Climbing SE Cathedral Peak, Yosemite – A Trip Report

Yosemite, California, US

Warning: climbing jargons ahead. For our non-climbing friends, every now and then we would write a trip report a particular climb that we enjoy. We’ll try to include a lot of pictures to go along with the post so you can enjoy it too.

We dabbled with trad climbing on our second summer after we got into the whole climbing business. And living in the Bay Area, 4 hours away from the climbing mecca of Yosemite, we were inevitably drawn to the beautiful Cathedral Peak.

The route up the South East buttress of Cathedral Peak is rated 5.6. But it’s such a popular route, the rock is so sticky, the cracks are so clean that it felt a lot easier than that.

The only dicey part of the climb was crossing over the gap to get to the summit block (it wasn’t technically hard, but there was a lot of exposure).

Cathedral Peak -- the route goes up the face closest to you, pretty much where the border between the lighted and the shadowed area

I mean, really — the hardest part (for me, at least) was the down climb at the end (tip: there are two rappel stations. Look for them.)

There are 3 so-called ‘official’ routes up to the top, but you can pretty much make your own route. We decided to follow the left-hand most route (labeled A on SuperTopo) because we were new to this and didn’t want to end up in tricky spots.

The drawback: well, it took us the whole day to do the climb because we ended up waiting for other parties, leaving us with no time to do the Eichorn’s Pinnacle.

Waiting for our turn at the beginning of the climb
Beginning of Cathedral Peak
At the beginning at the climb
2nd Pitch of Cathedral Peak
2nd Pitch of Cathedral Peak

The Gear

Jack led all of the pitches on 1.5 set of gear.

View from Cathedral Peak
Down below

The Climb

Pitch 1: It was as easy as a pie. The 5.4 hand crack felt comfortable and secure, even for a crack newbie like us. The first belay ledge was a little cramped, barely enough room for 3 people.

Pitch 2: Stemming time. Poor places for pro on the first half (I laughed at Jack’s placements of gear here… but I couldn’t see how he could’ve done better either). After the stemm-y half, you want to move outside if you’re after the easier 5.4 scramble. Staying on the inside of the flake (as your first inclination would be) means a bunch of stemming and jamming on featureless granite.

But remember what I said about sticky granite? Amazingly, however featureless the rock seemed, my feet stuck! Yay for sticky granite!

Pitch 3: Jack got a little freaked out on the 5.6 face moves. Admittedly it did look a little polished. There are tiny edges you could take advantage of. Trust your feet. And the sticky granite. It will hold. Pitch 3 ends on a mega-wide ledge. Wide enough for a tent if you’re inclined.

Pitch 4: Chimney time! Easy climbing afterward leading to another big ledge. Don’t you love big belay ledges? We ended up waiting for quite awhile on this ledge because everyone and their mom wanted to get to the summit block.

Pitch 5: The 5.6 crack here was actually a lot of fun a lot less intimidating than it seems. There are holds inside the crack that seem to appear just when you need them. The cross over to the summit block was super exposed.

Very exhilarating.

View from pitch 2
View from pitch 2
Eating lunch on SE Cathedral Peak
Jack eating his lunch

The chimney on 4th pitch

I love chimneys! I always feel so secure in them. The much-talked-about chimney on the 4th pitch was a lot of fun (tip: putting your heel under your butt and push up) but way too short.

I wish it were a little bit longer.

Chimney on SE Cathedral Peak
Chimney on SE Cathedral Peak
Climbing SE Cathedral Peak
Happiness

The Waiting

Due to its ease of access and popularity, only do Cathedral Peak on a weekend if you feel like socializing. We inevitably shared many belay ledges with other parties, waiting together for the party above us.

Another party on SE Cathedral Peak
Another party that we ended up climbing side by side with most of the time.

So what to do with all of this waiting around? Why, make a video of course! Jack will show you where we came from and the hike we did to get to the base of the mountain.

Waiting to climb Cathedral Peak
Lots of waiting on this climb

The Top

View from the top of Cathedral Peak
View from the top of Cathedral Peak

The 360 degree view from the top was simply icing on the cake after a fun climb. Upper Cathedral Lake was glimmering behind the Eichorn’s Pinnacle (can’t believe that we’ve never actually been to the lakes).

Granite madness all around.

Granite madness
Granite madness
Granite madness
Granite madness

Unfortunately, we ended up feeling a little rushed because of there was another party waiting below us and couldn’t enjoy the view for as long as we could.

The Descent

After such a fun and easy climb, I found the descent off the summit block a scary disappointment. Jack built an anchor on the summit block and I ended up being lowered (and I also placed pros) down and traversed to the left (as you’re facing the mountain).

I found the descent instruction on SuperTopo very confusing and we ended up down climbing what-felt-like 5th class terrain. Needless to say I was freaking out.

The rumor has it that there are 2 rappel stations but we couldn’t find them. Until we saw other climbers 50 ft away from us rappelling down. So look for them. They exist. If you look at top left of the last picture you can see one of them rappelling down.

Down climbing from Cathedral Peak
Down climbing from Cathedral Peak

The End

Truly a trip where the journey, the destination, AND the journey back was worth every minute of the trek to the base. Probably more.

We’ll be back.

Sunset coming back from Cathedral Peak
On the hike back from Cathedral Peak

15 Replies to “Climbing SE Cathedral Peak, Yosemite – A Trip Report”

  1. Found this link accidentally … I have backpacked to Cathedral Lakes region; very pretty over there too … I don't climb, so traveling up there w/u two via the picture was exciting enough for me… thanks for posting these. nicely done!

  2. Looking at your awesome photos and reading all your climbing jargon makes me miss climbing so much I wish I hadn't left my climbing shoes in Buenos Aires! I'm in Bolivia now, where there are loads of fantastic climbing spots (and beautiful climbing weather), but reading your post makes me want to head straight up to Yosemite. Those cracks are like crack!

    1. Hi Cheryl, we actually brought our climbing shoes and harness on this trip of ours. Looking forward to doing some climbing in Peru (and I guess Bolivia). How long are you going to be there for?

  3. Hey…. look at the view!! I'm into hiking more and more and more. Amazing. Did you know Yosemite does astronomy tour as well? I saw on the website.. brilliant!

  4. Cathedral Peak is an outstanding granite pinnacle in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. It looks good from all sides, has expansive views from its class 4 summit block, and the SE Buttress is considered a classic climbing route.
    Roiunlimited

  5. Man I great that you did this together I dont think my wife would go for this. The rock climb at Boomers or Dave and Busters yeah but this was some serious stuff. Thanks for the post and the photos.

  6. Am not exactly a batophobic but I cannot imagine myself threading on the path you've been into. I admire you for conquering the Cathedral Peak. How I wish I can also savor the beauty of the surrounding sceneries straight from my own eyes. Thanks for this post, I really love it!

  7. The photos show a really gorgeous landscape..that I would love to enjoy without climbing! I've been offered a "chill out" climbing trip to Himalaya, and despite my respectful rejection, it seems like the offer is still on. I'm frightened only at the idea of climbing, I think I'll keep declining the offer, I'd rather go trekking, also better chance for taking great shots right? Especially because my hands will not be shaking.. 😛

    1. Hope we didn't come out as complaining about the socializing too much. We liked it too 🙂 It was fun imagining all of us as little black ants scaling the giant white rock.

Comments are closed.