Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cathedral Mountain 2013

Sunday June 30th - Cathedral Mountain 3189m

Synopsis: 4 out of 5 stars.  This is a classic grade II alpine climb that has a lot going for it; variety, exercise (yes a 1600m gain) and aesthetics. Definitely recommended.

This was an unusual climb in that Brian did all of the heavy lifting and planned the climb, got the beta together and some of us (yes, me) just showed up bleary eyed and asked which mountain we were climbing.

The 5 of us were staying at Tak falls and dragged ourselves up at 5:30 for a planned 6:30 am departure. Breakfast was a little more leisurely than planned however we still departed the Lake O'Hara parking lot just after 7 am.

It took us roughly an hour to cover the 4 km of road to the cataract creek crossing and although we didn't find any cairns there was a bit of a trail just before the 4 km post on the road. After a little futzing we decided this was the best place to cross as it looked good and there was a marking stick on the far bank.

Somehow I got sucked into going first (lack of patience perhaps) and got a bit surprised by the depth - mid thigh, and cold. At least the water wasn't running that fast and even those vertically challenged managed across with mere tickling of the nether regions.

We finally carried on just after 9 am and headed north briefly before Brenda found the trail directly away from the water. It was only about 15 minutes on that we crossed the cataract creek hiking trail. Just north of the intersection is a large rock, a cairn and a trail running west which we took.

A great trail then gains elevation quite quickly and we made our way through open forest. Quite a nice way to start the day. After an hours work the trees started to thin a bit and the climb eased.

At one point you skirt left of some low cliffs and pick up the trail, easy to do on the way up but an important place to check out for the descent.

Eventually we worked our way above treeline and into an interesting bowl feature. We paused here to grab second breakfast and scout out the route.

We skirted to the left of the bowl and being early season took advantage of some easy travel on the snow.  

As you can see, it was a great clear day with fantastic views.

It was 2 pm and 2700 metres before we gained the glacier, in spite of the sun the snow was pretty much perfect, not much penetration and no need for crampons until the final summit ridge.

It's actually a loooonnnngggg way back to the final summit ridge, bypassing a couple of small sub peaks along the way.

We stopped for snacks just at the base of the ridge itself and donned crampons. Travel remained pretty straightforward although the views opened up nicely.

Some of the less experienced in our party needed a little coaxing along the summit ridge however once underway we made good progress and the snow was confidence inspiring.

How many sunny, windless summits do you get in a lifetime? Great to share such a neat place with great friends. It had taken us 9 hours to gain the 1614 metres (according to my watch) to this point and it was just after 4 pm.

Definitely not a high stress day and we made the most of the summit. Down was definitely easier and almost exactly half the time.

Thanks to Brian, Andrew, Brenda and Deanna for a great day out in the mountains!