ApproachThe Matron is a large flatiron on the west side of Shadow Canyon. Guidebook authors Roach and Rossiter's half-hearted attempts at explaining the name of this rock leave some room for doubt. No matter how it got its moniker, however, the Matron is easily identified from the South Mesa Trail. Its east face is steep and narrow by Flatiron standards, while the west, uphill face has some steep slabs. North and south faces, as is the norm for the rocks that line the eastern aspect of Boulder Mountain, are vertical to overhanging.
In planning your visit to this area, keep in mind that, to protect raptors' nesting, access to the Matron is usually forbidden from February 1st to July 31st. (Check here and here for up-to-date information.)
To reach the Matron, start from the South Mesa Trailhead and hike for about two miles following the signs for Shadow Canyon, which rises to the saddle between South Boulder Peak and Bear Peak. The Matron is visible from most of the trail. As you approach the base of the rock, look sharp for a climber's trail leaving from the left side of the main trail at the elbow of a sharp turn to the north. At the time of this writing, brushes and branches have been dragged across the start of the climber's trail--presumably to discourage the causal hiker. Follow the climber's trail which takes you to the lower point of the east face and then continues on the north side. Watch out for patches of poison ivy. A significant overhang makes access to the east face from its lowest point difficult. Therefore, our route starts some fifty feet higher on the north side.
Route DescriptionShortly after you start ascending the trail along the north face of the Matron, you detect a weakness that allows you to gain the east face. This weakness is formed by a slab followed by a left-trending crack. The East Ridge Route starts at the base of the slab. With a 60 m rope, it can be completed in four pitches as follows:
P1: Climb the slab and angle left along a crack to gain a ledge that slopes upward, parallel to the east face and three-four feet below it. Follow the ledge until you can easily climb on the face proper. Belay at a flake or at a niche a few feet above it. (40 m or 130 ft). The beginning of this first pitch (slab and crack) is the crux of the route (5.5).
P2: Follow the right edge of the narrow east face to a comfortable niche overlooking the north face. (50 m or 165 ft). This pitch is not easy to protect. There is a fixed pin about half way up, in a flaring crack near the edge of the face. The difficulty is sustained at around 5.4. This is not the easy scramble one would imagine by reading Roach's or Rossiter's description.
P3: Continue for about 40 m (130 ft) of 5.4, staying close to the right edge of the steepening east face. Belay at a vertical crack on a ledge.
P4: Achieve the summit with a last pitch of about 40 m (130 ft). The angle is a little higher than in the previous two pitches, but the rock is more featured. Belay at the eastern end of the summit to contain rope drag.
Descent: On the west side of the summit there is one large eyebolt and two bolts with rap rings. It is advisable to use at least a 60 m rope. A 50 m rope will stretch your creativity. Rappel from the summit heading west. After the short overhanging section, look sharp for two small side-by-side eyebolts close to the northern edge of the slabby west face. The eyebolts are after about 27 m (90 ft) of rappel. A very small platform provides room for one at this rappel station.
From this second set of eyebolts, rappel a full 30 m (100 ft) to the saddle west of the Matron, keeping close to the edge of the west face. From the saddle, descend along the faint climber's trail that contours the north side of the rock to reach the Shadow Canyon Trail and finally the trailhead.
Essential GearA rope of at least 60 m is recommended. This route does not take much protection. We placed Camalots from 0.5 to 2, hexes and stoppers. I wish we had more smaller cams.
Take into account that the difficulty ratings on this route are rather old-school. In my opinion, and in those of my climbing partners, this route is substantially harder than other similarly rated routes on the Flatirons. The East Face South Side on the Fifth Flatiron, for instance, is much easier, though it is also rated 5.5. The first pitch--with the initial unprotectable slab and the somewhat awkward crack that follows--may be rather intimidating for the proverbial beginning leader.