Southeast Buttress of Cathedral Peak

Summit Panorama

This guys star rating: 5/5

The approach

The approach starts at the Cathedral Lake trailhead. The trailhead is obvious, has bear boxes (which you should use) and parking is on the shoulder of the road. At the first fork follow the direction for “Cathedral Lake”. After roughly 10 to 15 minutes of hiking, you’ll see a fairly obvious climbers trail fork to the left hand side. There was no cairn when we passed, but there’s really no mistaking it.

The first 20 minutes of the approach are steeper than the other 90% of it. Generally the grade is easy-going with a short steep section just below where the climbing starts. You’ll start getting great views of the peak at about the half way mark when the tree density subsides.

We took close to three hours to cover the ~1500 feet of elevation and ~4.5km, but most parties will likely be quicker. The sun was setting late and the forecast was for a beautiful day, so we could afford to take our time and be slow.

I’ve saved a waypoint where the climbers trail forks towards the left from the main trail. Here it is.

The Prep

Just a quick note to say that most parties we saw left their bigger packs at the bottom of the climb because the official descent trails brings you back down to the toe of the climb. I had grand illusions and lofty dreams of also doing Eichorn’s Pinnacle and descending on the Muir trail, so we headed up with everything.

Note: If you leave your packs at the bottom, make sure to hang them somewhere. A marmot passed within 10 feet of me while I was racking up (i.e.: They aren’t shy or very scared).

The Climb

I won’t give the play-by-play. This climb is documented well enough that adding anything else wouldn’t be useful. That being said:

  • We started at the very lowest point of the tongue which is the normal/classic route. A little overlap on good rock followed by a bomber 5.3 hand crack brought us up to a tree.
  • I started out for the second pitch with a traverse right, then followed the path of least resistance up to the second tree.
  • I avoided the chimney on the fourth pitch preferring the 5.7 variation found towards the left hand side. It’s a cool-cool section of knobs offering smaller protection but easy (if not runout) climbing. It’s apparently called the “Glory Arete”.
  • Don’t forget to look back. The views are something else.
  • The last couple of pitches are fairly obvious and follow big crack systems.
  • The peak is tiny; pretty much only room for a single party. Clear it out as fast as you can. I had to wait for close to 40 minutes mid-last-pitch because of this …
  • The 4th class down-climb isn’t so bad, but falling would suck dearly … We did it the suggested way: I lowered my follower who placed gear (and clipped the rope through it) on the way down. Your follower should be going through the blocky section on the South side, then turn the corner to go to the big ledge lower down on the West side. Once he’s down, he should pull the slack then give you a top-rope belay.
  • The rock and protection are great.

Gear beta: I used everything I had at one point or another (small TCU/C3 up to #4 C4). The protection is G and always where you need it.

The descent

From the big ledge (which you just 4th classed too), head South West on the ledges. You’ll have to make your way as best you can because there is no path to follow; just a set of ledges. Once you’re close to the base of Eichorn’s Pinnacle and on safe ground, head back North (back towards the summit ridge) and up. You’ll eventually cross back over the ridge and on the official trail. There are signs peppered here and there reminding you to stay on trail. It took us about 40 minutes to get back to the top of the ridge, another 30 minutes to get back to the bottom of the cliff, and finally 1h15 to get back to our car.



The Tracklog

I kept my watch running the whole day, even while climbing which explains why it’s a mess.

Mono Pass with detour on the summit of Mount Gibbs (Tuolumne Meadows)

2014-09-05 15.41.06

With a false start in the morning on an attempt to climb the Northwest Buttress of Tenaya (we missed the climbers path), I was itching to get on the top of something big. With my recent interest in trail running and light-packing, the drive by Mount Dana and Gibbs and a quick look at the map showing Mono Pass sealed the deal.

The plan: Make it to the top of Mount Gibbs from the Mono Pass trailhead by using the very obvious East ridge. Go back down the trail that follows the South ridge towards Lower Sardine Lake and finish off at the Walker Lake trailhead. My estimates: 3 hours to the top of Gibbs, 1 hour down the lake and 2 hours to Walker Lake. It’s now almost 2PM and I optimistically/unrealistically ask Cristina to pick me up at 7PM, 5 hours later.

Mount Gibbs Summit

I pack light: 3 liters of water, a mid-layer sweater, spare pants, my puffy jacket, a few snacks, Cliff blocks, two headlamps, a few spar batteries and a map. Looking at the map, I estimate that I’ll need to get off the main trail after about half a kilometer. I start the hike at a low running pace. A few short minutes later I’m at the river crossing and decide that the bushwhack starts here heading directly East. Because the grade steepens, I stop running and settle on a brisk walking pace.

For about 1.5km I’m in a lightly wooded area which hides my view of the Mount Gibbs East ridge. I can often get glimpses of Dana on my left and need to avoid getting suckered in towards it. Using only visual navigation throughout this hike, I rely on the fact that if I’m going up, I’m ascending the ridge and on-route. After 1km or so, I finally get a view of Gibbs. Hot damn I’m quick! That thing is ridiculously close … my altimeter must be broken because it’s clearly a couple thousand feet off … weird.

