Video: Sunshine | Music: Heart It Races By Dr. Dog
“The body of the Cathedral is nearly square, and the roof slopes are wonderfully regular and symmetrical, the ridge trending northeast and southwest. This direction has apparently been determined by structure joints in the granite. The gable on the northeast end is magnificent in size and simplicity, and at its base there is a big snow-bank protected by the shadow of the building. The front is adorned with many pinnacles and a tall spire of curious workmanship. Here too the joints in the rock are seen to have played an important part in determining their forms and size and general arrangement. The Cathedral is said to be about eleven thousand feet above the sea, but the height of the building itself above the level of the ridge it stands on is about fifteen hundred feet. A mile or so to the westward there is a handsome lake, and the glacier-polished granite about it is shining so brightly it is not easy in some places to trace Front of Cathedral Peak the line between the rock and water, both shining alike.” – John Muir in ‘My First Summer in the Sierra.’
John Muir was on my mind as we set out to climb his beloved Cathedral. It was first climbed by Muir in 1869. We initially planned on going for the Cathedral traverse which would take us onto the Echo ridge and over to Unicorn peak but after a late start we “settled” for Cathedral to Eichorn. I say settled because it is a classic linkup in a spectacular setting and was in no way a letdown.
We divided up into three teams: Matt and Izzy, Paul and Brennan, and Andrew and Andrea. Three leaders, three teams. Matt and Izzy set off on a variation to the right and Paul and Brennan took the lead on the route we would climb. As I was belaying Andrea up the first pitch I noticed a couple marmots going after our bags. Ugh! Tossing stones at them proved to be an ineffective deterrent to their current plan to destroy our bags so I rappelled back down the first pitch to scare them away and hang our bags in a tree. After climbing back up the first pitch we continued our way.
The climbing was consistent and very enjoyable. The granite was textured and seemed to be pretty solid. My favorite pitch was the squeeze chimney which went at 5.7 I think. I really liked the combination of face climbing and crack climbing on the pitch. There was a little bit of a crux above the chimney which required pulling over the bulge. When I caught back up to Paul and Brennan they were both super stoked on it. It was awesome seeing Brennan fired up to charge some rock as he is our resident doctor of shred: most at home on the snow, using gravity and not fighting it.
The summit of Cathedral is amazing. It is standing room only for about two people and there are incredible views of Yosemite National Park. In the distance we caught sight of half-dome, looking rad as can be! To the west we caught sight of Sunshine (Matt) topping out on Eichorn Pinnacle surrounded by spectacular exposure on all sides. It was beautiful.
After we down climbed and traversed over to the base of the Eichorn Pinnacle we racked up and got set to climb. The climbing itself was not as consistent and interesting as on the face of Cathedral. It was, however, much more exposed and a little awkward in a few places. I got pretty stoked off of the exposure. The fear was held at bay by the ease of climbing but the sheer vertical drop below me sure got me fired up!
After hanging out for a few minutes and giving my amigo, Connor, a birthday shout-out in the summit register, we rappelled off the summit and made our way back to the cars. Everyone was smiling and spirits were high after sending a killer classic line in Tuolumne Meadows.
I will leave you with this quote.
“This I may say is the first time I have been at church in California…” -John Muir on climbing Cathedral.