Type: Trad, Alpine, 700 ft, 5 pitches, Grade II
FA: Wilts and Spencer Austin, 1943
Page Views: 170,580 total · 1,093/month
Shared By: Nick Wilder on Jun 22, 2006
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


You can really climb all over the southest buttress. You get the most climbing if you start at it's lowest point, in the middle. Many people start up and to the right a little, which loses some vertical, and the first pitch over there isn't so good.

However you start, after 3 pitches, steadily increasing from 5.3 to 5.6, you'll probably be funneled into a chimney. It can get crowded here, and a backpack can be a real pain. Climb around to the left and it's smooth sailing however.

There are so many options, passing people is generally easy if you're competent at the grade, and there are usually people all over the face.

A spectacular climb not to be missed.


Normal full rack. No huge cams needed.


Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
A great classic to a wonderful summit. Aug 15, 2006
Oakland Park, Florida
Floridaputz   Oakland Park, Florida
We decided to take a line on the left most side. There was only one other party on the climb when we started. I lead a knobby arete left of the 5.6 offwith for a variation. My wife and I were all smiles on the awesome summit. Aug 21, 2006
Salt Lake City, Utah
46and2   Salt Lake City, Utah
PERFECT climb that is NOT to be missed; great protection most of the time (by Tuolumne standards) with a truly classic and amazing summit! I prefer the standard start as the first 5.4 splitter crack is a blast; also don't skip the chimney, it's a lot of fun (getting actually inside the thing is the crux) as chimneys go! We noticed many parties getting somewhat confused at the top wondering "which way to go", when you hit that final steep wall, follow the wide looking crack on the left side up to a stance and then over the huge flakes to the amazing summit!!!! Have Fun
PS: The downclimb from the summit looks much harder than it actually is, if you're freaked out I would recommend downleading this section as it's really easy to set up and do!! Aug 28, 2006
Josh Hibbard
Los Angeles Area, CA
Josh Hibbard   Los Angeles Area, CA
Great climb! It seems that many parties bottle neck at the chimney, so plan accordingly. Also, there are many features inside the chimney, so you don't need to actually "chimney" the whole thing (which was a concern for me due to the pack I was carrying). Mar 23, 2007
Greg DeMatteo
W. Lebanon, NH
Greg DeMatteo   W. Lebanon, NH
One of the greatest summits of all time. Apr 7, 2008
Very cool climb and spectacular summit. We climbed the right side-ish, over many crystal studded faces, and avoided the chimney traffic jam by climbing a 5.7(?) hand/fist crack about 15' to the right. We were able to pass several parties and do the route in 4 near-rope-length pitches (w/a 70 M rope). I had a double rack, and of course had gear left over, but found placements for everything from nuts to 4" cam.
The walk-off was pretty easy after finding the way down the back slabs (kind of a zig-zag pattern), we saw a few parties rapping over this section, but there is an exposed 3rd. class descent that is a bit faster.
Make sure to bury any food under the talus to keep the marmots from stealing it.
Don't forget your headlamps!!! (if you start late) Jul 10, 2008
Josh Hibbard
Los Angeles Area, CA
Josh Hibbard   Los Angeles Area, CA
Looks like there are two "rap stations" off the 3rd/4th class decent as of 9/6/2010. The first is a few slings around a small tree. The second is around a block. We happened to rap off the first station (toward climbers left) to a long, thin "ledge" that we took to the ridge and down the now well marked trail. Sep 16, 2010
P. W.
P. W.  
Beautiful and easy climbing. Lots of pitches to practice your trad placements on. My partner and I started slightly left of center at the toe of the buttress and ended up on an "interesting" third pitch. There is a lieback crack between two completely blank walls. My partner did it as a difficult offwidth. The topo for the route on Supertopo labels this area as "not recommended"; i'd call it 5.10 at least.

At the chimney there was a minor bottleneck but at the belay station for the last pitch there was a serious bottleneck. We stood there with 4 other parties for literally 90 minutes waiting for summiting parties to clear the last pitch. We couldn't bail out because we were well above the last set of rap rings. Several people on the ledge were nearly hypothermic and we didn't get off until well after dark. Expect at least 8 to 10 parties on a weekend day. Bring headlamps and anything you need to wait for a couple of hours and hike off in the dark because it very well could happen.

