OverviewFor many, the Elk Range represents the ultimate in Colorado geology, mountaineering and scenery. The world-famous Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak share the same red layered nature of rock, while the thin sweeping ridges of Capitol and Snowmass Mountain offer a different sort of beauty. From a mountaineering standpoint, the entire range presents a number of important issues, long approaches, a lot of vertical and most of all, the rock is very rugged and rotten. Cathedral Peak is all of the above.
The following photo courtesy of Reiksgib
Cathedral Peak (13,943 ft.) rests 1.7 miles north of its more famous neighbor, Castle Peak (14,275 ft.). Although, Castle Peak has a class 2 hike all the way to its summit, Cathedral Peak does not. This peak is well named, for it has high and wild rock pinnacles on its north and south ridges and on the beautiful east ridge which one views from Cathedral Lake. Most people climb Cathedral Peak in June or July when anow still resides in one of the east facing gully's. I waited until August and endured a tough, steep, snowless climb up the correct gully. Keep in mind, this is a challenging climb, with a steep and dangerous route to a very rewarding summit. The rock-fall danger in this gully is real, so wear a helmet.
Technically speaking, the only reasonable route on Cathedral is class 3, it ascends a steep loose gully and the potential for rock-fall is real, I recommend wearing a helmet. I will describe the standard and only reasonable route for Cathedral Peak.
Cathedral Peak is short about 57 ft. of being a much more popular hike. If you want some solitude and don’t mind the loose stuff, this makes for a very gratifying day.
-9 miles and 4,200 ft. round trip
-3 miles and 2000 ft. to Cathedral Lake
Getting ThereFrom Aspen’s north side, there is a round a bout just outside of town. Leave 82 and take the Castle Creek paved road exactly 12 miles south. After passing the ghost town of Ashcroft at mile 11, look for a “Trailhead” sign on the right and turn right on an improved dirt road. It’s only a half-mile to the actual trailhead. This is the Cathedral Lake, Electric Pass Trailhead. You can car camp here but there really are not any campsites available.
When To ClimbIf you are comfortable with an ice axe and crampons a late spring ascent of Cathedral Peak might be the better choice. I have spoken to a few who wouldn’t consider Cathedral any other way, but this peak is definitely worth climbing in late summer after all the snow has melted. The Castle Creek paved road is plowed all the way to Ashcroft in the winter.
here is a link for the Aspen/Snowmass weather
CampingCamping in the Cathedral Lake area is permitted as long as you camp 200 ft. from the lake. There are no campground in Casle Creek Valley. I suspect you could go down to the end of Castle Creek road and take a few of the dirt roads and find some pull-offs available. Obviously you can stay in the Roaring Fork Valley, plenty of lodging in Basalt, Aspen, or Snowmass.
Here is an excellent link for Colorado Camping Reservations. An additional reservation fee of $8.65 is charged for this service. It might be worth it considering it can be difficult getting a campsite in this area.