Cathedral Peak seemed like a great objective for my 'opportunistic climber' friend Julia. The SouthEast Buttress is a sweet 5.6 with incredible views of Toulomne Meadows. A bit crowded, but how bad could it be on a Sunday with a 40% chance of thunderstorms? We can leave early and be done by noon...in the worst case it will be a scenic hike to Cathedral Lake. At least, that's what I told her...
With backcountry first ascents, onsight of the Evolution Traverse car to car, Nose in a day, climbs of multiple 6,000+ M peaks and other difficult ascents under my belt, I did not expect the Cathedral Peak to be a challenging objective. Especially after I have free soloed it, along with Tenaya and Matthes Crest last year. Hell, I have hiked the Budd Creek trail at least five times over the years!
North Face of Unicorn. Route we climbed goes directly up the center.
A bunch of bushwhacking in Toulumne? Seriously? Well at least the views are nice!
After getting up at 5am we started up the trail. It did not seem much different then usual, but after about 20 minutes of walking I saw a campground. There were cars parked near the trail and people walking around with their coffee mugs. I was confused to what the hell happened, but my free GPS app suggested we hiked down to the visitor's center! I was totally confused.
For an ego driven male with a liter of coffee in the system, defeat was not an option, neither was common sense. Instead of hiking back up the road and taking the correct path, I decided to cut cross country till we were back in the right drainage. We gained elevation. We bushwhacked. I was still confused to what happened, and I still felt lost because the trees did not allow me to see the surrounding peaks so I could identify our location. Some more walking brought us face to face with a beautiful looking buttress. Was it Cathedral? It did not look like it, probably because it was not. The Unicorn peak was directly above us with Cathedral still a ways to the west.
A day earlier with Bear Creek Spire in the background.
Julia on top of the Unicorn
Cockscomb, Matthes Crest and Echo Ridge
Can't see Cathedral Peak from Cathedral Peak. Our proj for the summer! :)
The buttress looked large and worthy so I proposed we do some adventure climbing. Julia said it was up to me, and I got fairly excited to climb something I know nothing about. As we hiked further to the base the views opened up and we hiked through a beautiful meadow with a clear stream running down it. We got to the base and I racked up. Since we planned for Cathedral, I brought a spartan rack of singles to a #2 camalot. Taking a direct line up the buttress we made our way up. I had fun. Placing a single cam on the first 60 M pitch and four on the second, I also had a benefit of finding an old pin. The weather was getting a little iffy and Julia realized it was not 5.6. : ( For the last cruxy pitch I took majority of weight and wore one of the packs to make her life easier. It was a 5.9+ish vertical crack with not much cheater holds.
When we did top out on the summit, the views made up for the suffer my friend had to go through to get there. Well, at least I hope they did!
On the descent
More pretty flowers
Bouldering up some sick crack!
Sent the proj brah!
The descent through slot canyons was adventurous and enjoyable. When we got home I was curious to see what route we have climbed and the Secor guidebook suggests it was the Direct North Face (II 5.8 A3). I was not able to find any info about repeat ascents but thought the climbing was no harder then about 5.9+ish. Those looking for something off the beaten path will be rewarded with no lines at the base and some original views of the surrounding peaks.
....and for Cathedral Peak...WE WILL NEED A RE-MATCH! :)
Squishy, it basically goes right up the middle. I didn't take pictures of the route. What we did is I went up the slabby loose terrain directly up the middle of the buttress. There were ledge systems to the left that seemed easier, but I came to climb so thought I'd take a way that is slightly more fun.
Pitch 2 went up towards the obvious cracks that went directly in the middle of the buttress where it seems the cleanest. Took the thin one with a pin that goes to a short OW at the top. Heel toe moves to the top of it and onto a ledge with a cool crack in the corner (clean and nice) or bouldery system up the middle (which I took). I did not have enough rope to do the crack in the corner but one on the left took me up onto a ledge where I built another anchor after 2 60M pitches. From there directly up. Bouldery with fist jamming to top out and traverse the ridge for another 50 ft or less to the top. Can't get lost.
Cathedral Range is my favorite place to climb. Done the popular ones a few times... Mathess, Cathedral, Cockscomb, Echo Ridge and Peaks... but have only done the 3rd class on Unicorn.
Thanks for yet another fun TR.
Love the photos and TR! A friend and I did the same thing but from the Cathedral Lakes trailhead. We had never been on Cathedral, but saw a big spiky summit while standing at the car, took a compass bearing on it and headed off cross country. We got to a buttress (the other side than where you climbed) and there were no people. A trail runner came by and exclaimed "Climbers on Unicorn, I have never seen that!" We sheepishly asked if she knew where Cathedral was and she pointed across the valley. So we just climbed to the top of Unicorn, then took a reverse bearing and hiked right on back to the car. Had a wonderful day out :). So for those who still go old school and have a compass (we didn't have a map...), the spiky thing you can see from the Cathedral Lakes trailhead is the Unicorn horn not the Cathedral Spire...live and learn. But a great day out with friends who don't really mind when you mess up is always a great day out!
I was taking my wife up Cathedral that day. She avoided climbing the first 7 years we were together and now has been learning just under a year...this was her biggest climb yet. Sunday of course means sharing Cathedral, so we did the left side and she did great. The gusts and light rain added a little alpine flavor and she came to an understanding of "commitment" (in climbing, not marriage but...) on her own.
We camped up at a favorite spot for a few days and also did some of the Echo Peaks. Good times...
A3 in original grades could simply mean bongs were used.
Tim Messick and I may have freed this DNF Unicorn line in the early 90s. I was thinking the same thing about the aid rating at the time. I remember laying back a flared wide crack, maybe tossed a single 3.5" cam in and ran it out. Bongs would have been insecure.