Sunday was prepped to be a busy day. We wanted to get some climbing done in the morning, we needed to organize and pack our gear, and we needed to hike to Echo Lakes to set up camp (about 4 miles). Our desire to climb West Cracks must have rubbed off, because this was now Doug’s choice for the day, though we thought it was a bit much with everything else we needed to accomplish. After waking and packing up our campsite, it was still cold (30’s) at 7:00AM. Crack climbs are no fun with freezing hands, so we decided to drive to the Tuolumne Store picnic tables, make pancakes, and have coffee. There was a lot of smoke in the air, even filling up some valley areas. We later learned this was not a local fire, but smoke blowing in from a fire in Nevada.
After eating, we decided to just head over to Pothole Dome, do a few topropes, and then pack up. Since Alex and Dave had climbed there before, we setup at the 2ndarea, so we would have something different to climb on. After Alex ran a few lines, Dave jumped on next and decided to climb like a lizard, running, jumping, bounding, and scurrying both vertically and horizontally along the slabs. After Doug had his turn at it and cleaned up the anchors, we headed back to the car. We stopped at the store again for some cream cheese for our lunch.
We drove up the road to an large pull-off, laid down a tarp, and starting organizing gear for a backpacking/fishing/climbing trip. The plan was to hike from the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead to the climbers trail that would take us past Budd Lake and set up camp near Echo Lake. We would fish along the way, either at Budd Lake or Echo Lake.
We moved to the trailhead, stashed our extra food bins in the food lockers, and hit the trail around 2:00 PM. Despite the fairly short length and moderate terrain, we were moving slow and stopping often. Dave and Doug had ridiculous packs on their backs that slowed them to a pace that was quite relaxed for Alex with her reasonable pack. Alex took pleasure and enjoyed this rare hiking moment. Soon after the trail turned to flat granite slabs, we met a park ranger and a volunteer and talked to them for a bit. They had been out at Budd Lake eradicating an invasive species in the lake… trout. I guess we won’t be fishing there! They also suggested a sushi restaurant in Reno that has great all-you-can-eat sushi. This sounded like a great rest day activity for Wednesday! We could drive three hours for that… and maybe even get a hotel… showers and laundry would be fantastic!
We continued on our way; soon find ourselves at Budd Lake. We dropped our packs to take a short break, and consult the map. At this point the trail we had been following along a creek faded away and we just needed to head in the direction of the not yet visible Matthes Crest and Echo Lake. From where we sat, we could see Cathedral Peak and hear the climbers on it shouting commands to each other. Doug led us along the edge of the Echo Peaks, and soon we were in a meadow. Matthes Crest should be coming into view any time now!
As both Matthes Crest and Echo Lake came into view, we decided we would camp up on the ridge, rather than make the walk all the way down to the lake. Dave and Doug were particularly beaten up by the hike, and this would be a good location for us. By not walking down to the lake to set up camp, we would not have to walk back up the loose scree with heavy packs in two days. There was brief discussion about fishing… but the lake seemed farther than our tired legs wanted to go. We picked a sheltered area amongst some trees to protect us from the wind and allow Doug to set up his hammock. As Alex and Dave went to retrieve water, Doug began to prepare dinner.
It sounded like an odd combination: pasta, cantaloupe, tomatillos, onions, garlic, and white wine, but we trusted Doug he makes awesome camp food… he’s only let us down once! This past winter, while we were snowshoeing to Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks, Doug prepared us a dinner of pasta and salmon at our lean-to. Unfortunately, he was unable to find packets of salmon, so instead brought a sketchy looking can of it. Worst. Dinner. Ever. It was so terrible we could not eat it; it tasted bad and was full of bones. Luckily for us we had enough other things along to eat instead.
Doug succeeded in making a delicious dinner, and after our bellies were as full as they were going to get… not full enough… we prepared our packs with food and gear for climbing the Matthes Crest the following morning. Before heading to bed for the night, we spent some time taking pictures of the fantastic sunset views we had from our camp.
Alex and Dave settled into their tent, while Doug settled in under his tarp. We all figured he would stay warmer in the 30-something-degree night chill on the ground with the tarp than hanging in a hammock.