Peak(s):  Cathedral Pk A  -  13,943 feet
Post Date:  06/13/2011
Date Climbed:   06/11/2011
Posted By:  lordhelmut

 East Face Ski and South Gully climb   

Peak : Cathedral Peak

Group : Papillon, Wooderson, Myself

Route(s) : East Face (me), South Couloir (Pap and Wood)

Kevin, Sarah and I have been trying to work out a day to climb this peak for some time now. This spring, while granting a generous amount of solid outings in the hills, has been rather frustrating at times, specially for the weekend warrior. It seems as though some force has been at work in the sense you have a perfect 10 days of weather, except for 1 day, that conveniently rolls in Friday evening, raining on or not freezing the snowpack, and it throws off all plans. In a state like Colorado, there is always a plan B, and if not, such is life, there are worse problems to have.

This weekend panned out damn well, kind of helps you forget about everything you had to endure to get to this point and it’s a solid way to put a cherry on top of an already fine spring in the Rockies. The inaugural drive over Indy Pass of 2011 was quite a treat this go around, with the colors to the East grabbing our attention. I always look forward to a few of these a summer and this was a nice way to start things off.

La Plata at sunset

But the West is the best.

Heading West over Independence Pass, a sign of a solid summer ahead

We arrived to the Cathedral Lakes TH around 9:30pm, laid out pads and bags and called it a quick night. Alarm went off around 2:45am, on the trail 45 minutes later. The snow didn’t start till around half a mile before the lake, so we were able to truck up the hill with decent speed in the dark. My pack was weighing on my shoulders, so I was pumped to finally get to skin a little.

Looking East at the yellow horizon

We found a faint climbers trail just below the lake on a steep, grassy, rock strewn gully, popping us directly out below the lake, and granted our first view of the goal for the day.

Cathedral's Jagged Eastern Ramparts

"Lets just climb Electric Pass Peak"

We quickly rounded the East Ridge that blocked our view of the East Face….

entering the amphitheatre

And finally got our first glimpse of 2 months and 3 bailed plans.

First glimpse of Cathedral's East Face and Southern Gullies

The view to the East wasn’t shabby either.


Kevin and Sarah opted to hit the more Southern gully and then run the ridge to the summit. Since I planned on skiing the East line on the face direct, I climbed that and we made a split at the bottom of the amphitheatre. I can’t comment on exactly how the Southern route goes, but after the initial climb up the gully, from Kevin and Sarah’s account, its not that bad.

Kevin and Sarah enter the abyss

The East Face required crampons and axe. The bottom was littered with hardened avy debris, the middle had a semi-narrow choke that had a narrow strip to climb up and ski through, and then a traverse out on to an exposed face, with a nice direct finish to the summit.

This is looking up from about 1/3 the way up the line…..

Lookin alright

The weather looked like it was about to drop a bomb on us before we even started really climbing. Not sure if it was a thick cloud of smoke or a storm brewing, but it literally dissipated within the hour. We were greeted with a nice view of the Southern Elks and Sawatch off in the distance.

Elks finally opened up to lend a warm welcome

with the East Ridge in the foreground

I neared the quickly melting out choke soon after this view distraction. Man, was this one hell of a climb, not to mention a ski. It’s a line like this that can inspire someone to make sacrifices in their life to be able to enjoy stuff like this on a consistent basis. I’m no exception. I had an enjoyable conversation with a nice lady on the summit of East Geissler the next day about getting the most out of life. She had a similar background as me, and of course as many others who pack up their bags one day and leave the East Coast for greener pastures (or whiter pastures if you may). She asked me what I did for a living and I returned the formality. Within seconds, we were right back to our passions in life and I found it funny how we couldn’t really get a solid flow going regarding our weekday jobs, but could talk for hours about mountains, and all the trips we had taken over the years. Her friend said, after a short stint in the East, within minutes of his return back to Colorado, he shed a tear of joy and kissed the dirt. Subtle lines like that have a more profound impact on me than just about anything else and is reassuring to know others feel the same way. Anyways, Cathedral was a reminder of all this, maybe not completely the line I was on, but more the mountain itself and the company I was so fortunate to have.

