Trip Report
A Cathedral Traverse Covering Tenaya through Vogelsgang
Tuesday August 27, 2013 2:53pm
This previous weekend (8/24/13-8/25/13) I linked up a section of the Cathedral range. As a quick summary, I tagged the following on Saturday:
Tenaya
Tresidder
Columbia Finger
Matthes Crest (S to N)
Echo Ridge
Echo Peaks #1 through #9
Cathedral
Eichorn
Unicorn
Cockscomb

I call this 'the fun part', and it took just under 12 hours. I carried a sleeping bag and headed toward Johnson peak, where I dropped for the night. On Sunday I added:
Johnson
Rafferty
Fletcher
Vogelsgang

I had only my cell phone camera, so many of the pictures in this report were accumulated from other trips.

The Cathedral Range from Mount Clark.  From left to right: Eichorn and...
The Cathedral Range from Mount Clark. From left to right: Eichorn and Cathedral, the Echo Peaks, Echo Ridge, Matthes, Cockscomb.
Credit: jwagoner

I had decided to do a big link-up in this area after running a stripped-down version of the Cathedral traverse last summer. On that trip, I hit Cathedral, Matthes, the 9 Echo peaks, Echo Ridge, Cockscomb, and Unicorn. I carried a thin rope so that I could rappel from the North Summit of Matthes and from the top of #9. This was, all around, a beautiful day. While I spend most of my high-sierra time in the Palisades, I often leave that range feeling like a broken version of myself. Tuolumne is a kind and gentle place; a high density of solid, aesthetic peaks that can be connected by running through open meadows and over granite slabs.

Earlier this year, I had been looking at a map of Yosemite when I noticed the words "CATHEDRAL RANGE" sprawling all the way from Tenaya down to... Lyell?? This was great and unexpected news. I had mistakenly thought that Lyell was part of the Clark range. While I had considered linking up these mountains with those surrounding Cathedral peak, now there was an even more cohesive reason to do so: a link-up of the full Cathedral range. The distance from Tenaya to Lyell is daunting, so I decided to keep expectations low. I would carry a sleeping bag and continue climbing peaks southeast of Cockscomb until I stopped having fun. As it turned out, this happened around Vogelsgang.

Matthes from Cockscomb
Matthes from Cockscomb
Credit: jwagoner

I also decided that this trip would be quite a bit faster and more fun without a rope. While I was looking forward to unweighted running, this added 3 cruxes (the downclimbs from Matthes, #9, and Eichorn) that made this a significant upgrade in difficulty from my previous link-up. Downclimbing, I feel, is a near crime against nature--if the gods had meant for me to downclimb anything, they would have placed eyes in my ankles. I take no pride in downclimbing and would just as soon rap from any given peak if I were willing to carry the rope. To prepare, I spent my Friday in meditation.

Where, by 'meditation', I mean that I sat next to Tenaya lake, drinking whiskey and listening to Les Claypool.

I started toward Tenaya peak at 5:45 a.m. on Saturday morning. Tenaya took a bit longer than expected, just over an hour to the summit. From here, it's an easy jog to the summits of Tresidder (where I opted to not take the entire ridgeline in the interest of time) and Columbia Finger. On my way to Matthes I stopped by Echo Lake to fill up water. I started on Matthes somewhere between 9 and 9:30 a.m., passing one party on the first pitch. It took me about 45 minutes to reach the north summit, where I put on my climbing shoes for the first time that day. DiFranco's 'I am not a pretty girl' played through my ipod as I was starting the series of crux-y downclimbing sections. I sang along, realizing that downsoloing the crux on Matthes Crest may be the one opportunity of my life to belt out a rendition of this song free from any kind of judgement. The second best thing about soloing is that no one is around to hear you sing. This section of Matthes felt soft for 5.8.

#9 and Matthes
#9 and Matthes
Credit: jwagoner


From the north end of Matthes, it is a sandy climb up to the southeast corner of the Echo Ridge summit, which I descended via granite slabs to the northwest. I jogged up Echo Peak #8 before heading to #9. #9 is both fun and the most difficult peak in the Cathedral Range (though an argument can be made for Matthes), so I am surprised at how rarely it is climbed. The routefinding can be confusing, so here it is: Starting at the southwest corner, head up and right via a low angle gully that turns left and steepens. The lowest-angle route becomes slick and loose, so I tend right onto vertical granite that is covered in quarter-sized knobs. Follow these knobs to a large horizontal crack under an overhanging wall. Take this crack left, where it turns into a ledge. At the corner near the west face, an easy move can be pulled over the roof. From here, head up to a large ledge and move right. On a smaller ledge, reach high and right over blank face to a flake/jug and pull. From here, move up and left to flat ground. The route from here is straightforward: a wonderful, 20-foot, vertical handcrack and a knob-covered bulge to the summit.

