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Nika Toce

[TR] Cathedral Peak - NE Buttress 7/15/2015

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Trip: Cathedral Peak - NE Buttress

 

Date: 7/15/2015

 

Trip Report:

Trip Report: Cathedral Peak – NE Buttress Route

Date: 7/14-7/16

 

There seems to be quite a bit of dispute about just how long the approach to Cathedral Peak is. Most trip reports talk about 20 miles, some mention 18… Eric Thompson and I added up the sections on the map, and came up with 19.1 to Upper Cathedral Lake, where we made camp.

 

Day 1: We’d slept at the trailhead for Andrews Creek the night before, and awoke to the smell of pancakes cooking in the camp nearby. We were considering getting out of bed to go ask for some when we smelled the burnt one and opted for another hour of sleep. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, and decided the best way to prepare for it was with rest.

 

We had hopes of being able to convince the guys with the horse train to carry our packs in for us, but they didn’t seem too interested in a couple climbers rolling out onto the trail at 9am. Nor did they really seem to believe that we were heading 20 miles in that day. We managed to convince them we were serious when we passed them 8.5 miles in. They asked where we were heading, Eric told them to Cathedral Peak. The response from the oldest cowboy was, “I don’t think you can just walk up that mountain….” We informed them that was the point. It turns out they don’t see a lot of climbers out there; for some reason, the 20 mile approach of walking through horse shit doesn’t seem to be that popular.

 

After walking through 12 miles of burnt forest and multiple small stream crossings up through a gentle valley, we reached Andrew’s Pass around 3 pm. We were feeling optimistic about only having another 7.1 miles to go, and looking forward to seeing some different landscape.

 

Before we rounded the corner to get to Upper Cathedral Lake, we were greeted by the beginning of Amphitheater Mountain. Amphitheater Mountain is a breathtaking expanse of granite cliffs with tons of fractures and buttresses, and almost all of them lead straight up to the top.

 

Our first real view of Amphitheater Mountain from the trail:

Amphither_Mountain_View.jpg

 

We hiked about a half mile farther down the trail and finally set up camp. I was exhausted, and worked on making something hot to eat. Eric dropped his pack and headed around the lake to the base of Amphitheater Mountain to take some pictures of the sunset, and to check out a particularly interesting looking buttress.

 

A view of Amphitheater’s Middle Finger Buttress from camp:

Amphitheater_Middle_Finger_Buttress.jpg

 

A closer view of Amphitheater:

Amphteater_Mountain_Sunset.jpg

 

Video of the views from Upper Cathedral Lake:

[video:youtube]

 

Upper Cathedral Lake at Sunset:

Upper_Cathedral_Lake.jpg

 

Cathedral Peak and Upper Cathedral Lake:

Cathedral_Lake_Peak1.jpg

 

I fell asleep mid conversation that night. Apparently, while the 20ish miles in weren’t that bad for 20 miles in, it was still 20 miles… at least in my narcoleptic stupor, I had the manners to thank Eric for hanging our food in a tree to protect it from snaffle hounds.

 

Day 2: It turns out mountain goats in the Pasayten are prevalent and not easily deterred. After breakfast, as we were packing our gear for the day, we found ourselves being investigated by roughly 15 mountain goats, ranging in size from babies to adult males who had to weigh over 300 lbs. They were super excited about us. We were a bit less excited about them, considering one of our good friends had just been stabbed in the leg by a mountain goat horn in the Enchantments a couple weeks before. Nothing seemed to convince them that our camp wasn’t interesting, so we made the decision to break down the tent, hang the food, and stash our camp stuff on a boulder they couldn’t get onto. There was also some discussion of which of the baby goats would taste the best, and what the best way to cook it would be.

 

We set out on the well established trail to Cathedral Pass, on our way to the NE Buttress. The plan was to climb the NE Buttress on day 2, and move on to the SE Buttress on day 3…

 

The view of Cathedral from camp:

Cathedral_through_the_Trees.jpg

 

The closer view of Cathedral took our breath away. The granite formations really look like blocks building a cathedral.

Cathedral_Peak.jpg

 

In order to get to the NE Buttress, you climb past the beginning of the route for the SE Buttress which leads up the gulley between Cathedral and the Monk. Various trip reports we’d read had mentioned that the routes were sandbagged, one mentioned that the 5.6 start to the SE Buttress route mentioned in the Beckey guide might not even exist, one had mentioned being able to get on the route from the top of a table top boulder farther up the gulley… The short answer is that there was no clear easy way onto the SE Buttress. We kept going farther up the gulley towards the beginning of the NE Buttress.

