Three days into my first full week of summer, and I've managed to squeeze in a few more challenging days outside. On Monday, I drove down to the Sangres and climbed California Peak. Yesterday, it was time to see the Sawatch. I did an out-and-back over Carbonate Mountain, Cyclone Mountain, and Cronin Peak. Both of these climbs were considered "checkmarks" - climbs that offered opportunities to get in shape, but without much technical challenge.
This morning, however, I had the chance to enjoy a classic peak that doesn't give itself up easily - 13,943' Cathedral Peak in the Elk Range.
Kim Dobson's husband, Corey, had contacted me a while ago about getting together for a Centennial peak. We both thought having a partner for something like Cathedral would be a good idea, so we decided to meet at the trailhead for a 3:30 "alpine start". Since most of the route would cover wide-open snowfields, we knew we had to be up and down before the morning sun started baking things.
The snow game is a fun one - you don't want your snow bulletproof when you ascend a couloir, as that forces you to kick harder and definitely ups the consequences if you slip. At the same time, soft snow can lead to postholing and wet slides. One of those is a pain, and the other is flat-out dangerous. So what you end up trying to do is time your climb perfectly - hit the couloir just as the snow begins to soften, get to the summit, and get out before you sink. On nights like last night, which called for a forecasted low in the area of 37 degrees, you don't ever know what the snow will be like.
We made quick work of the approach, reaching 11,850' Cathedral Lake just before sunrise. We continued ascending the wide open basin until the base of the 13,000' couloir leading to Cathedral's south ridge. As you can see in the above picture, there has been plenty of recent wet slide activity. Things are heating up in the high country!
Above is Corey getting ready to top out of the couloir. In the background, you can see the still-very-frozen Cathedral Lake.
Once on the ridge, we were reminded that we were in the Elks, which are known for terribly rotten, loose rock. The reason some people climb Cathedral in the springtime is to avoid rockfall danger when ascending this couloir when it's free of snow. We only had a couple hundred feet left to scamper, and when we got to the summit at 7:30 we were reminded of why we do this.
Up at 13,943', it's still a winter wonderland in every direction.
Corey and I didn't linger long, as we didn't want to end up stuck in quicksand on the return trip. W were back at the car by 10:00AM and ready to start the day.
My foot is holding up well. I haven't experienced much soreness over the last three days, which has seen me put in roughly 28 miles and 14,000' of vertical. If I tried running that much in three days, my foot would be screaming at me. Speaking of running...I guess I've got a race in 4 days. Gulp. Much like the ostrich-in-danger fallacy, I figure if I just don't think about it, it will go away. Right? No, I am prepared for a slow, painful jaunt through the Garden. I've got a few more days left on my hall pass before Sunday, though, so we'll see what else I get done before then!