Southeast Buttress 5.6

 
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Cathedral Peak


Tuolumne Meadows, California USA


Trip Report
Nightime Summit of Cathedral Peak

by Kirt
Sunday September 18, 2016 12:46pm
The ominous shadow of Cathedral Peak reaches toward Unicorn Peak.
The ominous shadow of Cathedral Peak reaches toward Unicorn Peak.
Credit: Kirt
Reed and Kirt climbed Cathedral Peak on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend 2016.

Driving up was even slower than expected with holiday traffic. We parked at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead at 2 pm and hiked to the base of Cathedral Peak by 3:15.
View of Cathedral Peak from the climbers' trail, after gaining elevati...
View of Cathedral Peak from the climbers' trail, after gaining elevation from Budd Lake
Credit: Kirt
To prevent further erosion, the NPS has built steps leading to the sta...
To prevent further erosion, the NPS has built steps leading to the start of the traditional Cathedral Peak climbs.
Credit: Kirt
We figured that this late there wouldn't be many other climbers, and it looked good when we arrived with one party just starting. As Reed started leading the first pitch, another couple arrived. They climbed a parallel route.
The first pitch
The first pitch
Credit: Kirt
This pitch was all about crack climbing. The other couple used less protection and climbed faster, passing us on the second pitch.
The second pitch. The red rope is ours. The couple that passed us is t...
The second pitch. The red rope is ours. The couple that passed us is to the right.
Credit: Kirt
As expected, there were beautiful views from here.
The view to the south
The view to the south
Credit: Kirt
The view to the southeast, with Budd Lake in the middle
The view to the southeast, with Budd Lake in the middle
Credit: Kirt
At this point the sun was low in the sky. We could tell that we would have to hike out in the dark, which was OK.
From the of the second pitch, the long shadow of Cathedral Peak stretc...
From the of the second pitch, the long shadow of Cathedral Peak stretches east toward Unicorn Peak.
Credit: Kirt
At the top of the third pitch, the parallel couple decided to bail out while there was still daylight left. One of them thought he knew an easy way down.
The sun was now even lower in the sky.
Cathedral Peak's shadow is now even longer
Cathedral Peak's shadow is now even longer
Credit: Kirt
Here is where we ran in the traffic jam. We caught up to a man-woman couple. They made the mistake of letting a "faster" group climb through. This group was slower going through the chute at the start of the fourth pitch. We waited half an hour for our turn. Meanwhile a party of three caught up to us. They didn't want to wait, so they climbed around to the left of the chute. This resulted in more traffic and waiting higher up.
Reed hanging out at the start of the fourth pitch
Reed hanging out at the start of the fourth pitch
Credit: Kirt
Kirt dons his down jacket
Kirt dons his down jacket
Credit: Kirt
Finally we got our turn climbing up the chute. Once I squeezed into it, I enjoyed climbing it. I had to remove my backpack. I clipped it onto the slings extending from the cams I was removing, then hauled it up later. I removed my Feathered Friends down jacket for this section, then wore it the rest of the trip. I was concerned about tearing it, but it held up great.
The chute
The chute
Credit: Kirt
The sun set while we climbed the fourth pitch, so no more photos.
We had to wait a while to climb the fifth pitch.
By the time we reached the sixth and final pitch, it was after 10 and the sky and rock were black. Our Petzl Tikka and Reactik headlamps were super helpful here. Reed followed where a pair of climbers instructed him to go to reach the top, then he told me where to go. It was a bit spooky feeling thousands of feet of air below me, but not being able to see much.

There were no bolts on the summit. Old ones there had been cut off.

On the way down, we followed the path of the pair, who followed the climbers ahead of them, who had climbed down with a little alpenglow to guide them. We had the Supertopo with us, but the directions didn't make sense in the dark.

We caught up to the couple after two rappels. At this point we were on the right route down, but didn't know it. The couple headed down to the west and we followed them. This was our collective mistake. We should have gone uphill to the north, crossed east over the ridge of Cathedral, and down on real trails.

