Southeast Buttress 5.6

  • Currently 5.0/5

Cathedral Peak

Tuolumne Meadows, California USA

Trip Report
In the footsteps of Muir
Wednesday August 4, 2010 6:48pm
June turns to July and life finds me tense and emotionally disjointed. I find myself with a free day. My choices are to either stay home and stew or get out and live.

I decide on Cathedral Peak, figuring I can probably get up the backside as Muir did back in the 1800's. I read somewhere that John Muir stated that being up on top of Cathedral Peak was the first time he had been to church in California. That seemed like a place I would like to be. So I left at 10pm from San Jose, slept on the road from 12-4, and made it to Tuolumne Meadows by 7.

Credit: karodrinker
Credit: karodrinker

The approach went quickly, and I passed a friendly group of climbers.
Credit: karodrinker

When I saw the main buttress of this peak I knew I was heading up the 5.6 route. I don't free solo much, but the urge to scale this mountain by its longest face overcame me. I kept my 5.10 guide approach shoes on and told myself that if I ever felt the need I would put on my mythos. With a pack on my back I started up. There always seemed to be a perfect hold if I took the time to find it. The climbing felt secure, with solid cracks and plentiful footholds. The constant motion of climbing upwards was ecstasy and my problems dissolved in a fog of overwhelming beauty. No one else was in sight. Nobody on a Saturday morning on a holiday weekend. It felt like serendipity.
Credit: karodrinker

Just climbing. I felt like I had a long ways to go, but suddenly I was underneath the last steep section before the summit. The moves up on to the tiny summit block were awesome and the views were unmatched. No other place on earth had ever appeared more beautiful. I laughed to myself and spent a few minutes enjoying the surroundings. My lungs burned from the fast altitude gain.
Credit: karodrinker
Credit: karodrinker
Credit: karodrinker

I considered going up Eichorn's Pinnacle, but the exposure was more than I wanted, and I felt lucky to have gotten away with the day already. Another day with a rope and my wife perhaps. I made it back to the car by 10:30, 3:30 minutes after I had began that morning. I agreed with John Muir, Cathedral Peak is indeed the first time I truly felt like I had been to church in California. When I got back home, 15 hours after leaving San Jose, my troubles had mostly worked themselves out and my life felt balanced again.

A week later, I learned that Chris Chan had died on Eichorn's. I shuddered and thought what if it were me. RIP Chris, I hope you have endless expanses of cool mountain granite in your eternity.

Kalen Glenn
Ascent: July 3rd 2010

Written on July 26th 2010.

Climb safe everyone.

  Trip Report Views: 3,331
About the Author
Kalen Glenn is a trad climber, skateboarder, surfer and father from San Jose, CA.


Gym climber
It's not rocket surgery
  Jul 27, 2010 - 03:10am PT
A road warriors quick trip to church. Beautiful. Thanks!

Social climber
  Jul 27, 2010 - 06:08am PT
hey there say, kalen.... wow, really nice trip report here... i can sure picture leaving san jose,and seeing the beauty of the mountains, taking over the city-memories, and refreshing the soul....

*long before your time, san jose, was lovely... orchards and little farm houses, even...

well, back to the report here:
very wonderful pictures, too....

thanks so kindly for sharing, and i did catch the note,
about the death of chris chan, too... a strange way for your trip to end...

god bless..
take care...

  Jul 28, 2010 - 04:03pm PT
Good for you! Next time out link Cathedral with other peaks in the same area--the Echo Peaks, Unicorn, Cockscomb, etc. etc.--for even more fun and goodness. Peter Croft suggested this to me years ago and the "Cathedral Traverse," in various forms depending on how I'm feeling, has become one of my all-time favorite Sierra days. You can tag well over a dozen summits, and keep the range anything from 4th class to 5.9 or so depending on how you feel. Given Chris' terrible accident and your final comment, it a good idea for all of us to remember the stakes.

Thanks for putting a nice TR on the front page.


Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jul 27, 2010 - 07:16am PT
That was a very nice read. Thanks for posting!

Trad climber
  Jul 27, 2010 - 08:37am PT

Your day looked just about perfect- good for you, having the motivation to rally.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 27, 2010 - 09:30am PT
Very nice! The freedom to blast out and solo something beautiful is one of the things that climbing is all about to me.

And I thought it would be another Dean Potter thread...

Random Nobody
  Jul 27, 2010 - 11:01am PT
right frikken on!!!

great read!

Great Photos!!

  Jul 27, 2010 - 11:33am PT
Good stuff !

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
--John Muir

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jul 27, 2010 - 11:35am PT
Nice job!!

Sport climber
  Jul 27, 2010 - 11:47am PT
Nice TR! Your pics and description get me even more pumped for my trip in two weeks! Can't wait to do this route..with a rope :)
tinker b

the commonwealth
  Jul 27, 2010 - 12:17pm PT
i think muir would have been appalled that you drove all that way for a 3.5 hour jaunt into the mountains and then turned around and went home. at least i am. i wonder what your carbon footprint was for that trip.

Trad climber
  Jul 27, 2010 - 12:23pm PT
Nice, looks like a ton of fun! Thanks for the post.

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Jul 27, 2010 - 12:25pm PT
thanks for the tr. Tuolumne is the best

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 27, 2010 - 12:44pm PT
Your right tinker, next time I'll ride a horse up there. At least I drive a Prius.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Jul 27, 2010 - 03:16pm PT
Beautiful, offhanded, spur-of-the-moment and full, full, full of reverence for the simple act of moving over stone.


And the Prius part: it's merely the best available compromise at the moment. I drive one too, and eagerly await the chance to be propelled by a hydrogen fuel cell with a zero carbon footprint. But the utopian takes a little longer...

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 27, 2010 - 03:41pm PT
I wonder if any one bought the porposies, from Bachar's estate...

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jul 27, 2010 - 04:39pm PT
More Cathedral! This is the kind of religion I can live with.

  Jul 27, 2010 - 06:10pm PT
Thanks for the journey.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jul 28, 2010 - 06:09pm PT
I can handle this kind of sermon. Thanks!

  Aug 4, 2010 - 06:52pm PT
outstanding, beautiful report.
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
  Aug 4, 2010 - 08:20pm PT
Cathedral Peak - Southeast Buttress 5.6 - Tuolumne Meadows, California USA. Click to Enlarge
One of the finest routes in Tuolumne Meadows.
Photo: Greg Barnes