Cathedral Peak

7 Aug 2002 - by David Underwood

Better late than never I suppose. Monday I drove to Bishop and stopped in at the Mountain Light Gallery. The displays are some of the best you will ever see anywhere. What a shame Rowell is gone. Just amazing photographs.

Tuesday morning Aug 6, I manage to get a campsite at Saddlebag Lake by being there about 07:30. My partner Jeff McGraw arrives from the bay area about 18:00. We had originally thought to do a hike of Dana for warm up but He was a bit short on time so we decided to go for Cathedral on Wednesday and if we had time do another peak on Thursday.

It is a pretty good place to camp and we had a late dinner at the Tioga Lodge so did not get out of camp until about 08:30. We parked at the Budd Creek trailhead and made our way to the S/E side of Cathedral. It took about two hours to make the hike to the base of the climb and by the time we got the ropes laid out and the pro sorted it was noon.

This section is rated 5.5-5.6. It is a good rough surface with lots of cups and holds and several cracks good for pro. We only took cams and a few stoppers. We had a 60mm rope. There was one section where I would have liked to have a hex or two but the route is easy to protect.

Jeff knows the route and took the first lead. I followed and only did about 40 meters on the follow, as it did not look like there was another good belay stance above it for quite a way. These two pitches were mostly face climbing. Jeff led the third pitch, which had a few more cracks and some layback on a dihedral. The fourth pitch has a chimney but there was another party in it and they were not moving too fast. I went to the left of the chimney and found a small crack that turned out to be a bit harder than it looked. It was a bit flared and I had a problem getting the pro in. Not having climbed extended class fives recently I got sewing machine leg and really struggled to get past this one. It also took some hard opposing pressure on the fingers to make the move and get my foot up on the next knob. Only one move but dicey for me. The easiest route I discovered later would have been to go right. Above the chimney was another good ledge for belay. Jeff led the next pitch to just below the summit block where there is another wide ledge. You have to climb over a small razor edged rock to get to the summit and then a class four crack to the summit. We were on the summit about 17:30There was another party below the summit who had come up behind us. We went around to the left of the summit and into a small alcove that leads to the west gully. The other party a young couple went further to the left and did not follow us into the gully.

The descent is mostly third class for the first third or so and then levels out somewhat. We headed N/W toward the Cathedral Lakes trail. There is some forest for a quarter mile below the granite in the gully and we got to the trail just as the last light failed. We were almost to the bottom of the gully when we heard the other couple yelling to us. They were on the west ridge and it did not look promising. The light was failing fast and they would have to rap off. They wanted to know if it was possible to traverse to the gully and it seemed possible but it looked like pretty hard going. I suspect that they spent the night there. They did not seem to have much in the way of warm clothing with them and it got pretty cold that night. We never did hear how they made out. We reported their plight to one of the rangers and asked around at the meadows on Thursday It took longer to get back to the road from there than it did to get to the peak on the Budd Creek trail. We did not rap the climb, as we would have had to leave pro to do so. It seemed like the trail would never end and we finally got back to the truck at 22:00.

By the time we got back to camp, made dinner and got to bed it was 01:00. We just slept late the next morning so did not get another climb in. This is a good moderate climb with good footing and hand holds.

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