MountainProject has a discussion page on whether SE buttress on Cathedral Peak is the best 5.6 in the world. Before starting the route when I heard that, I thought 5.6 is fairly easy, what could make it so interesting to do a comparison across all 5.6 routes around the world? Well.. after leading all the way to the summit, I got my answer. This route offers so much variation with enough spice to keep you entertained. You have a bit of route finding challenge, low angle hand crack, unprotected face climbing, chimney, wide crack, traverses, and even a few down-climbs. Any fall for the leader could result into serious consequences but fortunately the rock has a significant amount of friction.
The guidebook says choose your own adventure but I couldn’t find a better way to get to the hand-crack from the right and instead took the flakes up. Belay at the tree.
I went a bit more right and up and had to down-climb back to traverse left and head straight up-to the second tree which is the second belay station.
I didn’t extend my last piece in a crack that leads to a ledge right below the picture. The drag due to that mistake prevented me from moving up on the face moves. Therefore I brought Rick up to the ledge and then headed for the unprotected face and the short stretch to the chimney belay.
The chimney is probably the best pitch on this climb. I stayed outside the chimney for the lower section then went in and protected the crack at the back of the chimney.
Pitch 4 seems a bit intimidating because it was more unprotected face climbing. I considered going to the left so that I can protect it but a soloist tried it before me and did not recommend it. The start of the face moves is a bit scary, but knobs get bigger as one gains height.
This pitch was quite interesting. The crack started with a piton and then widened until you could nearly get inside it. I choose not to protect the lower section of the crack as that’s fairly close to the ledge, but I lacked gear to protect the wide section as well. Fortunately its fairly short and once you pull up to the ledge you are safe.
After you get to the ledge, you can traverse left on airy moves to the summit block. The summit block has very little space and does not have any rap station therefore you will have to down-climb the blocks and keep traversing left.
You will find the summit box in the corner before the down-climb begins. This picture is taken from where the summit box was found.
There are two tree rap stations which deposits you on several blocks. Traverse right and over to gain the trail back to the base of SE buttress. We didn’t leave our pack but the trail meets the starting point so hanging the packs could have made the climb more pleasurable for Rick.
Wrong shirt on a sweltering hot day equals dunking head into ice cold creek. Really enjoyed this climb as a rest day activity.