This thing kept going up and up….

Getting narrow

and rock strewn

The choke was easily navigated around to the left and within minutes, I was able to get a solid view of Castle Group to the West…..

Castle Group

I wanted to climb literally every step of what I planned on skiing. Since I couldn’t see the very top of the chute itself, I knew it would go from the very summit out on to a steep, exposed face, ending in a solid sized cliff. I traversed out on to this and pounded out the last few hundred vert.

Traversing out on to the face

This was my first direct summit in a long time. No false summits, no bulls**t, just an aesthetic summit to an aesthetic peak.

and the semi-corniced summit ridge

Within no less than 3 minutes, Kevin crested the West Ridge and popped up, exposing himself to a nice photo op….


With Sarah not too far behind….


Cathedral’s summit was a nice vantage point for a number of solid views.

Landry Line

Castlebra lookin not so shabby

Cathedral's Summit

We chatted about both our adventures, ate some summit snacks and then Papi and Woody got a head start on the descent, while I waited for the sun cupped snow to soften a bit. During my wait, I had the pleasure of running into a fellow member Rich H and his significant other, Robin. A fellow Gore enthusiast, among many others, it was nice to run in to these guys. (Nice meeting you guys if you read this!).

Around 10am, I got sick of waiting this one out. The sun had been intermittent throughout the morning, so despite being a E/SE facing line, it hadn’t received the amount of sun I had hoped, plus the snowpack resembled a wildabeast’s grundle. There’s no other way I can explain it, I’d love to sit here and say this day went flawlessly, but skiing 50+ degree terrain over a 200 foot cliff with stalagmite textured snow is not all that intriguing. The good news was that the snow was able to soften a tad and the turns in the couloir direct were a pleasure.

Rich and Robin took off and I dropped in….

looking down the face

and then down the chute direct

No hero shots today. I skied down to the valley floor, a little spent from negotiating avy debris in the apron and waited for Papperson to make it down. Within the hour, we reconvened and made our way back to the car.

Papperson downclimbing the South Gully

We skied and snowshoed tandem to snowline below the lake. Turns got interesting to make it to snowline, but feasible nonetheless. The parting view of Cathedral Lakes Basin were noteworthy. This is one fine gem, if I weren’t so biased towards the Gores and the Weminuche, I’d say this place is up there with the best of them.

Malemute and Cathedral Lakes Basin

The hike out was trivial, not to mention blooming with spring.

some green

and the valley

A big fat burger was in the cards, Woody Creek Tavern was the destination. It did not disappoint. Once again, Wooderson’s healthy choice of post climb meals did not pass the minimum requirements for the gluton-o-meter, so her meal was not included in this TR. Sorry Sarah…..

a fine meal

Since we planned to hit some more peaks Sunday, we nabbed a spot at the Difficult Campground just outside of town and plopped down with some munchies and fluids of sorts. I thought I’d share this classic of a guy with a Gordon’s in hand, fire pit, sitting on a box of wood.

what more in life do you need?

Something about that shot exemplifies the true Rocky Mountain spirit. With tunes among the likes of Ween, Steve Winwood, Jethro Tull and some Traffic, leftover trail snacks, solid selection of crafts and solid, like minded company we were sittin pretty. As Papillon always says, these are great days we’re livin……

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
Jon Frohlich

Awesome     06/14/2011 02:39
Nice to see Kevin and Sarah get back there and have success this year. It looks much better this year than last. I'm sure it was much more pleasant without the rotten snow and falling rocks we encountered last year. Also noticed this weekend they apparently made a clandestine trip up Carbonate and Cyclone on 6/4 too.


Well Done Sir     06/14/2011 03:58
Nice effort once again.


Great Days, Indeed     06/14/2011 04:33
No false summits, no bs, but a great climb with Gordon waiting in the camp.
Well done, you all. Thanks for the great beta, too.


Appreciation     06/14/2011 04:36
Most people can alway appreciate great pics and beta of various climbs and such things but I just want to say that I always appreciate well thought out photo documentation of post-hike culinary ecstasy!


