Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade V
Elevation Gain
1,200.00 ft (365.76 m)
4.60 mi (7.40 km)
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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.


Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass


Beautiful scenery. Fun climbing. Easy to protect. Wild summit.


Can be crowded on a weekend.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

8,500.00 ft (2,590.80 m)


Backcountry camping
Rock climbing
Big vistas


Nearby Lodging + Camping


the grade is wrong on this post, the climb is grade III 5.6, not grad V

articles like this one ruin the out doors by turning them into tourist destinations for the sake of the author's ego and some ad revenue.
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