Yosemite, California, US
Warning: climbing jargons ahead. For our non-climbing friends, every now and then we would write a trip report a particular climb that we enjoy. We’ll try to include a lot of pictures to go along with the post so you can enjoy it too.
We dabbled with trad climbing on our second summer after we got into the whole climbing business. And living in the Bay Area, 4 hours away from the climbing mecca of Yosemite, we were inevitably drawn to the beautiful Cathedral Peak.
The route up the South East buttress of Cathedral Peak is rated 5.6. But it’s such a popular route, the rock is so sticky, the cracks are so clean that it felt a lot easier than that.
The only dicey part of the climb was crossing over the gap to get to the summit block (it wasn’t technically hard, but there was a lot of exposure).
I mean, really — the hardest part (for me, at least) was the down climb at the end (tip: there are two rappel stations. Look for them.)
There are 3 so-called ‘official’ routes up to the top, but you can pretty much make your own route. We decided to follow the left-hand most route (labeled A on SuperTopo) because we were new to this and didn’t want to end up in tricky spots.
The drawback: well, it took us the whole day to do the climb because we ended up waiting for other parties, leaving us with no time to do the Eichorn’s Pinnacle.
Jack led all of the pitches on 1.5 set of gear.
Pitch 1: It was as easy as a pie. The 5.4 hand crack felt comfortable and secure, even for a crack newbie like us. The first belay ledge was a little cramped, barely enough room for 3 people.
Pitch 2: Stemming time. Poor places for pro on the first half (I laughed at Jack’s placements of gear here… but I couldn’t see how he could’ve done better either). After the stemm-y half, you want to move outside if you’re after the easier 5.4 scramble. Staying on the inside of the flake (as your first inclination would be) means a bunch of stemming and jamming on featureless granite.
But remember what I said about sticky granite? Amazingly, however featureless the rock seemed, my feet stuck! Yay for sticky granite!
Pitch 3: Jack got a little freaked out on the 5.6 face moves. Admittedly it did look a little polished. There are tiny edges you could take advantage of. Trust your feet. And the sticky granite. It will hold. Pitch 3 ends on a mega-wide ledge. Wide enough for a tent if you’re inclined.
Pitch 4: Chimney time! Easy climbing afterward leading to another big ledge. Don’t you love big belay ledges? We ended up waiting for quite awhile on this ledge because everyone and their mom wanted to get to the summit block.
Pitch 5: The 5.6 crack here was actually a lot of fun a lot less intimidating than it seems. There are holds inside the crack that seem to appear just when you need them. The cross over to the summit block was super exposed.
The chimney on 4th pitch
I love chimneys! I always feel so secure in them. The much-talked-about chimney on the 4th pitch was a lot of fun (tip: putting your heel under your butt and push up) but way too short.
I wish it were a little bit longer.
Due to its ease of access and popularity, only do Cathedral Peak on a weekend if you feel like socializing. We inevitably shared many belay ledges with other parties, waiting together for the party above us.
So what to do with all of this waiting around? Why, make a video of course! Jack will show you where we came from and the hike we did to get to the base of the mountain.
The 360 degree view from the top was simply icing on the cake after a fun climb. Upper Cathedral Lake was glimmering behind the Eichorn’s Pinnacle (can’t believe that we’ve never actually been to the lakes).
Granite madness all around.
Unfortunately, we ended up feeling a little rushed because of there was another party waiting below us and couldn’t enjoy the view for as long as we could.
After such a fun and easy climb, I found the descent off the summit block a scary disappointment. Jack built an anchor on the summit block and I ended up being lowered (and I also placed pros) down and traversed to the left (as you’re facing the mountain).
I found the descent instruction on SuperTopo very confusing and we ended up down climbing what-felt-like 5th class terrain. Needless to say I was freaking out.
The rumor has it that there are 2 rappel stations but we couldn’t find them. Until we saw other climbers 50 ft away from us rappelling down. So look for them. They exist. If you look at top left of the last picture you can see one of them rappelling down.
Truly a trip where the journey, the destination, AND the journey back was worth every minute of the trek to the base. Probably more.
We’ll be back.