Echo Peaks #2 and #3 from #1
Echo Peaks #2 and #3 from #1
Credit: jwagoner

The downclimb from #9 was the crux of the trip. While the downclimb on Matthes might be just as technically challenging, each section is only two or three moves. #9, on the other hand, is pretty consistent the whole way down. As one that tends toward crack climbing (and, while we're listing my preferences, climbing in the upward-direction), I will admit that I do not like that last 100 feet down vertical face on tiny knobs. Luckily, this section is more solid than I expected and I was happy that only two knobs snapped off under body weight. The rest of the Echo peaks went down in the order #7, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, and 4. It took maybe an hour total for #1-#8.

Echo Peaks #7, 5, 6, 1, and 3
Echo Peaks #7, 5, 6, 1, and 3
Credit: jwagoner

I jogged over to Cathedral and started climbing at about 2 p.m. I had been dreading the climb up Cathedral on a Saturday afternoon, but everyone on the route was remarkably gracious in dealing with me being in their way as I passed through. Cathedral, as always, was a wonderful climb.

The southeast buttress of Cathedral Peak
The southeast buttress of Cathedral Peak
Credit: jwagoner

The climb up Eichorn is straightforward but fairly exposed. I'm not one to expend energy thinking of the fall, but it is bound to cross the mind of everyone that spends any amount of time with nothing under their shoes but hundreds of feet of empty air. I thought of it once somewhere near the Palisade crest, where I am certain that it would be a dark and violent affair.

I am sure that this can not be the case in Tuolumne. I am sure that, when she fell, moments turned to hours. That her body was welcomed by the meadows; that her final breath gently dispensed her consciousness so that it now circulates in the air surrounding the Cathedral Range. It is there for the tired climber and the blister-covered tourist; it is inspired and courses through our veins, adding a measure of passion and boldness to the time that we spend here.

At least, that is how I like to think of it. I gave my wishes to the shade that resides on that summit and began my downclimb. I had to pass a party that was starting up the route and, once again, was grateful in how kind they were in pausing their ascent so that I could pass through without tangling myself up in their ropes.

Eichorn and the mushroom cloud from the rim fire.
Eichorn and the mushroom cloud from the rim fire.
Credit: jwagoner

When I finished Eichorn, I had been climbing for just over nine hours. My energy level dropped a bit and I moved more slowly down to Budd lake for water, up to Unicorn, then back to summit Cockscomb at 5:40 p.m. The section of the traverse from Tenaya to Cockscomb took just under 12 hours at what felt like a slow and steady pace.

Unicorn
Unicorn
Credit: jwagoner

From here, I walked east and slept at the lake immediately southwest of Johnson. In the morning, I woke up and climbed Johnson, took the highest-elevation line over to Rafferty, dropped into the valley near the Vogelsgang high Sierra camp, and tagged Fletcher and Vogelsgang. These peaks were considerably easier, larger, and more spread out than the work of the previous day. I was getting tired, and the growing miles of talus-hopping between mountains was making the trip less fun as time went on. I decided to jog toward civilization, making it out in time to grab a cold beer from the Tuolumne store.

Cockscomb
Cockscomb
Credit: jwagoner

I would consider a link-up of the full Cathedral range to consist of the 29 named peaks, of which I climbed 22. I am happy with this number, but distance-wise, I think I was only slightly over halfway to Lyell. The remaining peaks (please correct me if I am missing something) would be Parsons, Simmons, Florence, Maclure, Lyell, Amelia Earhart, and Potter Point. I might be able to do this in three days, but it would be a slog. I don't consider myself to be considerably fit, so I'm sure that there are climbers out there that can go light and fast and finish the range in 48 hours (which is about my cutoff for calling something 'fun'). I hope that someone decides to make it happen.

The long road to Lyell, from Matthes.
The long road to Lyell, from Matthes.
Credit: jwagoner


  Trip Report Views: 1,549
jwagoner
About the Author
jwagoner is a trad climber from San Francisco, CA.

Comments
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Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Aug 27, 2013 - 03:02pm PT
You did a good amount of climbing! Lyell/Maclure etc would be much more enjoyable as a different outing. Camping in the meadows up there is breath taking.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 27, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
Jesus. We're not worthy! Very proud, soloing E#9 and Eichorn, that's about where I draw the line. And with a bag no less. "Not considerably fit" my ass ;-). Though I do agree, that day is more a mental challenge than an aerobic one. Cool to see so many long outings in the Cathedrals this year.
Inner City

Trad climber
East Bay
  Aug 27, 2013 - 03:16pm PT
That was an awesome TR. And from a guy who says he is not in that good of fitness! Au contraire.

