Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite + Central Sierra, California

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Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress


  • Cathedral Peak as seen from the approach.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Looking back towards Tuolumne Meadows and Lembert Dome from the base.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • The chimney section of Pitch 2.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Perfect grantie flakes on Cathedral Peak.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Vista of Upper Cathedral Lake, Tresidder Peak and Columbia Finger from the summit pinnacle. Cloud's Rest and Half Dome are in view beyond Tresidder Peak.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Lower Cathedral Lake with Eichorn Pinnacle in the foreground.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Cathedral Peak's Southeast Buttress in the shadow with Echos Peaks beyond, as seen from the descent.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • A climber tops out on Cathedral Peak.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • The approach trail can often be snowy in April and May, and it becomes difficult to follow. Take your time and look for the bootpack when attempting this route in the early season.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Excellent climbing on the third pitch.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Nearing the dramatic summit.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • Beauty all around.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • After downclimbing from the summit block, continue north along slabs and find this narrow passage over the ridge crest.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • A beautiful sunset after a beautiful day.- Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
  • - Cathedral Peak: Southeast Buttress
Overview + Weather
Beautiful scenery. Fun climbing. Easy to protect. Wild summit.
Can be crowded on a weekend.
Yosemite + Central Sierra, CA
Pets allowed: 
Recommended Equipment:
Harness / rope / anchors
Alpine climbing NCCS rating: 
Grade V
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,200.00 ft (365.76 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Total Distance: 
4.60 mi (7.40 km)
Trailhead Elevation: 
8,500.00 ft (2,590.80 m)
Current Local Weather:
Adventure Description

Adventure Description


Cathedral Peak (10,912') is one of the best beginner alpine climbs in the country. It is a priceless trip that culminates in a very dramatic summit needle that offers a complete panorama of beautiful wilderness. The climbing is fun and easy to protect, the rock is grippy and features cool knobs (consistent with the Tuolumne formations), and the approach is mild enough to make this alpine route fairly accessible.

From the Cathedral Lakes Trailhead, begin hiking on a well-worn hiking trail toward Cathedral Lakes. At .5 miles, find a subtle trail branch to the left. This is the climbing access trail. It is well-worn, but it is also less obvious than the Cathedral Lakes trail, so keep your eyes peeled. After another mile or so, you'll be near the base of Cathedral Peak. Continue up the increasingly steep slope until you reach the base of the wall. You'll find the base of Cathedral Peak's southeast face 50 feet down and left.

There are a number of different ways to wind up this wall, and this is just one recommended route:

  • Pitch 1: Climb up a slight leftward arching dihedral for about 100 feet to a stance. Instead of belaying, continue straight up cracks another 100 feet to a ledge beneath a chimney. Belay here.
  • Pitch 2: Climb the chimney, and continue up and left on easier knobby terrain. This is another full 60-meter pitch.
  • Pitch 3: Climb the ascending arete on cool knobs, and wild moves for 60 meters to a nice ledge.
  • Pitch 4: Climb up a final, short overhang (good finger-sized cams protect the overhanging moves). Make tenuous moves across the chasm to the "almost summit" block. Step across another gap to the final summit block. This is another 60-meter pitch.

There is no rappeling anchor for the summit block. Simply downclimb the east side, and circle back around heading north across slabs. Stay close to the ridge, and keep your eyes open for the narrow passage down. Downclimb a short fourth-class section, then follow a well-worn descent trail back to the base of the wall.


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