 

There is a junction of several gullies at the top of the one that comes up between Cathedral and the Monk: one runs down to the right above the Monk, one runs steeply up and to the left, following the North face of the SE Buttress, and the middle gulley, which goes up and slightly to the left is the one we took. Unlike the route for the SE Buttress, once we got to the top of the gulley where the NE Buttress was supposed to start, the route was fairly obvious.

 

Again, going back to trip reports we’d read before starting our trip, the scramble to the beginning of both buttresses was classified as an easy class 4. This was mostly true, but there were definitely some moves that required considerably more skill.

 

The NE Buttress is classified as easy class 5. This is also mostly true. Again, as with the gulley, there were several places that were more difficult. While mostly easy 5th class, I would rate the hardest sections of the NE Buttress in the 5.6-5.7 range. This route was a choose your own adventure climb, with both easier and more difficult pitches you could choose to take almost the entire way up. That said, the climbing was enjoyable, the rock quality solid, the views incredible, and the route finding pretty straight forward.

 

About 400 feet from the top, we reached an amazing ledge big enough to park a large school bus. There is a break in the continuity of the route, in that you have to cross over a little gap in order to get back onto it.

 

Eric standing on the giant ledge overlooking Amphitheater:

Eric_on_the_Ledge.jpg

 

Looking up Cathedral from the ledge. It shows an excellent view of both the SE Buttress and the NE Buttress:

Cathedral_NE_SE_Buttresses.jpg

 

Once at the top of the route, we realized we weren’t quite at the true summit, so we started to walk over to it. It is not a simple walk. There is a leap of faith you have to make to get to the summit proper over a chasm that drops roughly 200 feet down onto sharp rock and snow. The handholds are good, however; the hardest part by far was convincing my head that it was an easy move.

 

Eric stoked to be on the summit…. The view was incredible. 360 degrees of horizon showing mountains the entire way. The only sign of civilization in any direction from the summit was a single hiking trail.

Cathedral_Peak_Eric.jpg

 

360 degree video footage from the summit:

[video:youtube]

 

The summit is in the background, this is on the way back down:

Cathedral_Summit_Amphitheater.jpg

 

The way down is marked by cairns. If you can’t figure out how to get from one cairn to the next, start looking for tat. There was a single rappel to get off of Cathedral Peak. I might recommend bringing some new tat and a ring, however. What was there was well weathered, and not pretty, but it worked.

 

About to test the tat with my life….

Cathedral_Rappel.jpg

 

Day 3: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wake up in mid July in a snowstorm surrounded by a herd of mountain goats? No?…We hadn’t either. But, we got to experience it first hand. It turns out waking up in a low cloud, full of precipitation doesn’t make for good climbing weather. Tent bound, cold, and frustrated about not climbing, we did our best to entertain ourselves and to sleep as much as possible.

 

....and a mid July snow storm and goats.... because why not?

[video:youtube]

 

When we finally got out of the tent at 12:30 in the afternoon we were both wearing all of the clothing we’d brought with us and still were uncomfortably cold. We made the decision that we were going to head out that day instead of repeating another no climbing day with potentially even worse weather on the next day.

 

Despite not getting underway until 1:45pm and dawdling a good amount of time on the way out, we made it to the car by last light. To be fair, we jogged about the last 2.5 miles to the car and it was some serious Cascade Army Training.

 

...nothing like the life in the Cascade Country Club!

 

Gear Notes:

rack to 3.5" – bigger could have been used if we’d felt like carrying them

 

 

Approach Notes:

Long

 

Edited by Nika Toce

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Love this area. Great climbing, great rock, far from the crowds. Nice photo of the top part of the SE buttress. I do remember hunting around for the beginning of the SE buttress but that there was a mid-fifth class way to begin. Those last headwalls in the photo offered great crack climbing with spacious belay ledges to enjoy the views. One of my favorite mountains. Nice work getting in there.

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Did you try throwing rocks at the goats? I've noticed that goats have become more brazen over the past several decades as goat hunting has declined. I try and practice negative conditioning whenever possible.

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We did actually throw rocks at the goats on the second day... that didn't seem to deter them much, but seemed to help a bit. Regardless, they came back in force the third day...

 

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[video:youtube]

 

They didn't seem to mind the rocks even when i did hit one. If there were 10 more goats with them they may have turned the tide and treed us.

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40 miles for one awesome route. Ouch. Your capacity for masochism will serve you well in the PNW.

Good luck with your next adventure!