On the way up, I often pick up (and lose) faint trails; the ridge must be a popular way of summiting despite it being an unmarked trail.

After only one hour of hiking, I am just a few feet from hitting the summit. SHIT! False summit … The real summit still looks pretty far and pretty steep. Another 2km of hiking and another thousand feet of elevation gain later, I am yet again just a few feet from summiting. The steep sections that looked daunting from afar turn out to be easy-peasy. SHIT! Another false summit! I feel a bit dumb for having been caught once again. As they say “Fool me once, you’ve fooled me once. Fool me twice, you’ve fooled me twice”.

This time, looking at the map, I know that the next bump is the real summit and it thankfully looks only a few short minutes away. By now, I’ve considerably slowed down; the altitude is giving me a light headache and my breath is short-short-short. About 20 minutes later, I’m on the summit signing the registry and resting in the shielded round rock wall, taking in the views around me. I’m at 12,773 and it took me 2h15 minutes to do so from the trailhead.

Descent From Gibbs

I’m pretty happy with myself and begin the descent full of confidence and unwarranted bravado. Looking at my map, it looks like it will be much quicker to make a bee-line towards Lower Sardine Lake using a more direct route through the cirque formed between the South ridge and the South-East ridge.

After about .7km, I decide it’s time to leave the trail and descend in the cirque due South-East. The descent is iffy at best; I work my way around steep sections and small drops following the path of least resistance. The descent is long, arduous and painful and looking at my map, uncertain. There seems to be a pretty steep section just before hitting the lake and I hope that these aren’t cliffs which will force me to retreat back up to the ridge.

At the quasi-bottom of the cirque, I find the stream that I see on my map. I figure that my best bet is to follow it hoping that there will be a bit more vegetation around it allowing me to descent more safely. It turns out that the section is not that steep and following the stream wasn’t necessary. I nonetheless follow it and end up in a heinous bushwhack through some nasty bush/trees. After I exit from this hell hole, I’m finally at the lake where I take a few minutes to wash and rest.

The descent has taken me 1h15m. It’s likely that following the ridge would have taken the same amount of time. Would it have been as fun though? (that’s a rhetorical question: Of course it wouldn’t have been)

Lower Sardine Lake to Walker Lake trailhead

I still need to get to the Walker Trailhead for 7PM which means that I’ll need to be at the trailhead in just under 2 hours. That might be a tall order given that I’m still 7km away. I start jogging.

I’m feeling strong and manage to keep a good pace while stopping here and there to take in the views and snap a few pictures. For the next 4km, I keep roughly a 10m/km pace. Unfortunately, the Lake Walker trailhead isn’t next to the lake; It’s over a bump, a relatively big bump; a very unwelcome bump. To be precise, it’s a 375 foot bump. At the top of bump is the trailhead; I’m there 4h30m after starting in Tuolumne Meadows and 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

With my ride not quite up the road, I start running down the road. Another 2.3km will put me back in the car with grin on face and some more lifelong memories.

Sloth Wall (5.7) – Yosemite Valley/Knob Hill

This guys star rating: 3/5

Getting there

Going towards the valley from the 120, you’ll go though a long tunnel followed by 3 small bridges. At the end of the third bridge, park at the pullout on the right (South) and take the very well trodden path that starts on the other side of the street (North).

On your way up, you’ll see a short and enticing slab with an even more enticing crack. To get to Sloth Wall, keep going past this and up in the small gully on the right; you can either climb the 4th class section or go straight into the trees after a move or two.

The Climb

Great rock and great fun on a sea of large knobs.

I hadn’t properly read the information on this climb before setting out and did so thinking it was a simple one pitch climb with easy lower off/abseil. It’s not: The first pitch to the tree is about 200 feet of climbing, so you’ll either need to climb to the top, or drag up a second rope to rappel the pitch.

Sloth Wall starts at an obvious crack on the middle of the wall with the crux coming at 15 or 20 feet from the bottom. The crux is … cruxy. A two move underclinging traverse on unsure feet brings you to a huge jug. The rest of the climb is a cruiser with nothing harder than 5.4 or 5.5.

After the initial crux, move to the left and follow the obvious crack to its top where you’ll be able to plug in as much gear as you want on the way. From here run it out to the tree on the left (5.0/5.1). Again, the pitch is a ~200 footer, so don’t expect to abseil with a single rope.

We kept going to the top making it a two pitch climb. The second pitch is easy (5.really easy) and finishes at another big tree from which you’ll be able to carefully walk off towards the climbers left.


A lot of small gear on this one. I didn’t use anything beyond a 0.5 C4. I placed more nuts on this one than I ever have. Low down, micros proved to be useful.


A couple of options.

  1. Rappel from the first tree using two ropes; the tree has a few cords and quick links so feels safe. There are no slings or quick links at the top of the cliff, so don’t expect to abseil if you don’t want to leave stuff up there.
  2. Walk off from the top: The guide books mention a tree from which you can do a single abseil. We didn’t find it, but did find a no-abseil walk-off which I can’t describe (lay off; there’s a lot of different options up there). Either way, you’ll figure something out.

