Start at the Cathedral Lake trailhead (9,980 ft.) and follow the well-worn trail as it zigzags up through a beautiful aspen grove at 10,500 ft. Continue another 1,500 vertical and 2.5 miles to Cathedral Lake. Along the way you will come to a fork in the trail, do not take the “Electric Pass” trail, although I do recommend this hike for a future outing, great views of Cathedral Peak and the Maroon Bells. The first dramatic peak you see as you ascend this trail is not Cathedral Peak, but the 13,540 ft. Malamute Peak. Once at the lake, you still cannot see the actual summit from here, however, you can view Cathedral’s south ridge and the impressive east ridge that looms directly above to the right. Also, this where you can preview the east gully you must ascend. To determine the gully, follow the south ridge down to its lowest point and the gully that descends from that point is your route. Be careful to select the correct gully for it looks as if any one of about 4 different gullies could be the route. At any rate, traverse around the north side of the lake and locate a small mine at the base of Cathedral’s dramatic east ridge. Once at the mine, locate a faint climbers trail to the left, locating this trail is key to the entire route. Once on the trail, continue as it escorts you up higher into the basin where you can finally see Cathedral Peak’s summit.
This trail gets you to the crux of the hike, the 500-ft. gully. Two things that will help your experience while in this gully; only one at a time going up, because of rock-fall danger and hugging the right side of the gully as you ascend, the footing is better. Once on the ridge, start picking your way another 500-ft. to the summit. This section is also class 3 scrambling on loose rock, check your handholds.
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.
Be prepared for the worst, an overnight stay deep in the wilderness all by your lonesome.
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