If you are climbing with parties behind you, be considerate and climb quickly and clean the route so others can follow. If you are moving slowly, let others pass you. One slow group at the beginning of the day put 4 other groups in serious danger.

Putting in an additional rap station at the ledge before the final pitch could help a lot. Sep 20, 2010
Dave Alden
Sacramento, CA
  5.6 PG13
Dave Alden   Sacramento, CA
  5.6 PG13
Fun alpine route with spectacular views. Feb 28, 2011
San Diego, CA
alleyehave   San Diego, CA
As good as people say. Although, I will say this. This is NOT the place to learn multi pitch climbing folks. Despite its easy, laid-back climbing. This is a fairly involved climb that does require efficient technique, decent route-finding, good time-management and the ability to deal with multiple other parties, above and below you. Do not come here to hone your multi pitch skills, you're either in for an epic or a royal pain in the ass for others. :) Also, there is no way in hell this is to be considered a PG13 route(above rating). There is more pro than you could ever want. Aug 3, 2011
Chris D
the couch
Chris D   the couch
With all the hype I'd read about this route I was pleasantly surprised to find that it surpassed all of my expectations. From the surprise splitter crack on the first pitch to the fun and easy chimney to the unbelievable summit panorama, this route is truly full-value. There's a lot of steep gully hiking, but it's broken up by a variety of climbing challenges, albeit solidly within the reach of any 5.6 leader with some route-finding skills. There might be one short section of face climbing that can't be protected. The rest is either cruiser or really easy to protect.

The supertopo for this route is spot-on. Use it and you almost can't get lost. A very "civilized" peak, with an easy to follow trail, clear approach, and absolutely spectacular views from the car to the summit.

DON'T miss Eichorn's Pinnacle on the way out! Don't believe what the nay-sayers say about the quality of the climbing...it's great fun, and the summit gives an awesome view of Cathedral Peak, Matthes Crest, Budd Lake, and an ocean of unparalleled beautiful granite.

A day I won't soon forget! Sep 19, 2011
Fort Collins, CO
Kurtz   Fort Collins, CO
What a great climb! What a great day! Trad-with-Dad with my 12 y.o. daughter. Wish we had enough time for the Pinnacle.

The only surprise we had was the descent. We were the second-to-last party and it was starting to get dark. Getting the last climber off the small summit block requires either some 5.6ish downclimbing or a "toprope belay" (drape the rope over the block and have the first descender belay from below and behind. Of course, the rope will snag when you pull it.

Luckily, another climber led us down, but it was a bigger slog than I expected. If anyone has better descent beta, please add it!

Once down off the block, the basic idea was to scramble down the back side, staying skiers left until you find a way to traverse all the way to the right ridgeline. Hop over the ridge and pick up a climbers trail that leads back to the base. I guesstimate that we crossed the ridgeline 100-150 yards from the summit. Jul 8, 2012
Ryan Myers
Tempe, Arizona
Ryan Myers   Tempe, Arizona
The Cathedral Peak and Eichorn's Pinnacle link-up was an incredible day in the mountains. Highly recommended. Nov 11, 2012
As of August 2013, the route around the East side of the rock peak is a improved trail -- even with some stone steps (and official-looking carabiner-icon signs near its top and bottom). Anything near the E side not on that trail is forbidden as part of a plant restoration zone.

The descent from the summit goes roughly like this:
Just below SW side of summit block, go down steep about 12 ft on double cracks - (positive holds or jams, but not all obvious or straightforward to see how to use) - traditionally graded class 4, but likely will feel like class 5 to those inexperienced with down-climbing ... so just plan on continuing the belay from the final pitch of the ascent.

Next traverse NW about 10 ft to a notch in the summit range. Cross the ridge to the NW face. Descend about 20-30 ft NE diagonally to near the NE edge of the NW face, to a ledge. Then down SW like another 20 ft.

Next work down like 60-90 ft whatever way works. The goal is to end at the NE edge of the NW face, at a flat spot with some bushes -- which is at the boundary between the solid rock above and the talus slope below. There is a narrow ledge system (not difficult) which spans across pretty much the whole face, so the idea is to spot that flat spot, then down-climb to that level but no farther.
. . (There is also a wider ledge above that, which is tempting, but then it requires a low class 5 down-climb move to reach the flat spot.)
Many people find it easiest to first traverse all the way over to the SW side of the face and go down there, then traverse all the way back across to the NE side.

