Cathedral Peak 13,943ft.
Cathedral Lake TH – South Couloir
“Altitude14er & Asphazell”
4,063ft of elevation gain, 9miles roundtrip
6-8-2007 & 6-9-2007
Me & my friend Mark wanted a good snow climb & left Denver Friday afternoon. Traffic slowdowns got us to the Cathedral Lake TH at about 7pm. We were the only vehicle at the TH situated by an aspen grove at 9,880ft. We hoofed it at a brisk pace, heavy internal frames weighing down our backs. Sunset was at 8:40 something and we navigated the trail by early night to within a few hundred feet of Cathedral Lake – 11,866ft. The wilderness here is amazing; snow capped peaks surrounding the landscape. The backpack in was 3 miles.
We awoke with the rising sun & started the ascent from Cathedral Lakes East edge. The view of Malamute Peak from here is stunning (photo above). We hiked beyond the lake (North) and ascended the steep talus into the basin framing Cathedral’s South Ridge. We hiked to the base of a steeper Couloir angling straight to the peaks summit and discussed which couloir we should ascend. We were tempted to make some ‘variations’ and aim for steeper snow. As we strapped on our cramp-on's a small boulder shot down Cathedrals southeast face running out with deadly force 25ft. away from us. We opted to do the standard (safer) route! This area of Colorado is notorious for its loose rotten rock.
We ascended the snow without incident. Conditions were great, not too solid or too soft. After taking the gully branching too the right we neared the ridge crest.
This section of snow is the steepest in the couloir. I followed Marks cramp-on teeth marks upward on the steep snow, topping out on the ridge at 13,060ft. We stopped to look down the couloir.
From here we ascended the South Ridge. We kept our cramp-on’s in action and did some mixed snow-rock climbing on the ridge. The ridge was painless and had very few Class 3 requirements. Looking further West, the distant peaks & drainages of the mighty Elk Range provided an unparallel view. We reached the summit early and viewed the building clouds. I thought the toughest climbing was over; little did I know descending the couloir would be the toughest part! Should I refer to this as a treat?
We still had the cramp-on’s in action as we descended the now somewhat wet, deceptively steep snow. Me and Mark were facing out; taking large strides down the snow and both discovered how easy it was to fall and slide, utilizing the ice axe to stop. A glissade was prohibited due to all the rubble (fallen rock) in the couloir. We took caution and white-knuckled it down the snow, occasionally stopping to watch another dislodged boulder shooting down the peak.
This peak really wasn’t in the bag until we got back to our camp with the falling rock and all. A MOST memorable 13er with an interesting geology. The peak is literally falling apart, and so were my legs and back after breaking camp and huffing down to the TH; then driving back to Denver. I’d speculate snow conditions should be good on Cathedral for another week or so, this climb is a real treasure.