Cathedral Peak- S.E. Buttress
August 10th, 2002
Cathedral Peak can be done as a day climb from Tuolomne Medows (in Yosemite),
but Emily and I decided to turn our trip into a multi-day affair and spend
a few nights at beautiful upper Cathedral Lake. We hiked along the John
Muir Trail to reach the lake, and it was unlike any trail we'd ever hiked
on. It was as sandy as a beach, and wide enough for many people to walk
Emily savoring the hot dusty sand on her feet.
We arrived at the lake after a few hours of hiking, and were able to
look up at the route.
The Southeast buttress is the right skyline.
We were toying with the idea of doing the climb that afternoon, but were
expecting a solid 8 pitches and decided not to get in over our heads.
Instead, we set up camp and decided to hike up to the base of the climb
to check it out. As we approached the face, it got smaller and smaller
and looked quite a bit more trivial than it did at the lake. We ran into
a couple of guys who were waiting for another party to return with a borrowed
tricam, and they gave us their super topo for the route. Turns out it
was actually 5 pitches, and we could have easilly done it as an afternoon
climb and avoided the crowds and the heat. Oh well.
We made it to the base of the route the next morning at about 8 am, and
were already the third in line for this popular route.
Emily on the second pitch
This was a very social route and we met some very nice people on it.
Alex and Bernadine (Grenadine as Emily misheard for the first part of
the day) above us, and Hal and Randy below us. The cool thing about this
peak is that the whole buttress is about 5.5 -5.6, so there are numerous
different variations to follow and many parties can climb simultaniously
at about the same elevation. One bottleneck is at the chimney pitch, which
(although there is a crack variation to the left and a face variation
to the right) is really neat and worth waiting for. Emily was just the
perfect size for it and was able to slip into the chimney from the very
start and climb entirely from the inside, where as I had to climb up on
the outside a little way before I was able to squeeze in. It was really
The start of the chimney pitch
The entire climb was really solid, fun, easy but varied climbing. We
spent about 4.5 hours on the route, but alot of this time was spent waiting
Emily on one of the upper pitches
As we descended we came to understand one reason to do the
climb as a day climb- our new friends were able to anticipate the mexican
food and beer that they would soon be consumming, while Emily and I tried
to get excited over the quart of purified water we had left ourselves
at the tent. The payoff came, however, as soon as we made it back to camp.
We sat on the granite slabs on the shore of the lake and watched the fish
jump and the sun set and listened to the commotion as a black bear made
his way through the camps along the lake.
Sunset over the lake