From that flat spot, traverse horizontally around the N corner through bushes onto the East side of Cathedral Peak. Scramble down about 30 feet to the new improved trail. Down on that trail along the base of the cliff of the E side of Cathedral Peak summit area, at first SE, then curving S -- back down to meet the approach trail near the bottom of the SW buttress climb. Aug 17, 2013
Jonathan hudson
baltimore, MD
Jonathan hudson   baltimore, MD
GPS cords for the bud lake trailhead. Lat 37º 52' 10"N, Long 119º 23' 12"W Aug 25, 2013
Ash Gambhir  
A TRUE CLASSIC! Aug 6, 2014
Costa Mesa, CA
Howard   Costa Mesa, CA
Got much fuller value whilst passing parties: did the harder crack variation to the right of the chimney pitch. Later, did the steep hand crack leading to the summit ledge before the true summit block. Anybody try it and have an opinion? Aug 17, 2014
Kesto Pesto
Oakland, CA
Kesto Pesto   Oakland, CA
Fantastic climb. Celebrated my partner's recovery from knee surgery with this route. Next time, less gear and climbing in approach shoes. We started on route B, but ended up casually passing folks somewhere in the middle area. Met many new friends at crowded belays. Sep 3, 2014
Countzen Shin
Santa Monica, CA
Countzen Shin   Santa Monica, CA
The climbers route Beta in the Tulumnoe free climbs guide book (supertopo.com/packs/tuolfre… ) is pretty off. We were hiking in pre-sunrise and using that book as beta for the approach and got pretty lost. The actual climbers trail has been uploaded by me to wikiloc.com.


Also some descent beta since I couldn't find visuals anywhere.
wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do… Oct 13, 2014
Oakland Park, Florida
Floridaputz   Oakland Park, Florida
I just climbed this again, taking the center route this time. Perfect day, tee shirt weather. Be ware on the summit to not rap directly down the crack which faces SW. Rope eater ! The anchor on top is now a couple stoppers. I advise you inspect it prior to rapping, one of the stoppers was not engaged when I checked it. Aug 2, 2015
Mike Holley
Boone, NC
Mike Holley   Boone, NC
This is a climb that reminds you why you even started climbing in the first place! If you need a Re-up on your stoke get on this thing asap!! Super fun movement over stunning quality rock in a sublime environment. A metamorphic route that can be whatever you want it to be, a hundred different ways to make the send. And what about that summit—whow—an historical and aesthetic pinnacle in the Yosemite Rock climbing world!! We Backpacked out, slept at the lake for two nights and climbed the route half a dozen times; varying from simul-climbing to free solo’ing to full Moon solo missions!! Yes, it truly is that freaking fun!!

  • *Obviously Watch out for crowds on this Mega Popular Classic. To avoid the masses I recommend the “Autumn Full Moon Roaring Wild Fire Ascent”**
Dec 18, 2015
We climbed it last Saturday, almost no snow on approach. Took a chimney variation, it was great. Easy route finding except last 25 ft or so just before the summit when you have option to go over the top or go around on the left side. I went left, which was mistake, because moving rope around over the top was very hard. My 2nd and 3rd partners climbed over the top without any problem.

No rap bolts or any kind of permanent anchor on top (06/25/2016).

On the summit block there is enough space to build 2 anchors, so if route is crowded easiest way to descend is to wait next party and ask to use their anchor. If there is no one around you can downlead, that's what we did.

Descent was not obvious, I think you need to go toward Eichorn first and then make a traverse to the right. We went straight down via ledges with trees and across to the right, which involved few sections of easy 5 class.

