Matterhorn Peak

Okay, we have to admit it: the Wheeler Survey party of 1880 who named this peak probably had never seen the real thing. There is a slight resemblance but our Sierra version is not quite the same as the Swiss one. A good deal smaller, but with much better rock. And a fraction of the people.

The Sawtooth ridge dominates the Sierra skyline from Bridgeport and is aptly named with jagged peaks and sharp ridges. Matterhorn is the southern bastion of the ridge and is the high point of the area. At the other end is little climbed Blacksmith Peak.

The North Arete offers a great climb to the summit of this peak. This route was first ascended in 1953 by Yosemite climbers Jerry Gallwas, Don Wilson and Wally Kodis. The ascent is rated 5.6 and is less sustained than other routes of a similar grade such as the East Face on Mt. Whitney. But we think that the rock is better than on Whitney and offers sharp cracks and an exposed position right on the edge of the clean arete directly to the summit.

This is another good introduction to technical climbing in the high mountains and feels more of a wilderness adventure than the other route of a similar level, the North Ridge of Mt. Conness. For literary trivia buffs this is also the peak that defeated Jack Kerouac in his book “Dharma Bums”.


high-sierra-climbing-super-topo good-great-awesomeThe best guidebooks are Supertopo’s “High Sierra Climbing” by Chris McNamara and Peter Croft’s “The Good, The Great, and the Awesome”.

Get them from Maximus Press.

We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000′) just prior to the trip. Spending a night in Mammoth would do the trick or better yet, camped at an even higher trailhead, such as the Sawmill Creek Campground on the Saddlebag Lake Road or in Tuolumne, for a night just before the trip. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.

We have to pay the Mono Village an overnight parking fee of $5.00 per night.

Return to Summer Programs

Day 1:
After a pack check we’ll caravan to the trailhead parking area at Twin Lakes (7,092 feet). This parking area is private land and there is a $5.00 per night fee to use it. The walk starts on a well-trodden trail and climbs steeply uphill into the Horseshoe Creek drainage. After a few hours we leave the good trail and follow a seldom-maintained use trail to our high camp at a small tarn at about 9,800 feet, just below the peak. The approach is a good solid day.

Day 2:
We are up early and out of camp hopefully before first light. An easy glacier leads to the start of the route and five pitches, with some 5.7, lead directly to the 12,264 foot summit. We descend via the Northeast gully that many use as the ascent route and continue down the small glacier to a trail back into the Horseshoe Creek drainage, depending on exactly where our camp is located.

Day 2:
After a good nights sleep we will pack up our gear, then hike out to the trailhead. We plan to be back to the trailhead by early afternoon.

Elevations and Distances
Trailhead to camp: 4.12 miles, 2850’ of gain, 100’ of descent
Camp to summit to trailhead: 2.0 miles, 2250’ of gain, 2250’ of descent
Camp to trailhead: 4.12 miles, 100’ of gain, 2850’ of descent


Program Prerequisites:

You should be in good physical condition, have some backpacking experience and have the ability to traverse broken uneven slopes with a moderate pack. Prior experience at altitudes above 10,000’ is recommended. You need to be able to follow at the 5.6 level and have experience on multi pitch routes.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Matterhorn Peak map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.