Another line well done, m'lord!     06/14/2011 09:00
Loved the description of your conversation about life. Niwot's Curse is definitely real.


Papperson     06/14/2011 13:15
LOL, the new Brangelina! 8)


Nice stuff     06/14/2011 14:03
This one has been on my list all spring as well, but like you said it's been a love/hate spring in a lot of ways with weather and conditions. Looks like it's holding up pretty well.


Cool, boys and girl...     06/14/2011 14:12
Very cool. Cathedral Peak caught my attention from the very beginning. It is a strikingly beautiful peak with quite a reputation. Your report is a slap-in-the-face reminder that one year I'll need to get up there. Nicely done climb, ski, TR, and post-hike celebration.


Found Love???     06/14/2011 14:31
Sounds like a romantic moment on top of a peak Brian..... 8)

Sorry I wasn't able to join you on this one. It looked fun!!!


Excellent!     06/14/2011 14:49
Great trip report, Mr. LH. Your comments re: the discussion with the woman on the summit and what's important in life is SPOT ON. Well done on conveying that message in words and photos. And, please remember that just because Sarah's palate happens to be more diverse and welcoming than yours and Kevin's (meat and potatoes and meat and potatoes and meat and potatoes and meat and potatoes and meat and potatoes) does NOT mean it's not worthy of a photo in this report. Thanks for posting! Happy trails, my friend. Oh yeah, and a big thumbs up on the beer selection. 8) (I would expect no less from ”you people”.)


Papperson?     06/14/2011 15:03
Hey Brian, I hope Papperson is merely a keystroke-saving device and not a suggestion that Kevin and I have morphed into one persona. But seriously, great job on putting a memorable weekend into words (and pictures). Oh, and thanks for talking us out of Electric Pass Peak. 8)

And Presto, thanks for sticking up for my delicious grilled tilapia sandwich... doesn’t the fact that I doused it in tartar sauce boost the gluttony factor??


I Like The Elk Range Girls Who Do...     06/14/2011 18:01
Flashbulb memories, my friend. Once again. Nothing like chasing daylight over Indy Pass either. Tale of the tape reads seven people, two chicks with game, two hounds, and two different routes on the mountain. Not to mention parking lot beers and a feast of friends in Gonzoland.

I am looking forward to the next one already, Brian. Thanks for capturing the spirit of the weekend.

You definitely have ”it” with your prose.

Ridge runner

fine selection     06/14/2011 18:09
Nice route selection Brian. It's still one of my top 3 favorite couloirs. Let me know when you decide to head up north a bit more.

Sarah, there's no shame in loving a little grilled fish for a post climb meal. You should try swordfish if you haven't already - it's like the steak of the sea.


very nice work     06/14/2011 20:08
Getting a fine collection this season.


Love It     06/14/2011 23:55
The peak, the photos, but most of all the words. Gluton-o-meters, wildabeast grundles, and a well articulated outlook on life go a long way in making this a great read. Thanks for taking the time to make it more than just hero shots and route descriptions.

Great job on skiing a stout line solo, and great work on the South Side, Kevin and Sarah! It was great meeting you both at Uptown. Let's get out this summer!


Thanks     06/15/2011 04:29
for taking the time to read this. Papperson is officially obsolete due to the people magazine reference, thanks Terry. It was a great weekend to be in the hills. Now I shall retire for the night with Stephen Herrero's ”Bear Attacks” and scare myself s**tless.


That description of the snow...     06/15/2011 15:59
Hilarious. Nice climb and great report.

Rich H

Good to meet you all     06/15/2011 18:31
I've been reading Helmuts trip reports for a while and admire his fondness of food, beer, and peaks - It was good to put a face to the Helmut and sort of funny that when we got to the top and Brian introduced himself as Brian - Then I started to put it all together that it was indeed the Helmut who was about to drop off a very steep face. Sarah and Kevin it was good to talk to you and sorry again for my impulsive pooch.



Snow Climb Rules     07/05/2011 16:42
Great and enjoyable report.
We climbed Cathedral last August, and found the gully steep, and complete with kitty liter and few hand holds. Definitely a snow climb; although I won't be skiing it

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