Cathedral Peak, Mount Dana, Mount Gibbs


By: Larry Tidball Richard Fritsen

Although quite some time has passed between this trip, and the writing of this report, I remember it very clearly.... this was my · last 4th class lead before the insurance "crisis" ended real climbing in the Sierra Club on October 1, 1988. Although no one knew in advance that the ban was coming, I don't think I would have planned any other Sierra Peak for this last 4th class peak . Cathedral Peak is my favorite Sierra Peak.

We started the weekend with a hike of Gibbs and Dana on Saturday, finishing with hail and rain as we came off the summit of the second peak. We had a group campsite reserved at the Tuolumne Meadows campground that night and the weather cleared for dinner and a campfire. A few folks who needed some different peaks than Gibbs and Dana joined us at this point. As Richard and I sat around the dying campfire I was telling bear stories, and Richard wasn' t quite convinced that a bear comes through our particular campsite every night. That is until he looked up and saw the bear crawling into the back of his 4Runner. A few loud calls, and a few thrown stones ( hitting more truck than bear) served to chase off the bruin.

The next morning 11 of us drove to the Cathedral Lakes trailhead for the climb of Cathedral Peak, I have climbed this peak 6 times, and savor almost every step of the route. From the distant views of the peak, the hike into it's base, the approach, the climb and finally the views from the top. . . .for me this is ;he ultimate Sierra Peak . I have climbed two of the 5th class routes on Cathedral, but this standard 3rd/ 4th class route that we climbed on this day is really my favorite. This route is really climbable by any good 3rd class climber, you don't need to be a rock climber to do this peak. Since we can't lead this peak any more, I will describe the route in some detail, so that others can follow on their own.

From the trailhead follow the Cathedral Lakes trail a few hundred feet into the forest, then leave the trail and hike along the right side of Budd Creek following a use trail that at first is very faint, but is soon easy to follow. This trail is on the hillside above the creek, not down by the water. The trail winds through the forest for a ways, staying near the creek, but eventually angles away from the creek heading diagonally across some rock slabs (where the route is marked by ducks) . Soon the trail follows some narrow grassy defiles up between granite ribs. Later, higher above the creek you hike through open forests.

About 2 miles from the trailhead, the use trail crosses Budd Creek (now only a couple of feet wide ). Just beyond this point you reach an open clearing where you can look across the creek to see the peak. This is where we leave the trail, recrossing the creek and climbing up through the forested slope towards the saddle north of the summit.

From the saddle we dropped down 20 or 30 feet to a series of ledges that run horizontally across the slabs of the Northwest face until we reached the West Ridge just above the notch separating Eichorn Pinnacle from the main summit area. From here we zig-zaged up easy 3rd class ledges, winding between the stunted trees growing there until we reached a large platform just below the s ummi t block. From here the summit is 15' straight overhead. Here we broke out our 60 foot rope, and with Richard belaying, I stepped through the narrow notch in the crest of the West ridge . Now I was standing on the sloping ledges of the South Face. Traverse across 10 feet to a 15 foot tall 4 inch wide vertical crack. This crack is easily climbed wi th many hand and footholds, and in a moment you are on the summit.

Once on top, I set up a top belay, The crack in the summit block is only about an inch wide as it cuts across the flat top of the peak, but a couple of opposed stoppers makes a bomb proof anchor. While I belayed from the top, Richard made sure that everyone was tied-in correctly before starting the summit climb. As each person reached the top, they were tied in, so that they could sit down and enjoy the view. Half Dome and Yosemite Valley, Toulumne Meadows, the northern Yosemite peaks, and on down south past Ritter...... A couple of summit climbers went down after signing the register, but soon we had 12 including Richard on the summit block together where we took a group photo.

After belaying everyone down, we retraced our route back to the car for the long drive home. If you have the time let me recommend these other climbs near Cathedral: Unicorn Peak just to the East (great 3rd class), and the 9 Echo Peaks just south of Cathedral class 2 & 3 are seldom climbed, and have fun little film canister registers. Matthes Crest a little farther south is a whole day adventure in 5th class climbing along the horizontal crest of this very thin long ridge.

My thanks to Richard Fritsen for assisting on this trip, and to the following people who shared the summit with us: Ursula Slager , Don Slager, Eric Schumacher , Linda Landau , Dave Helphrey, Poug Hatfield, Bob Emerick, Isabelle Cat, Roger Hadow, Bobby Dubeau, Donn Cook and Randy Rapland.

SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section