the Matthes in full from N to S and back from S to N to get more familiar with it.

Sent you a message on FB but also wanted to here

To make sure your name gets put up, submit your data, photos, and trip report here because Peter and Buzz are buried in submissions of routes and FKTs right now and may not be reading comments.

Just to clarify this situation:  Vitaliy has total cred, but also no verification for his run of 5h2m on 9/22/2016.  Vitaliy said his personal goal was to go under 5 hours, and since he failed to do so he didn't talk about it at the time.  So, it seems appropriate for it to be mentioned here, but not listed as the FKT.  In the old days, this is exactly how things were done:  A credible person did something and then told a small community of like-minded people.  Then one of those folks might go out and take a stab at the first guy's (or gal's) time.  With the explosion of interest in FKTs we need a more systematic way of doing things, but that does not negate what people did in the past.

To add more clarification to my time: I went to the true summits of Tenaya and Cathedral, skipped the south summit of Matthes by downclimbing into the notch early, and did not climb the last two towers on Matthes, opting to downclimb to the west just shy of them. Still 2 min slower than Vitaliy’s unofficial 2016 time, so close! 

Just did it on 8/8. Submitted my time. I did the same route as CBlack (though judging by strava, I take a more circuitous route around Echo which adds a mile or more). Was knocking on the door of 5 hrs with a 5:01:51 elapsed, so I could see that going 20-30 min faster pretty easily without route finding goofs and getting lucky with crowds on cathedral (highly recommend the knobby face to the right of the chimney if it is occupied). Would be stoked to see someone take my new time.

Hey gang! What a route! Chiming in after an effort on this this weekend. Just submitted my time of 4:46:46.

Am really curious to get everyone's thoughts on the Matthes part of the route. There seems to be a lot of flexibility in how one executes the ridge traverse and a lot of that can be a matter of style. From the north summit onward is the definite crux of the entire day, and also the slowest section ha! I tagged both south summit and north summit as that personally felt pretty critical to the line. On the other hand, I bailed off the true ridge about 150ish ft before its conclusion (which is looks like several others have done as well) because it seemed annoying, less safe, kind of inconsequential, and less classic particularly in the context of a day FULL of amazing/classic climbing. That said, they also just looked hard! Looking at other people's tracks and other FKT holders, it looks like Hardrath is the only person to have actually stayed on the ridge for the two final towers. BRAVO to that!

Have other folks done the final two towers and opted not to repeat them? Having not done them i feel like my opinion is not fully informed. I'm glad I made the decision I did while up there but maybe with better beta I would think differently. From the below/to the side, it looked circuitous to tag the "summits" of these little towers and not in line with the feel of the rest of the ridge, hence why I don't think they are necessary... but I could also totally see otherwise!


I appreciate you acknowledging my harder variation tagging all high-points along the full traverse in the initial FKT on this route.

I think that Vitaliy and John have efforts that pre-date mind (official and unofficial) where the habit of following the efficient line rather than the proud line is the practice. I consider these two and Christian more expert to the Yosemite and High Sierra speed climbing culture than myself. It seems to be common and acceptable practice to find the most efficient line in speed climbing traverses. Do I think your conclusion about the final two towers being unnecessary is correct for speed efforts. They are inconsequential aesthetically and traditionally. So long as the ridge is followed enough to capture the full essence of the climb (tag summit, climb crux, using high ledge systems, etc)

In short, I think your effort captures the fullness of what this line should be. Awesome work! 

With Stoke,



fair enough man! and good points on the prior official and unofficial times and the lines they took. Also apologies on the use of the word "inconsequential". That's not quite the right word. They are a part of the ridge, and tagging them is definitely consequential! There is still a significant part of me that is bummed I didn't summit the towers, so it was probably an unconscious move to make myself feel better by disregarding them ha!

Regardless badass effort figuring out the route finding there and then executing. Someday I'll get up there and tag them just to see what it is all about. As for speed trials, grateful to hear your thoughts and I can get behind supporting what seems to be the most popular line.