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
Photos and Trip Report