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Cathedral Peak, October 2003

Yosemite National Park, California

(click on any photo for a full-sized version)




Taking Pleasure in the "Stone Sermons"

To call Tuolumne Meadows a climbers' paradise is probably an understatement.  The area abounds with polished domes, alpine peaks and needle-like summits covered in perfect knobby granite.  Perhaps the most prominent of these striking monuments is Cathedral Peak − a lofty spire draped with sweeping buttresses that stands guard above the meadows. 

Yonder, to the eastward of our camp grove, stands one of nature's cathedrals . . . about two thousand feet high . . . thrilling under floods of sunshine as if alive like a grove temple, and well named "Cathedral Peak" . . .   From every point of view it shows marked individuality. It is a majestic temple of one stone, hewn from living rock, and adorned with spires and pinnacles in regular cathedral style. The dwarf pines on the roof look like mosses. I hope some time to climb it to say my prayers and hear the stone sermons.

- John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (1869).

Muir got his wish later that summer, when he scaled the west face of the mountain and took in the expansive views of the Yosemite high country.  He would later write that his climb of Cathedral Peak was "the first time I have been at church in California."  Since that day, untold numbers of climbers have followed in Muir's footsteps and taken in the stone sermons atop this magnificent peak. 

Like Muir, I had coveted the summit of Cathedral Peak but always thought it to be unattainable by mere mortals.  Yet my opportunity finally came in October 2003, in the waning days of autumn before the Tioga Pass road closure and the blanketing of the high country with snow.  October is a perfect time to be in the Yosemite high country -- the RV crowd has headed home, the pesky sierra mosquitoes are dead, and the temperatures are crisp and cool.  Fortunately, when I met my climbing companions at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead, we were presented with perfect weather and a marked absence of the normal Tuolumne crowds.  A good day to go to church. 

Photos and Trip Report (continued)

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