| East Face Ski and South Gully climb
Peak : Cathedral Peak
Group : Papillon, Wooderson, Myself
Route(s) : East Face (me), South Couloir (Pap and Wood)
Kevin, Sarah and I have been trying to work out a day to climb this peak for some time now. This spring, while granting a generous amount of solid outings in the hills, has been rather frustrating at times, specially for the weekend warrior. It seems as though some force has been at work in the sense you have a perfect 10 days of weather, except for 1 day, that conveniently rolls in Friday evening, raining on or not freezing the snowpack, and it throws off all plans. In a state like Colorado, there is always a plan B, and if not, such is life, there are worse problems to have.
This weekend panned out damn well, kind of helps you forget about everything you had to endure to get to this point and it’s a solid way to put a cherry on top of an already fine spring in the Rockies. The inaugural drive over Indy Pass of 2011 was quite a treat this go around, with the colors to the East grabbing our attention. I always look forward to a few of these a summer and this was a nice way to start things off.
La Plata at sunset
But the West is the best.
Heading West over Independence Pass, a sign of a solid summer ahead
We arrived to the Cathedral Lakes TH around 9:30pm, laid out pads and bags and called it a quick night. Alarm went off around 2:45am, on the trail 45 minutes later. The snow didn’t start till around half a mile before the lake, so we were able to truck up the hill with decent speed in the dark. My pack was weighing on my shoulders, so I was pumped to finally get to skin a little.
Looking East at the yellow horizon
We found a faint climbers trail just below the lake on a steep, grassy, rock strewn gully, popping us directly out below the lake, and granted our first view of the goal for the day.
Cathedral's Jagged Eastern Ramparts
"Lets just climb Electric Pass Peak"
We quickly rounded the East Ridge that blocked our view of the East Face….
entering the amphitheatre
And finally got our first glimpse of 2 months and 3 bailed plans.
First glimpse of Cathedral's East Face and Southern Gullies
The view to the East wasn’t shabby either.
Kevin and Sarah opted to hit the more Southern gully and then run the ridge to the summit. Since I planned on skiing the East line on the face direct, I climbed that and we made a split at the bottom of the amphitheatre. I can’t comment on exactly how the Southern route goes, but after the initial climb up the gully, from Kevin and Sarah’s account, its not that bad.
Kevin and Sarah enter the abyss
The East Face required crampons and axe. The bottom was littered with hardened avy debris, the middle had a semi-narrow choke that had a narrow strip to climb up and ski through, and then a traverse out on to an exposed face, with a nice direct finish to the summit.
This is looking up from about 1/3 the way up the line…..
The weather looked like it was about to drop a bomb on us before we even started really climbing. Not sure if it was a thick cloud of smoke or a storm brewing, but it literally dissipated within the hour. We were greeted with a nice view of the Southern Elks and Sawatch off in the distance.
Elks finally opened up to lend a warm welcome
with the East Ridge in the foreground
I neared the quickly melting out choke soon after this view distraction. Man, was this one hell of a climb, not to mention a ski. It’s a line like this that can inspire someone to make sacrifices in their life to be able to enjoy stuff like this on a consistent basis. I’m no exception. I had an enjoyable conversation with a nice lady on the summit of East Geissler the next day about getting the most out of life. She had a similar background as me, and of course as many others who pack up their bags one day and leave the East Coast for greener pastures (or whiter pastures if you may). She asked me what I did for a living and I returned the formality. Within seconds, we were right back to our passions in life and I found it funny how we couldn’t really get a solid flow going regarding our weekday jobs, but could talk for hours about mountains, and all the trips we had taken over the years. Her friend said, after a short stint in the East, within minutes of his return back to Colorado, he shed a tear of joy and kissed the dirt. Subtle lines like that have a more profound impact on me than just about anything else and is reassuring to know others feel the same way. Anyways, Cathedral was a reminder of all this, maybe not completely the line I was on, but more the mountain itself and the company I was so fortunate to have.
This thing kept going up and up….
and rock strewn
The choke was easily navigated around to the left and within minutes, I was able to get a solid view of Castle Group to the West…..
I wanted to climb literally every step of what I planned on skiing. Since I couldn’t see the very top of the chute itself, I knew it would go from the very summit out on to a steep, exposed face, ending in a solid sized cliff. I traversed out on to this and pounded out the last few hundred vert.
Traversing out on to the face
This was my first direct summit in a long time. No false summits, no bulls**t, just an aesthetic summit to an aesthetic peak.
and the semi-corniced summit ridge
Within no less than 3 minutes, Kevin crested the West Ridge and popped up, exposing himself to a nice photo op….
With Sarah not too far behind….
Cathedral’s summit was a nice vantage point for a number of solid views.
Castlebra lookin not so shabby
We chatted about both our adventures, ate some summit snacks and then Papi and Woody got a head start on the descent, while I waited for the sun cupped snow to soften a bit. During my wait, I had the pleasure of running into a fellow 14ers.com member Rich H and his significant other, Robin. A fellow Gore enthusiast, among many others, it was nice to run in to these guys. (Nice meeting you guys if you read this!).
Around 10am, I got sick of waiting this one out. The sun had been intermittent throughout the morning, so despite being a E/SE facing line, it hadn’t received the amount of sun I had hoped, plus the snowpack resembled a wildabeast’s grundle. There’s no other way I can explain it, I’d love to sit here and say this day went flawlessly, but skiing 50+ degree terrain over a 200 foot cliff with stalagmite textured snow is not all that intriguing. The good news was that the snow was able to soften a tad and the turns in the couloir direct were a pleasure.
Rich and Robin took off and I dropped in….
looking down the face
and then down the chute direct
No hero shots today. I skied down to the valley floor, a little spent from negotiating avy debris in the apron and waited for Papperson to make it down. Within the hour, we reconvened and made our way back to the car.
Papperson downclimbing the South Gully
We skied and snowshoed tandem to snowline below the lake. Turns got interesting to make it to snowline, but feasible nonetheless. The parting view of Cathedral Lakes Basin were noteworthy. This is one fine gem, if I weren’t so biased towards the Gores and the Weminuche, I’d say this place is up there with the best of them.
Malemute and Cathedral Lakes Basin
The hike out was trivial, not to mention blooming with spring.
and the valley
A big fat burger was in the cards, Woody Creek Tavern was the destination. It did not disappoint. Once again, Wooderson’s healthy choice of post climb meals did not pass the minimum requirements for the gluton-o-meter, so her meal was not included in this TR. Sorry Sarah…..
a fine meal
Since we planned to hit some more peaks Sunday, we nabbed a spot at the Difficult Campground just outside of town and plopped down with some munchies and fluids of sorts. I thought I’d share this classic of a guy with a Gordon’s in hand, fire pit, sitting on a box of wood.
what more in life do you need?
Something about that shot exemplifies the true Rocky Mountain spirit. With tunes among the likes of Ween, Steve Winwood, Jethro Tull and some Traffic, leftover trail snacks, solid selection of crafts and solid, like minded company we were sittin pretty. As Papillon always says, these are great days we’re livin……
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):