Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cathedral Peak + Eichorn's Pinnacle, September 22, 2011

Cathedral Peak's Southeast Buttress is one of the most popular climbs in Tuolumne Meadows. It offers over 700 feet (5-6 pitches) of easy to moderate climbing and has been considered one of the best 5.6 alpine rock climbs anywhere. Thus, there will almost certainly be a crowd. So start early (or late if you're fast).
Cathedral Peak and Eichorn's Pinnacle
Our day started around 6:30AM at the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead and we made it to the base of the climb by 8:00AM. The approach is fairly straight-forward and easy to follow. You start by hiking south uphill for about 10 minutes on the John Muir Trail and then there will be an obvious sandy trail on the left normally blocked by logs. You follow this well-traveled trail for about 3 miles all the way to Cathedral Peak. Many cairns and boulders will mark the way and it should take about 1.5 hours.
Hike south for ~10min uphill on the JMT. Take this trail blocked by logs on the left to get to Cathedral Peak.
When we arrived at the base, there were about 8 other climbers who were still gearing up. We wasted no time and quickly geared up and started climbing the Southeast Buttress. I didn't want to wait in line, so I just ran up the first pitch without looking at my topo or really thinking about a line to follow. We definitely didn't climb the easiest route up, but it sure turned out to be fun. I think it was mostly sustained 5.7 climbing and we avoided all the 3rd/4th class terrain.
This is what the Southeast Buttress looks like from the base.
Our route took us directly to the chimney as if we climbed up in a straight line. It took just under 2 hours to make it here and climbing the chimney turned out to be a lot of fun. Our day-packs made it a little complicated to negotiate the chimney, but we figured it out. We started with our packs on our back until we got ourselves situated inside and then moved our packs to the front of our chest.
Jacquelyn following the pitch right before the chimney.
Me inside the chimney.
The view from inside the chimney.
After the chimney, it took maybe another hour to make the summit. We were there by 11:30AM and scouted our next destination: Eichorn's Pinnacle.
Almost at the summit.
Me at the summit. Eichorn's Pinnacle on the bottom right.
From Cathedral Peak, Eichorn's Pinnacle looks just amazing. It practically calls to you and if you're not low on time, you will want to climb it. It may also be one of the most photographed climbs in Tuolumne, so make sure to bring your camera for this awesome photo opportunity. You'll have to figure out on your own how to take the photo though.
Me on top of Eichorn's Pinnacle
The traverse to the base of Eichorn's North Face is only about 150 yards away and is mostly 3rd/4th class scrambling. The North Face route (5.4) starts on some exposed ledges and has 1 piton on the ledge and 3 more really close together later on. The climb then becomes awkward with a wide crack system going left and the rope drag is terrible! You might find that fighting the rope drag will be more difficult than the climbing itself. Although there is an optional belay you can set up to avoid this. It took us about 2 hours from the summit of Cathedral Peak to climb up Eichorn and rappel back down to the notch. This includes the amount of time needed to take our photos.
Signing the summit register on top of Eichorn's Pinnacle.
Unlike Cathedral Peak, Eichorn's Pinnacle has a summit register box. I became immediately saddened after looking through and signing the summit register. More than a year ago, Christina Chan, a Stanford student and climber, summited Eichorn's Pinnacle and fell while descending unroped. Her friends appeared to have made the summit register into a memorial for her. Although I have never met Chris, it almost felt like I have lost someone close to me that I've known for years. She was a fellow climber who shared the same passion for climbing as I do.
Eichorn's Pinnacle Summit Register.
Climb on, Chris...
From the notch, it took about 1 hour to descend the 3rd class slabs and reach the John Muir Trail by Cathedral Lakes and then another hour to get back to the car. We were on the road by 3:45PM, making it a 9.25 hour day car-to-car.

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