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Thanks for showing the beginning of the SE Buttress, that's awesome! I'm hoping to go back and do more climbing there...I may need to wait until next year with the 20 mile walk in, but I'd love to hit some routes on Amphitheater, too...

 

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We did actually throw rocks at the goats on the second day... that didn't seem to deter them much, but seemed to help a bit. Regardless, they came back in force the third day...

 

You often have to get really aggressive, like hitting them with a good amount of force in the head. They're quite good at dodging rocks, naturally. And they've got hard heads.

 

But maybe a gun is the only way with those particular bastards.

 

Impressive effort!

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FWIW the approach from the Canadian side is both much shorter and highly scenic. An enjoyable moderate day of work. Regardless nice trip to a beautiful area.

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Oh man, now you're going to make them feel bad. Darin speaks the truth for next time!

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did the canada approach meself, but i reckon w/ them mules you can pack in a lot more booze :)

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I've been saving this one as a backup for a bigger trip W of the crest. Hoping I sack up and do that gap if I am solo. I've heard you can jump it on the descent.

 

TFPU!

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tvash and i did the dog route on cathedral sans rope and it wasn't anything too crazy - there's a really neat part where you enter into a subterreanan cathedral (i suppose this is what inspired the name), complete w/ viewpoint out into the face, then later crawl out of the top of it onto the summit - i remember the annoying scree hill to the top took 3 minutes of delightful boot skiing to reverse too :)

 

hitting the summit of amphitheatre via numerous tiers of easy bouldering just across from cathedral was a romp too.

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tvash and i did the dog route on cathedral sans rope and it wasn't anything too crazy - there's a really neat part where you enter into a subterreanan cathedral (i suppose this is what inspired the name), complete w/ viewpoint out into the face, then later crawl out of the top of it onto the summit - i remember the annoying scree hill to the top took 3 minutes of delightful boot skiing to reverse too :)

 

hitting the summit of amphitheatre via numerous tiers of easy bouldering just across from cathedral was a romp too.

 

Sweet. Hopefully this Sept or next...

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This is the step across (actually you scramble down into the obvious notch in front of me, stand on a large chockstone and then need to pull one move and mantle onto the summit plateau). The top has some ball bearing type stones, and with my hiking boots I felt a bit insecure pulling that last move. The fall is fine if you land on the chockstone. If you don't quite land where you want to, though, it's at least 50' with poor runout on either side of the chockstone... I figured I had come far enough to scope the descent for future trips and flipped it there.

 

 

 

writeup here of that trip if you're interested. Minimal (read zero) climbing info, just lotsa pictures.

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This is the step across (actually you scramble down into the obvious notch in front of me, stand on a large chockstone and then need to pull one move and mantle onto the summit plateau). The top has some ball bearing type stones, and with my hiking boots I felt a bit insecure pulling that last move. The fall is fine if you land on the chockstone. If you don't quite land where you want to, though, it's at least 50' with poor runout on either side of the chockstone... I figured I had come far enough to scope the descent for future trips and flipped it there.

 

 

 

writeup here of that trip if you're interested. Minimal (read zero) climbing info, just lotsa pictures.

 

I did a solo scramble up there four years ago. The mantle move was straight forward in hiking boots, but the descent gave me pause. I finally decided to jump down (the summit side is several feet higher), and was worried about twisting my ankle on the landing, but I landed ok. I was also pursued by a goat who let me go after a while.

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To be honest, going up was the easy part... just thinking about the jump down on the return, though, still makes me a bit queesy... To go up, stand on the very edge and fall forward in a pushup position, the handholds and the rock are good.

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I don't recall anything unusual o difficult about the descent except that some idiot had left a shit-ton of prayer flags up there on which you might be strangled. The jumps were mellow and there were a couple easy chimneys.

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[video:youtube]

 

This is Eric making the jump back across... It took me a minute to get my nerve up to do it. Obviously, I made it back to a computer safely...

Edited by Nika Toce

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I did a solo scramble up there four years ago. The mantle move was straight forward in hiking boots, but the descent gave me pause. I finally decided to jump down (the summit side is several feet higher), and was worried about twisting my ankle on the landing, but I landed ok. I was also pursued by a goat who let me go after a while.

 

Now that this section of the climb is thoroughly documented (the level of documentation : remoteness ratio is now approaching absurdity) my excuse is that my wife was watching (took the picture above), and was yelling things about wanting to have kids etc, so I decided against doing (what for me) would have been a fun but awkward whale flop :)

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Awesome looking trip guys! I can't wait to check out the U.S. Side someday. nice to meet you today Eric and good to see Dave out and about too. Hope you got your water purifier to work. -Brandon

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