Pop Bottle (5.7) – Lovers Leap/East Wall

This guys rating: 3/5

Getting there

From the Lovers Leap campground parking lot, take the trail that starts at the North/East end. Follow the trail for 20 minutes or so. This will bring in front of the East Wall which is accessible through a short scramble over the scree field at its bottom. The trail essentially bring you directly to this section of the cliff, so don’t start looking for un-obvious climber trails; you’ll know when you’re there.

To get to Pop Bottle, don’t follow the very obvious tail up the scree field. Instead, break left before the tree line and look for another less obvious trail.

Pitch 1 – 5.7

The first pitch is fun, safe and not as cruxy as mentioned in various guide books. Here is the short and long description: Follow the corner up to the top.

You can either belay just below the 30 foot wide ledge which will put you in earshot/eyesight of your follower, or not …

Beta alert: The crux is passed quite easily. At the crux bulge, comfortably plug in a #4 a #3 or both, then grab for the hidden jug found in side the crack with your left hand, bring your feet up as high as you can on the slab, then move your left foot over the bulge. Done. Easy-peasy.

I found the gold scar section to be more difficult than the bulge (just because the fuggin gear I wanted was on the wrong side of my harness)

Pitch 2 – 5.6

On the right end of the huge ledge, start-up on a V -1 boulder problem. I plugged in gear at my feet, extended the placement with two slings to avoid rope drag up higher, then climbed the outer corner on ginormous positive jugs. No feet? No need.

My follower did the same, but on the front side. Either way, once you’re comfortably on your feet you’ll have a nie shinny bolt to clip (the crack doesn’t protect because it’s flared). From here, I didn’t find the advertised two bolt anchor. I just kept climbing until I a good crack system and setup a belay there.

On this pitch, there are walk-off opportunities on the left if you’re careful. We did a third pitch which clocks in at 4th/very low 5th, so you may not want to do it. The views from the top are great, so we didn’t regret it.


I used a bit of everything, including a #4 C4. Gear anchors, so you’ll want something to build one (or two).


Walk-off towards the very obvious path found on climbers left. It’s both easy and short, and will bring you back to the main trail. We left our packs at the bottom of the climb and retrieving them definitely wasn’t an ordeal. You’ll want to bring up your shoes.

Spanky’s Area – Adirondacks – Sunshine City

Getting there

From the Chapel Pond parking lot going towards malfunction function (that’s to say, going away from Keene Valley), drive for ~2.3km and park at the pullout on the left. From the parking lot an obvious trail going down towards a small river. It’s not very obvious at its start; some blow down makes it a bit tricky. Go down to the river then head left. 50 feet or so later you should be good to cross the river. Keep going left at which point the trail goes up and gets a lot more obvious. The walk up is an easy 10 minutes.

To get to the Sunshine section of the wall, head right when you hit the wall. A small walk will bring you to Sunshine City where you’ll see 4-5 bolted lines on the right end. It’s a shaded area which makes it very bearable (for the belayer) on those blisteringly hot days.

WMP – 5.7+

This guys rating: 5/5 stars

A stunning line! Don’t miss it. This is the rightmost line of bolts on the main face (there is a 5.10 around the right in the corner). The crux is at the bottom on a slaby start below an obvious white spot. The rest of the climbing is brilliant face climbing. Make sure that once you’re on the first ledge you start heading left. If you keep going up you’ll be on “Freak Accident with Gasoline” (a 5.9).

A 70m rope will get you back to the ground. I’m not 100% about a 60 meter being enough. Mountain Project has this at 100 feet so I’ll let you do the math.

Gear: Draws

Bee Hold – 5.8

This guys rating: 5/5 stars

The line directly to the left of WMP which starts in a blocky section. A couple well placed bolts at the bottom bring you to the ledge where you’ll follow another left leaning line which parallels WMP a few feet left and below. Another brilliant line not to be missed.

As with WMP, we did this with a 70m, so I’m uncertain what will happen with a 60m rope. Mountain Project also has this at 100 feet of climbing.

Gear: Draws. The line has a pin between two bolts. I got an orange master cam in to back it up.

Freak Accident with Gasoline – 5.9

This guys rating: 2/5 stars

A new line which I climbed thinking I was on WMP. It’s not documented in Adirondack Rock first edition, but will be in the second edition. It’s not as awesome as WMP and Beeline, but still worthy for the tricky well protected crux. The line starts where WMP does but keeps going straight to a double bolt anchor instead of leaning left.

Gear: Draws

A 60m rope should get you back on the ground. That being said, I did it with a 70m so I can’t be 100% certain. Close your system!


Contos – 5.3

This guys rating: 3/5 stars

A fun romp up a nice crack system which finishes on some easy unprotected climbing and a double bolt anchor.

Gear: The crack takes mostly finger sized gear. The crux is getting off the ground from the bush at 1/3rd height where you can plug in a good #3 C4 (or was it #2?).

Leading Contos

Leading Contos