Now I am definitely not that fit, you however, are definitely doing well in this category in my opinion.

le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Aug 27, 2013 - 04:17pm PT
Killer. Appreciate it.

Did you go up the west face of Unicorn then?
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Aug 27, 2013 - 04:37pm PT
Nice effort. That little lake next to Johnson Pk is a favorite hang of mine. So is Rayman Lk on west side of Rafferty.
When you return for the southern half, hit potter point 1st then go back up towards Vogelsang and go up the beautiful valley to Gallison Lake where you can cruise to Parsons and Simmons, etc.
pc

climber
  Aug 27, 2013 - 04:40pm PT
Awesome!

Purdy pictures.

Willoughby

Social climber
Truckee, CA
  Aug 27, 2013 - 05:13pm PT
"Not considerably fit" my ass ;-)

Exactly. Strong work!
SeanH

Trad climber
SLC
  Aug 27, 2013 - 07:44pm PT
Credit: SeanH
CKR

climber
  Aug 27, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
Whisky and les claypool......dig it.
tuolumne_tradster

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
  Aug 27, 2013 - 08:12pm PT
Beautiful TR. Love your photos. TFPU
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Aug 27, 2013 - 09:33pm PT
kick azzz!
way to ramble in the high country
10b4me

climber
  Aug 27, 2013 - 09:39pm PT
What a trip, good job
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 29, 2013 - 08:27am PT
Looks like an amazing experience !!!!!
Thanks!!!!!
JohnnyG

climber
  Aug 29, 2013 - 09:18am PT
Holy moses! Nice trip! What an amazing first day, especially.

And you write "I don't consider myself to be considerably fit" Hah!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Aug 29, 2013 - 09:42am PT
I would love to do this trip but consider that I am not in shape.

I'd like to get in shape though, what is the brand of whisky that you are drinking?

Great TR!
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Aug 29, 2013 - 12:24pm PT
Good TR about an amazing place.
jwagoner

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 29, 2013 - 05:36pm PT
le_bruce: I went up and down the east face. I descended the west face last year and, while fun, was a bit more time-consuming. The east face is a one-move ordeal.

Spider Savage: Ardbeg 10 is what I had by Tenaya. Highly recommend it.
Powder

Trad climber
the Flower Box
  Aug 29, 2013 - 05:41pm PT
Reading this TR is like tagging along the ride - FUN!

Thanks for sharing. :]


(...like it that you kept going until stopping having fun. : )
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Aug 29, 2013 - 06:42pm PT
Bravo!

We might have to rename you BURT BRONSON.
HuecoRat

Trad climber
NJ
  Aug 30, 2013 - 10:50pm PT
Wow! And you don't think you're fit!? I was in Tuolumne this summer, too, but we took one day to do Tenaya, and another day to do Cathedral, with days of top roping and cragging in between as rest days. We had a great time, and I even thought momentarily that I might write a TR about a fun week. But after seeing what you did in 2 days, I realize that you already said it: "Cathedral, as always, was a wonderful climb." I don't know about the always part, as it was my first time on it, but I agree completely. While we had a fun trip, we demonstrated only competence. You showed a real mastery. I am beyond impressed.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Aug 30, 2013 - 11:14pm PT
HuecoRat,


Write a TR anyways dude! They are all good & always appreciated. Hearing about other people's adventures regardless of difficulty or endurance is always a good thing! Don't forget the pics!
jwagoner

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 1, 2013 - 04:29pm PT
Agree with RyanD. If adventure came on an absolute scale, no one would be allowed to write up TRs but the likes of Honnold, Caldwell, et. al.
Brian

climber
California
  Sep 1, 2013 - 07:07pm PT
I've done the easier version of the Cathedral Traverse that you did last year. Twice. Both times were tremendously fun. Thanks for giving me another, larger goal to shoot for there. The full 29 peaks would indeed be a long push, but at least I'm psyched to add a few to the shorter version of the traverse that I love. Very cool!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 1, 2013 - 08:13pm PT
Yeah man, the first time I went up Unicorn I tried the west face. Wide, grainy, committing, and hard to read for me, so I backed off and puttered around to the east side.

I did like cruising up that loooooong ramp feature that leads to the west face, though. That was really cool.
10b4me

climber
  Mar 13, 2014 - 12:12am PT
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