Southeast Buttress 5.6

 
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Cathedral Peak


Tuolumne Meadows, California USA


Trip Report
A Yosemite First Timer + a Tuolumne ascent
Tuesday May 21, 2013 12:57pm
This journey begins in the foggy town of Marina CA, where climbers Mike and Griffin spend evenings flipping through guidebooks eying infinite potential of California alpine climbing. Constant statements of "dude, the south buttress looks soo good, and a winter ascent of Conness would be most radical" echo the paper-mache walls of college housing. But these were only statements. One second we were imagining thousand foot granite walls, the next our minds were absorbed into our textbooks. So much ambition, so little free time.

Finally, after weeks of saying "yea, as soon as summer starts", here we are.

2:00 pm Sunday May 19th, 2013
"Griffin, how does Cathedral sound?"
-
"Sounds like were goin on a drive"

We drove out to Tuolumne that afternoon from the Monterey area, more talk of potential routes punching through lulls of Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Eddie Murphy's "Delirious. Stopping for a meal of greasy burgers in Merced, we discussed the promise of Sierra Granite.

This being my first time to the Yosemite area (EVER...), I couldn't contain my excitement. I would simply start shaking whenever I imagined looking up at my mind's fabrication of Half Dome.

The whole drive was magnificent. Watching flat plain turn into rolling hills, hills to valleys, valleys to towering cliffs, cliffs to massive bodies of alpine fresh water, and then the granite.

We arrived in the valley just as sky went dark. Greeted at the gate by the words "Yosemite National Park", it started to set in. This was not a dream. I am actually here. As I caught my first glimpse of El Cap I nearly sh#t myself. Even though the texture of the wall was indistinguishable, the sheer size of this piece of rock left me nearly running my car into a tree. We stopped at the meadow to look. We watched the tiny dots of headlamps spin on the wall, showing brief moments of color on the black face. "Holy shit" were the only words that came out of my mouth for an hour or so.

We left the valley around 9 pm, making our way towards Tenaya Lake. Even though it was too dark to see the scenery, I knew I was surrounded by giants. We found a spot to spend the night and set up our bags in a spectacular clearing, watching the satellites pass.

We woke up at 5, made some coffee, and scarfed down the most difficult peanut butter bagel I have ever eaten.
Credit: Griffin
We then hit the road to start out to Cathedral Peak, which would prove to be our rite of passage into the high altitude climbing spectrum. As we parked at the trail head and wandered out into the meadow to get a better view, our early morning eyes lit up as they caught a glimpse of Cathedral
Cathedral Peak - 10,940 ft.
Cathedral Peak - 10,940 ft.
Credit: Griffin

We packed up and started up the trail towards the peak, the icy ground crunching under each step. We were surprised to see snow, but realized that it wasn't all that surprising.
Snow......
Snow......
Credit: Griffin

The snow however, covered the trails in certain places and led us to meander through the woods, eventually convincing us that the adjacent peak to the East was Cathedral.
Unicorn Peak
Unicorn Peak
Credit: Griffin
Mike pointing out the not so obvious trail
Mike pointing out the not so obvious trail
Credit: Griffin

We spent quite a bit of time hiking out that way, and about three creek crossings later decided that we were definitely going towards the wrong peak.
At this time (~7am) we started out cross-country to the base of Cathedral.
Credit: Griffin
As we laughed about our mistake and hoofed our way through icy snow, my excitement began to overwhelm me. This was going to be f*#king awesome.

Credit: Griffin

By the time we reached the base of the climb I had lost track of time. We looked up to see the most incredible display of granite flakes and aretes I have ever seen.
:o
:o
Credit: Griffin

Trying to pick a line was like trying to pick out candy from an annihilated pinata. There was so much to choose from and we wanted to do it all! Finally we chose and line and racked up.

I led the first pitch. It was nothing like the Pinnacles choss I was used to. It was perfect. There was no shortage of pro and the climbing was beyond spectacular. As I set my first granite anchor I realized that I was in absolute heaven. Mike followed up and we exchanged a few comments like "You've got to be kidding me" or more simply "Wow". Another party of two as well as a curious marmot followed shortly behind us.

We exchanged pitches, meandering along the crack systems that engulfed our greatest imaginations. Alcoves and ledges were our snack breaks. We took our time. No need to rush. We truly wanted to enjoy the route.
Credit: Griffin

I was given the arete pitch that Croft so appropriately claimed as "great climbing". This 5.7 pitch was simply awesome, and with breathtaking exposure.
Mike stemming through some easy terrain
Mike stemming through some easy terrain
Credit: Griffin
As I belayed Mike up one of the various cracks, I looked down to see the progress of any followers. I was greeted by the presence of Matt, who was soloing the peak. He stopped and hung out for a few minutes on my small vantage point. We both exclaimed that our "Dogs were barking!" We later met on the massive ledge just underneath the final 5th class pitch , where we shared a stroopwafel, and he explained how he had been up the Mountaineers Route three times in the last few weeks or so.

What a cool dude.
View near the last pitch
View near the last pitch
Credit: Griffin

Mike took the last 5th class pitch through the 5.8 crack. I yelled up to him how awesome it looked. As I followed and removed his elegantly placed gear, I couldn't help but think how lucky I was to be in this place at this time. I took the last 4th class pitch that Muir so famously soloed in heavy boots, up to the summit block.

