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Cathedral Peak, 13943', Colorado

Author: Gina Pasquale

Trip participants: Gina Pasquale, Steve Doorn and Tasha (the climbing wolf dog)

For those of you who tease me about my alpine starts, you'll be glad you weren't on this trip!

We left LA around 4pm on Friday. After having a relaxing dinner at Grimo's in Poncha Springs, we headed over Independence Pass to camp at the trailhead for Cathedral Lake. We were asleep by 11:30pm, and when that alarm went off at 1:30am, I thought "Ughh! Maybe it's time to take up golf or something!" We wanted to get an alpine start after receiving beta from various climbers, re-reading Dawson's guide, and the Aspen ranger station telling me they got 4" of new snow in town on Thurs.

Starting at 2:30am, we hiked the well-worn Cathedral Lake trail by the light of the Milky Way and a couple of dim headlamps. A sliver of a moon rose about 3:30am, but not enough to light our way. We found ourselves at the base of the E. facing couloir used to climb Cathedral at 6am. Here we found the 400' couloir in perfect condition for crampons. It had slid already which provided nice footing all the way up. By the time we reached the saddle, the sun was just hitting us. A nice scramble up typical, rotten Elk range rock brought us to the top by 7am. This was great because we had agreed beforehand to turn around at 7:30am no matter what, to avoid unpleasant conditions in the couloir.

On top, we enjoyed a clear, cobalt-blue sky with few clouds. The views of the Bells, Capitol and Snowmass were breathtaking. The summit register placed in 1994 had less than 2 pages of signatures! (You never see that on a 14'er!) And I tried out the new carrot cake flavor of Cliff Bar (unfortunately, it wasn't as good as the carrot cake at Grimo's).

After snapping a few pictures, we headed back down to the saddle to get ready to glissade. We donned our avalanche transceivers and took off! In 5 minutes, we were down. Glissading is great, but it's just over too fast! Steve said it was the steepest glissade he's ever done. I would guess it's about 45 degrees at the top, but I need to get one of those slope meters to be sure.

We were down to Cathedral Lake by 9am, just in time for breakfast. It is a large and scenic lake. By now we were feeling a little tired from the lack of sleep and promptly proceeded to take a nap in the sun. Ahhh, life is good! At about 11am, we decided to head down and were surprised by the hordes of Aspen-ites headed up the trail for a day hike. I'm glad we had some solitude at the lake before it got crowded. This is a popular trail!

We decided to get away from people and head up Express Creek for a campsite. We found a perfect site by the creek at around 11,100'. After a much needed 12 hour slumber, we woke to a rainy day in Aspen country. We headed down for a hearty breakfast at the Main Street Bakery (highly recommended) before heading home to sunny New Mexico.


  • The guidebooks say this route is only for experienced parties. This is true.

  • Make sure you are completely comfortable with crampons, ice ax and self arrest
     techniques. The couloir is short, but steep.

  • Do this climb before July 4th for the best conditions.

  • Don't even THINK about climbing the rock to the right of the couloir.

  • Take a climbing helmet, this is the Elk range (we forgot ours, but got lucky this time).

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