Peak(s):  Cathedral Pk A  -  13,943 feet
Date Posted:  05/30/2017
Modified:  06/25/2017
Date Climbed:   05/27/2017
Author:  mountainman102
Additional Members:   CliminDave
 Cathedral Peak: South Ridge - Snow Climb  

Route: South Ridge
Cathedral TH: 9,980 feet.
Summit: 13,943 feet.
Distance: 9.43 miles.
Total Elevation Gain: 5,437 feet +/- 100 feet/hour to account for vertical "drift." 4,450 feet of total vertical makes more sense as net vertical was 3,982 feet.
Hiking Time: 9 hours and 51 minutes.

I decided to try out my first trip report so I hope it is helpful! Let me know if I can improve on anything and enjoy!

Friday evening, Dave, Joe, and I departed and headed towards Aspen where we grabbed BBQ at the Hickory House. We continued to the trailhead arriving around 9:30 PM and set up camp right in the parking lot. We awoke the following morning, had a quick bagel, and departed at 0607. Dave and myself had previously summited Cathedral back in June of 2015, but we had to come back for the beautiful scenery! The sky was overcast all morning so we made sure to keep the weather in mind. The trail began gradually in the trees, but quickly sloped up for some solid class one hiking. The trail is defined and is usually easy to follow in the summer.

Hiking Up the Trail (Photo: Dave)

We hit snow within the first hour and saw some obvious signs of a large avalanche (Size ‘ Relative to Path: R5, Size ‘ Destructive Force: D4, by my estimates) as trees, bushes, and more were bent, broken, and misplaced. There were markings of other avalanches we noticed on the drive up as well as on the hike. Thankfully, we came after the snow had become more intact and solid. The trail was difficult to follow due to the avalanche and snow on the ground. We took a wrong turn when we were supposed to head up the steep switch-backs and went all the way around adding about 30 minutes to the climb. Despite the detour, we continued up as visibility dropped. We reached Cathedral Lake after a few hours, strapped on our crampons, helmets, and prepared for the crux of the hike. After the lake, head climbers left for the easiest path to the couloir (when there is snow, otherwise follow the trail). The long snow-covered approach to the couloir was lighter on the legs with snow than it was in June of 2015. The snow was hard, thanks to a sun crust, and allowed for us to stay on top. The clouds lifted a bit allowing for a photo opportunity about half-way to the couloir.

Climbing the Snow Covered Gully (Photo: Joe)
Posing for a Photo about Half-Way Between Cathedral Lake and the Couloir (Photo: Joe)

We neared the couloir and saw more signs of previous avalanches, but the snow was solid and displayed no signs of a weak layer. We grabbed some food and started up the couloir. Staying on climbers right side of the couloir seemed to be the best strategy. There was some rock fall so keep your ears/eyes open and a helmet is always a good call.

Looking up the Couloir
Dave and Joe Climbing Up the Couloir

The couloir was excellent for climbing measuring about 45 degrees (arguably) at the steepest part and put our ice-axes to work! We had to kick a few steps and experienced some post-holing as the sun had warmed the snow a bit. We topped the couloir where we were met with winds we estimated gusts to be 40 mph. The ridge was much more difficult than my first time on it as the snow complicated it and made the trail invisible. The trail usually travels along the top of the ridge, but we skirted along the side of a few of the rocks as the snow made the normal path more hazardous. This resulted in more exposure to the steep east side of the ridge. Nonetheless, we found our way to the top summiting at 1223 PM, just over 6 hours in.

Dave Reaching the Summit (Photo: Joe)

We snapped a couple photos and quickly began our descent as the winds continued and snow blew right into our faces. Visibility was low, all our sunglasses had fogged up, and we were ready to get off the ridge.

Descending the Ridge (Photo: Dave)
More of the Ridge (Photo: Dave)

The couloir was a pleasant surprise as it provided us with a wind break and allowed us to enjoy some glissading. The very top is quite steep so down climb about 50 feet before glissading. At the bottom we relaxed, had another bite to eat, and headed back towards Cathedral Lake. Joe and Dave strapped on their snow-shoes, but I opted to continue in my mountaineering boots. The snow was still solid so we managed to stay on the surface. We descended fast following the trail all the way back for the most part. After a few final photos, we reached the parking lot at 1558 PM completing the ten-hour climb. We were greeted by two people making-out in their car, who were the first we had seen the whole day!

Looking Back Up the Trail (Photo: Joe)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

05/30/2017 11:59
A very nice first report. Hope to see more from you.


06/03/2017 12:50
...looks nice as a snow climb. In summer conditions, the loose scree in the gully makes for a tough slog. Nice photos, BTW.

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