Cathedral Rock-SW Face Attempt 

I wasn't really expecting to find myself on Cathedral Rock, at least not on this day, but there I was. The morning started with indecision, the result of a weather forecast that included rain and  lightning. Not enough sleep and not enough coffee led to the idea of climbing Mt. Daniel. In hindsight, a peak on the cascade crest was probably not a wise choice, but...not enough sleep and definitely not enough coffee. 

By 7:00am Chris Mattson and I were on our way up the Cathedral Rock Trail (FST 1345). To get there take FSR 4330 from Salmon La Sac and follow it to Tucquala Meadows Trailhead, nearly at the road's end. There is one ford on the road that can present a problem. It is currently c.16 inches deep. Although, as Chris and I both know, you can make it across in a Honda Civic even when the stream is raging on a warm, pouring rainy, lots of snow melting, November day. It can even be done with snow on both sides of the ford on a day such as this. It's, of course, better to let someone else drive on those days though, right Chris?

The trail leads too gently up the forested slopes west of the trailhead, reaching Squaw Lake (4400'+) in just over 2 miles. The weather at this point was still looking good. From there the trail continues another c.2.5 miles to Cathedral Pass (c.5600') and the junction with the PCT, just south of Cathedral Rock. Up until this point the plan was still to climb Mt. Daniel via the Daniel Glacier or Hyas Creek Glacier headwall, but the weather was turning less favorable. Thick, dark clouds were building SW of the Mt. Daniel and just about everywhere else we looked. We started south on the PCT and continued (0.3 miles) to the junction with the trail leading to Peggy's Pond (FST  1375).

Cathedral Rock and Mt Daniel's East Peak from the Cathedral Rock Trail

We started down the trail toward Peggy's Pond. I had one eye on the trail, one eye on the clouds, and my third eye was looking for something else to do. Looming to the right was Cathedral Rock, with an obvious gully leading up toward the SW face. I managed to persuade Chris (without too much difficulty) that Cathedral Rock might be a better choice. To the gully we went. The fact that neither of us knew anything about the routes on Cathedral Rock was irrelevant. 

After climbing a couple of hundred feet of scree and heather we started up the gully. It was mostly scree with some class 2 near the top. Next we circled right around a minor crag to the bottom of a steeper couloir leading up the SW side of the rock. Mostly scree lead to the first of several short steps, all of which were bypassed on ledges on the [climbers] left side of the couloir (class 3). The sound of thunder was a bit unnerving, but we continued up. At the top of the couloir we reached the last pitch[?]  up the SW face. Hmmm, I have a 30 meter glacier rope, a couple of pickets and some Snickers Cruncher candy bars. The candy bars proved to be the most useful, but did little to dry the now wet rock on the face. I climbed up about 20 meters on class 3 and 4 rock before I got too uncomfortable to continue. There were plenty of ways to protect the next few moves, providing you had something to use for protection. I, not feeling like a soggy Snickers Cruncher jammed in a crack with a sling around it was sufficient, was getting off this thing. The rock was solid for the most part, but there was enough loose stuff to keep you on you toes (as opposed to your ....).

After a bit of down climbing, I found a horn suitable for a rappel and rappelled most of the way back to the top of the couloir. We decided to take advantage of  a tree with rappel slings to bypass the first two steps in the couloir. There was plenty of debris and a helmet should have been mandatory. Chris went first, and ducked for cover in an alcove after reaching the bottom of the second step. I dropped over the second step, which is partly overhanging, and hid under it to pull the rope. I heard the rocks coming and found out I wasn't hidden enough. A relatively small rock bounced off the side of the couloir then off the top of my head.

After returning home, I pulled out the Cascade Alpine Guide and looked up Cathedral Rock. The approach is slightly different, but the SW face  is the SW face. The final pitch is described as class 3 or 4. What I was on certainly looked and felt like class 4 to me. I took a total of 2 photos, but hopefully I will get a few more photos of the area from Chris.

Chris sent me these pictures that show the area a bit better.

A closer view of Cathedral Rock


Mt Daniel from near Cathedral Pass


A view of Circle Lake from somewhere on Cathedral Rock


This is me scrambling on the SW Face



Cascade Alpine Guide Volume I, Second Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 284-287