When I reached the summit I let out a big ol' "WOOOOOOOO!" It was my first true ascent, I'm allowed that right? Mike followed up and we sat there for a few minutes reveling over the beauty that surrounded us.
Credit: Griffin
The rest of the ridgeline on Cathedral
The rest of the ridgeline on Cathedral
Credit: Griffin
Mike and I on the summit
Mike and I on the summit
Credit: Griffin
We took some pictures, talked about the decent and then downclimbed to the backside.
The descent on east ridge
The descent on east ridge
Credit: Griffin

However, the backside was covered in snow. This made it extra interesting. We rapped off a solid tree on which someone had left some cordelette, down to a granite outcropping. On this outcropping we traversed out towards the east ridge via steps that I kicked in the snow with my approach shoes. To be honest this was one of my favorite parts of the whole climb. We descended to the east via some granite blocks and then a nice staircase (of which at this time I decided to sing Stairway to Heaven) all the way to where I left my pack in some trees.

We packed up, ate some candied ginger and rice cakes and started hoofing it back to the car. We got lost.... a few times.


I guess we were so fixated with how incredible the day had been thus far that we kept losing the trail. Eventually, after wandering in shoes drenched in cold water and mud, we found the trail back to the highway. We got to the car, drank some water, popped off our shoes and just smiled.

On the drive home we talked about how absolutely incredible the day was. We talked about how there were only a select few people we would go on missions like that with. We were truly stoked.

When we got home at 12:30 am this morning, I was absolutely exhausted. I knocked out, fast. Waking up today I feel different, and as I write this I am stoked to know that I will be headed back in the mountains this afternoon to have another one of these incredible memories.

We live an incredible life.
Credit: Griffin

  Trip Report Views: 1,895
Griffin
About the Author
Griffin is a gym rat and a alpine first timer from Monterey, CA.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
10b4me

climber
  May 21, 2013 - 01:02pm PT
good job. Cathedral Peeak is a great first time Yose/TM climb.
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
  May 21, 2013 - 01:04pm PT
Awesome, way to get after it. Congratulations on your 1st alpine ascent.
Reeotch

climber
4 Corners Area
  May 21, 2013 - 01:13pm PT
Damn!

WTF! You guys are out on Cathedral Peak and I'm still stuck behind a desk! WTF!!!???

Thanks for the tease . . .
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  May 21, 2013 - 01:50pm PT
Cathedral Peak...yes! What a very lovely trip report. Nice pictures...made me hungry for when I drive back through Toulumne ..
Very nice... Thanks!

Susan
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  May 21, 2013 - 02:05pm PT
Rad! Way to go boys. That's one of my favorite climbs....and yall had none of the crowds that can bum that climb out sometimes. What a great first big summit. Many more to come. You could climb a hundred lifetimes in the Sierra and never climb all the juicy lines. Keep reading, keep learning......take a "Woofer" (WFR) Wilderness First Aid class. Learn self rescue. Check check and double check eachother and never get lazy. Think of it as flying a small plane every time you go out. Become experts at what you do and why you do it.

And have fun! This is just the beginning. The day we climbed Eichorn Pinnacle a couple years ago some dudes on top of Cathedral took this shot of us. What a great place eh!

Credit: micronut
E Robinson

climber
Salinas, CA
  May 21, 2013 - 03:09pm PT
Excellent!!! Can't think of a better first trip to the park. Watch out though, enjoying dicey descents eventually leads to wild jaunts through the ventana.
E
Dragon with Matches

climber
Bamboo Grove
  May 21, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
Awesome trip report Griffin and great to meet you & Mike up there. What an amazing day, in an amazing place. Tuolumne nourishes once again.

Keep getting after it guys, there's lots more where that came from.

-Matt
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  May 21, 2013 - 03:51pm PT
Thank you for the wonderful report!
David D.

Trad climber
California
  May 21, 2013 - 09:28pm PT
Griffin! Nice job getting after it dude! SE Buttress is one of my favorite climbs in Tuolumne. I thought you guys had climbed out in Yosemite before?
socialclimber

Trad climber
CA
  May 21, 2013 - 05:11pm PT
Dude... lofty!

Charles

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 21, 2013 - 06:48pm PT
Very cool, an almost a religious experience!!!!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  May 21, 2013 - 08:21pm PT
The whole drive was magnificent. Watching flat plain turn into rolling hills, hills to valleys, valleys to towering cliffs, cliffs to massive bodies of alpine fresh water, and then the granite.

Know that feel! Well said.

As I caught my first glimpse of El Cap I nearly sh#t myself.


Know that one too!

Loved the TR. Keep posting as you go!

What's next?
Griffin

Trad climber
Monterey, CA
Author's Reply  May 21, 2013 - 09:12pm PT
Thanks all for the awesome and supportive comments! We were supposed to head back this afternoon, but responsibility got in the way. Bummer. Dunno whats next yet. The possibilities are endless.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  May 21, 2013 - 10:59pm PT
Good one, that was my first summit in the Sierra as well & still one of my favorite peaks!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  May 21, 2013 - 11:45pm PT
Most Radical! :)
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jun 5, 2013 - 09:05am PT
In a fortnight I'm about to take somebody to Yosemite for their first time. we've planned a day in the Valley and a day in the Meadows.

: )
yo-so-mighty

Big Wall climber
salinas, ca
  Jun 14, 2013 - 08:51pm PT
Great to hear from a local. I always get a little thrill when somebody mentions Pinnacles. What a chossfest, but a beautiful one when its all you know since age 14. Then comes the day that you go to Yosemite or Tuolomne, and everything gets ruined. Great send . Its one of those routes that I should have done years ago, but never did...add another to the bucket list.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Jun 15, 2013 - 10:43pm PT
Cathedral is a fun route and good times. Glad ya liked it.
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Cathedral Peak - Southeast Buttress 5.6 - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click to Enlarge
One of the finest routes in Tuolumne Meadows.
Photo: Greg Barnes