Instead we continued downhill. The woman was tired and unsteady, so we stayed with them. Downclimbing was very slow due to the steepness. I finally sacrificed some slings and carabiners to get us safely down two really steep sections. Around 2:30 am we joyously reached the forest and dirt to walk on. By 3 am we hit the John Muir Trail, and finally reached our cars at 4 am. What a marathon! It was 25 F in Tuolumne Meadows, so I was really glad to I had brought my down jacket. Reed was wearing shorts and it took him over an hour to get his legs warmed back up.

  Trip Report Views: 1,885
Kirt
About the Author
Kirt is a trad climber from the San Francisco Bay Area, California

Comments
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johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Sep 18, 2016 - 03:06pm PT
We caught up to a man-woman couple.

Which is the man and which is the woman?
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Sep 18, 2016 - 03:10pm PT
A million square miles of heavenly granite in the area, and everyone shows up at the same time on the same general climb....
Captain...or Skully

climber
Boise, ID
  Sep 18, 2016 - 03:15pm PT
Sounds like fun! TFPU, man.
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Redwood City
  Sep 18, 2016 - 03:23pm PT
Nice TR , we all pass through Cathedral at some point ...
Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Sep 18, 2016 - 08:20pm PT
Cathedral 14 hours car to car! Glad no one had to spend the night. Keep doing laps on it, your time will get better! TFPU!
Kirt

Trad climber
Portola Valley, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 18, 2016 - 09:45pm PT
I want to go back to summit in the daylight to see what we missed. Our lap time can't be any worse.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Sep 19, 2016 - 07:57am PT
way to stay calm and grind out a safe descent. Cathedral can be an absolute zoo. A beautiful and spectacular zoo. Congrats on a nice summit. Go back mid week sometime for sure.


Thanks for the trip report!


Scott

My ten year old's first real summit!
My ten year old's first real summit!
Credit: micronut
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
  Sep 19, 2016 - 08:14am PT
Nice job.


DMT
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Sep 19, 2016 - 08:15am PT
A great trip report, thanks for sharing. Cathedral is truly one of the great alpine rock climbs in the universe, I just love that climb! BTW, your adventure also shows one of the truly wonderful aspects of our shared past time, the opportunities we are presented with to lend a helping hand to total strangers. The older I get the more I cherish the memories of helping others. Boffo performance, and thanks for keeping the faith with your fellow alpinists.
Kirt

Trad climber
Portola Valley, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 19, 2016 - 11:57am PT
I've been helped out before in sticky situations. I like to pass it on. I've been really impressed at how many people the backcountry stop to ask if someone in needs a hand, whether climbing, backpacking or mountain biking.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Sep 19, 2016 - 12:09pm PT
Way to go! Excellent trip report, and excellent help to the other team. Cathedral Peak was my first technical Tuolumne climb, and remains my favorite 47 years later. I've been lucky avoiding crowds, so I'm particularly grateful, after reading your trip report, to see what I've missed.

Again, great job, and excellent TR.

John
FRUMY

Trad climber
Bishop,CA
  Sep 19, 2016 - 06:07pm PT
TFUP
Stewart Johnson

Mountain climber
lake forest
  Sep 19, 2016 - 07:52pm PT
Please don't climb here anymore.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Sep 19, 2016 - 08:01pm PT
Nice job completing the mission safely. Makes for a good 'adventure'.
norma r

Mountain climber
Ventura County
  Sep 20, 2016 - 03:34pm PT
That was an interesting Saturday on Cathedral. I took a photo near the summit of six climbers above me of which one was my partner and a similar shadow of Catherdral. A holiday weekend cluster for sure.
Credit: norma r
I thought the man/woman was our team you were referring to though luckily we were back at our packs when you were summiting.
Credit: norma r
Good job getting down in the dark. That made for an interesting walk-off for all of us.
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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