Climbing the Matterhorn

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Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

I was too slow. I was too fat. Maybe my pack was too heavy. I shouldn’t have gone to the gym yesterday. Did I really need to bring my DSLR and tripod? Why couldn’t I keep up? What if he didn’t want to ever go on climbing adventures with me again?

My trekking pole got stuck in a crevice. I yanked it out and subsequently knocked the handle into my eye. That was the final straw that broke the frustrated camel’s back. I tried to stop it, but one sniffle led to another. Then I was suddenly bawling on the last half mile section to our Matterhorn campsite for the night.

Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

Over the 4th of July weekend, Josh and I set out to climb the Matterhorn in the Sawtooth Range outside of Bridgeport, CA. It didn’t go quite as we planned. We didn’t bring the right gear. (Read: ice axes.) We didn’t summit. We didn’t even try to. We camped out by the tarn below Matterhorn Peak, hiked up to about a thousand feet shy of the base, and then turned around and headed out.

Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

Would I do it again? Heck yeah, the Matterhorn and I have unfinished business. It was insanely beautiful; but when I look back on this trip, I don’t think about the alpine lakes, alpine meadows, sweeping mountains or crystal clear waters. I don’t think about the lovely weekend with my wonderful boyfriend.

I just think about how I utterly failed. I’ve been trying to write a trip recap but a standard writeup didn’t seem right. I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts into the right words for nearly a month now, mostly out of embarrassment and out of shame.

Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

A few friends tell me that they’re pretty sure they can’t keep up with me on trips, that whatever I’ve got planned might be too out of reach. Truth be told, I ride the struggle bus more often than not. I suck at altitude. I tend to (over)pack for the worst case scenario. I don’t hike fast. I get distracted by everything. I am terrified by exposure. This is the picture that I don’t paint when I post that summit or that send.

Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

I don’t like to talk about failures because it makes me feel weak. It means I’m not invincible. Articulating my thoughts and pressing the ‘Publish’ button immortalizes my shortcomings as an “athlete”, and an outdoorist. It makes me squirm and it makes me uncomfortable. Try as I might, I’m not the perfectly snapped human being in all the photos I post; I’m just regular.

Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s not. It’s something that I’m still trying to sort out for myself. But in the meantime, I’ll keep trying and keep training. And maybe next time, because there’s gonna be a next time, I won’t get so down on myself.

Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

The trip itself

Friday night, Josh and I drove out to Bridgeport and slept in the front seats of our car somewhere. We arrived at the Bridgeport Ranger Station early, early in the morning to pick up permits for the Hoover Wilderness and Matterhorn. The ranger station ended up opening their doors ahead of time and we were second in line for the permits we wanted. We grabbed breakfast in town, then drove out to Twin Lakes Resort where we began our trip.

Climbing the Matterhorn, Sierra Nevada, Sawtooth Range, July 2016

The trail was straight forward and easy to follow. We stuck to the instructions in SuperTopo and found our way to the lake. In early July, there was no snow on the trail to the tarn beneath Matterhorn Peak. However, an ice axe was something that would have been really, really nice to have for the ascent and descent from the base of the peak.

Campsites were fairly limited as a lot of spots were still stuck under a few inches to a foot of snow.

Her gear: Arc’teryx Kea 45 pack (similar), Norrøna bitihorn lightweight pants, Woolx Basix Tee, Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX Hiking Boots, Black Diamond Dawn Wall Hoody, Adidas Outdoor Flyloft Jacket, Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles

His gear: Mountain Hardwear Ozonic Outdry 50L pack, Avalanche Stryker Shirt, 5.10 Guide Tennie Approach Shoes, Prana Stretch Zion Pants, Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket, Cotopaxi Trucker Hat

Last updated on December 4, 2017.


  1. Thanks for sharing all of this! It’s so hard not to feel weak and defeated when we don’t reach our objectives, I’ve definitely had this happen before. But if it’s any consolation, which it might not be, the pictures are BEAUTIFUL. Looking forward to reading about your next adventure :)

  2. Thank you for writing this and putting yourself out there. I have had a lot of little failures and one epic one (which left me injured and unable to hike for over a year because I was too ashamed to admit “I can’t do this” at the time). I think feelings of inadequacy and weakness come with the territory but they just don’t get talked about – we always tell the stories of badassity before the ones of struggle and shortcoming. I think I sometimes prefer hearing about the latter – it paints a fuller picture of what it’s really like to be an outdoorist ;)

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