This guys star rating: 5/5
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.
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).
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.
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.
I kept my watch running the whole day, even while climbing which explains why it’s a mess.