Great route overall, highly recommended. Jun 27, 2016
A Johnson
A Johnson   Atascadero
Well that was pretty awesome! We camped at Tuolumne and got up at 430. Drove to the trailhead and a short hike later realized we had made it to the base first! With our speed, my partner and I didn't make it to the top first but we definitely had a blast. This was our first real trad route on a bigger wall and boy was it worth it. Until a couple days later this was the best route I had done. As we were setting our anchor above the chimney a couple of guys passed us free-soloing. Always a rush. Aug 18, 2016
Boriss   Sacramento
So good! If you follow the right lie back at the start of pitch 3, make sure you cross back into the crack system left. I continued up and had to do some exposed slab moves. Jan 9, 2017
Hannah Spendlove
Reno, NV
  5.6 PG13
Hannah Spendlove   Reno, NV
  5.6 PG13
Simple climb! 5.8 crack to top described in topo seemed more like 5.7. By farm one of the most incredible summits! Aug 21, 2017
Isaiah Foulks
Isaiah Foulks   Monterey
Bored, sitting here in my back yard so I'll share a tidbit of my experience on cathedral... we decided to approach from the west, by hiking up medlicott to cathedral lakes, then up under eichorn pinnacle and around the south side (lots of fucked up 4th class there...). We did it because of the views. From that perspective, it was a huge success. Spectacular scenery from medlicott all until sunset... because the sun set on us as we topped out. This meant navigating the west side back to the car.. our navigational gear? A topographic map of the area, a compass, and one cell phone for light between the two of us. I remember staring at my headlamp on the front seat of my truck thinking, "nah we shoundt need that." Mmm... lessons...The stars helped us identify nearby peaks as we set compass bearings and followed them... avoiding cliff outs as best we could. Very frustrating to find the path down from the base of medlicott under a moonless night: many cliff systems with only a single path through them. But holy shit, the stars!!! Took us 3.5 hours to achieve the base of the climb... and almost 6 hours to find our ice-encrusted car (temps were in the upper 20s). If you want to combine exquisite hiking and exquisite climbing into one long fucked up adventure to never forget for the rest of your naive life, try it out! Feb 13, 2018
Tucson, AZ
mikehilbert   Tucson, AZ
Met up with Yosemite legend, "Zep" free soloing at the top, as we were trying to decide how to descend from this climb's amazing summit block. Here's the beta he gave us for an easy descent:

1. Lower your partner to the backside 4th class ledges from your summit anchor.
2. Have the lowered partner build an anchor down there and put you on belay.
3. Drape the rope over the summit block in the groove and remove your summit anchor.
4. Downclimb the 5.2 summit block via the ascent route (on tr via the draped rope ) and flick the rope over the summit block after traversing to the the ledges. From there it's a 4th class downscramble toward Eichorn and over or rapping to the base of the 4th class portion of the Muir route.

From what we could tell this appears to be the easiest and safest way to descend from this must-do summit. Jun 23, 2018
Hobo Greg
My Van
Hobo Greg   My Van
My first naked free solo (or rock climb for that matter). Luckily the chimney is smooth on the inside. Also do not miss the awesome handcrack boulder problem on the descent! Jul 28, 2018
Walt Packer
Logan, UT
Walt Packer   Logan, UT
Amazing climb. Fun climbing, we stated far right and joined up at the base of the chimney. Trailed my pack for the first 20' with a alpine draw. After that, it was no problem. Super fun pitch, I was going to go left but glad we didn't. We hit it the Saturday before Labor Day and got cut off multiple times by inconsiderate parties. It really is that busy, so if you are a more considerate person, beware. Coming off the summit block should not be a problem downclimbing. I am sketched out by downclimbing most the time, this was super easy to downclimb and put in gear for the second. The rope over the summit block sounds complicated and super hard on your rope. Awesome climb! Sep 5, 2018
Adam Susa  
If you're concerned about finding the branch for the approach trail off the John Muir or being able to follow the climbers trail back to the car (potentially by headlight if you're like my partner and I and take WAY longer than you plan to do this route), use the maps.me offline trail map app. You can download the map for the area in advance, which includes the approach trail and many other Yosemite climber's trails, then use GPS to find your way even if you don't have cell service. (I'm not affiliated with this free app, I just really like it!)

As for the climb, did this Sept. 14 and it was amazing. Cold and brutally windy to be sure. Opted for the face climb alternative to the chimney as (1) there was a lot of traffic on the route that day and (2) my partner and I both had packs and didn't feel like climbing with them hanging between our legs. The face climb felt a little sketchy to me, but protected better than I'd expected with nuts in small cracks (or with small cams, if you're into that kinda thing). Cut the face climb pitch short which left my partner 20 feet short of the summit, leading to a very short summit pitch.

The descent is not trivial if you don't know where you're going. I guess the right way is to start down the slabs towards Eichorn?? We tried to work straight down through the middle of the slabs and ended up leaving a sling on a tree to rap out of slab hell to a better ledge to follow up to the ridge to cross over to the descent trail. Nov 3, 2018