Monday, January 14, 2013

The Great Silence (AKA Matterhorn Peak: The Beginning 1/7)

(GPS: N38° 05.570 W119° 22.865)

“’Well that’s right,’ I said. ‘The whole purpose of mountain climbing to me isn’t just to show off you can get to the top, it’s getting out to this wild country.’” (Kerouac, Jack. Dharma Bums. New York: Penguin Group, 1986, p.81)

This begins a series of blogs I hope to have done in the next week or two. It is one I have put off and off over the years in the hope that I would come up with better pictures and video about it. That has not happened. A lot of that has to do with fires, bad weather, health, and just not having the inspiration.

This one is important for me to do though. Since it does deal with the origins and reasons this blog exists, I think it is time for me to do something regarding it. So, what I am going to do is use some older pictures I have taken at different times over the years to cover it.

Matterhorn Peak borders the northeastern side of Yosemite. It is the highest point (12, 278 ft.) on what is known as Sawtooth Ridge. Personally, I consider it the northern end of the High Sierra with the southern end just south of Mt. Langley.

It gets its name from the famous Switzerland mountain, but it only has that look from the north side (which you can see at the picture I have at the top of the blog). From the south side, as you will see eventually, it is not that impressive. So, in some ways the mountain is misnamed.

In 1958, Jack Kerouac wrote a book called, Dharma Bums, in which part of it contains his account, using fictional characters, of his attempted climb of Matterhorn Peak. Jack was a beat generation author of that era, and a lot of the book deals with his understanding of Buddhism in the 1950s. While I am not a Buddhist, after I read the book I knew exactly what he was referring to while climbing this mountain. It’s because of this book that I refer to this particular mountain as The Great Silence. In the past when I did this hike I started really early in the morning when it was dark. In reality I would say the first 1/3 of this hike I have done while it was still dark out. So, you will see pictures I have done of this hike during other times of the day.
This is where I would normally park. You can see Matterhorn Peak way off in the distance. The trailhead is about 5 minutes away, and from there you start a switch backing trail that takes about 45 minutes or so to get past Horseshoe Falls. At that point the trail flattens out somewhat for the next 10-15 minutes. You continue right next to a stream as you pass a few meadows. At this point one enters Hoover Wilderness.
There are two things wrong about this picture. One, this sign is no longer here and is actually right as you pass the switchbacks a little further back. Two, I used to think of this area as a jungle since walking on the trail one encountered a lot of overgrowth as the picture shows. It is not like this anymore since the people in charge of the trail have cut out of lot of this. It is a lot easier to pass quickly and safer too since there were some small pits you could walk into.
While you can see trails from here on out, they really are “use” trails. There are a lot more obstacles to cover as one goes along. You start encountered more walking on rocks than dirt at times. What you see ahead is known as the “false pass”. That headwall looks like you will pass into Yosemite, but it is not like that at all. Meanwhile, if you continue looking more to the right side of the above picture you can see the Matterhorn towering above.
Look familiar?