Cathedral Rock by Mount Daniel and PCT via Peggys Pond / 大教堂岩

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Cathedral Rock ranks #7 in the Mount Daniel area. This prominent rock feature above Peggys Pond is visible from many places in Alpine Lakes Wilderness. To the west, Venus Lake and Spade Lake separate The Citadel, the nearest higher peak, and Ares Peak.

Cathedral Rock and Peggys Pond at sunrise
Cathedral Rock and Peggys Pond at sunrise

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Cathedral Rock at a Glance

Environs = Ares Peak + The Citadel
周圍地區=艾瑞斯峯+堡壘峯

Access: Cathedral Rock Trailhead
Round Trip: 18.3 miles
Elevation Range: 3360′-7120
Gear: helmet
Route Info: Chad Painter, Luke Helgeson
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on Ares Peak

The Preface on Cathedral Rock

The plan was to climb Ares Peak and The Citadel in one long day. Then I’d come back for Cathedral Rock, which I’ve wanted to visit since Dip Top Gap. But I boarded the dogs because two of the three peaks involved technical terrain.

After reviewing the logistics, I decided to stay the night. So I could kill three birds with one stone since I wasn’t sure if I’d return soon. It’d also let me enjoy the trip more and avoid repeating the hike through Peggys Pond.

Cathedral Rock Trailhead
Cathedral Rock Trailhead

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Early Start from Tucquala Meadows

It was only the second week of fall, so popular places around here were full of campers. I started from the packed lot at 4 AM with a long day ahead. So I could avoid Saturday’s crowds by going past the beaten path early.

The yellow pup and I hiked the Cathedral Rock Trail four years ago. I missed the days when he could come along on most outings at a moment’s notice. Apart from his old age, my current goals are also not dog-friendly.

This way to Cathedral Rock
This way to Cathedral Rock

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Cathedral Rock Trail to Peggys Pond

I walked a bit of a muddy trail after crossing the bridge. The initial 1400′ gain to Squaw Lake over long switchbacks felt super long. Then I gained 800′ over 1.75 miles to the fork with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Walking below Cathedral Rock, I vaguely remembered seeing a trail fork below Peggys Pond. I double-checked Luke‘s track and saw that his group had taken the lower trail. So I did the same to bypass the lake onto the east ridge.

Unnamed Pond
Unnamed Pond

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Mount Daniel East Ridge to Circle Lake

The main path took me through the gentle hillside at sunrise. But before rounding the ridge at 6300′, I stopped by a group of trees to hang my overnight items. Soon, I walked to the south as The Citadel came into view.

A bear feasting berries in the broad gully above Deep Lake had spotted me earlier. But I only realized it when I saw a black figure run up the hill. Then I crossed to the other side shortly before it returned to the same spot.

Rounding Mount Daniel's east ridge to Circle Lake
Rounding Mount Daniel’s east ridge to Circle Lake

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Bypassing The Citadel to Venus Lake

I took a break by Circle Lake’s outlet to enjoy the serene view before moving again. The trail ended by the empty group sites, but the faint path continued. Soon, I went up the grassy slope, followed by the scree.

Once the path faded, I traversed west below The Citadel’s impressive north face. I collected water from a melting snow ramp, which I crossed without rerouting. Then a scree slope took me onto the 6920′ saddle looking west.

Spade Lake from The Citadel north saddle
Spade Lake from The Citadel north saddle

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Ares Peak via Venus Lake Outlet

I mistook the mesmerizing Spade Lake for Venus Lake and couldn’t find Ares Peak. I couldn’t figure out why but I wanted to go down the scree first. As it turned out, the peak had blended into the direct west backdrop. Whew!

Past the scree were several tiers of granite rocks. The smooth slabs around the water pools had made them look like giant bathtubs. It took some weaving and down a few tall steps to reach the even more secluded Venus Lake.

Fuzzy reflection of Mount Daniel
Fuzzy reflection of Mount Daniel

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Final Stretch on Ares Peak

Until now, I’ve only seen these remote alpine lakes on the map. But I enjoy the anticipation of seeing them while visiting different parts of the wilderness. After crossing the outlet at 5700′, I went straight up the east slope.

The gorgeous slabs quickly replaced the scree. Though steep, I managed to find ways to move up the rocks. Soon, I followed the scree gully by the headwall to the notch and traversed the ridgeline to the high point.

Down to Venus Lake outlet below Ares Peak
Down to Venus Lake outlet below Ares Peak

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Ares Peak Summit Views

This peak sat 300′ lower than the pass I came from, so I couldn’t see Cathedral Rock. Meanwhile, Mount Daniel offered in-your-face views. As I glanced at The Citadel, I wondered if the crux was as awful as some have noted.

Mount Hinman had taken up the western horizon. The view continued southwest through Bears Breast Mountain and Summit Chief Mountain. Then it continued through Chimney Rock, Lemah Mountain to Three Queens.

South panorama from Ares Peak
South panorama from Ares Peak

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En Route to The Citadel

As much as I wanted to stay, I still had two more places to visit. After a one-hour stay, I retraced to Venus Lake, where someone was enjoying the lake view by the shore. Without stopping, I very slowly regained 1200′ to the saddle.

As I neared the pass, I saw three people walking up from Spade Lake. I waved, rounded The Citadel’s north side to the east, and walked up the scree to the north again. Then I went up the one class 4 move crux over shaky rocks.

North panorama from The Citadel
Scree to The Citadel

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The Citadel Summit Views

A short traverse over the narrow crest soon put me at the high point on the south end. I saw Spade Lake in full display, but too bad, Venus Lake was too deep to see. But it was the better vantage point because of the height.

I could see Cathedral Peak, plus many peaks to the west. But Mount Daniel was still the main feature in the area. Southern views were more or less similar, but the east vistas now included Teanaway peaks and Stuart Range.

North panorama from The Citadel
North panorama from The Citadel

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Final Stop, Cathedral Rock

After coming off the summit, I went straight down toward Circle Lake. Eventually, I joined my up route at the grassy slope above the lake. Then I met the three hikers I saw earlier on the way to The Citadel and chatted a bit.

Tony, Matt, and Michael had made a loop via Waptus Lake and Spade Lake the past few days. Just when they thought they had gone off-route, they spotted me upslope. They planned to return to Tucquala Meadows the day after.

Cathedral Rock versus Deep Lake
Cathedral Rock versus Deep Lake

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En Route Back to Peggys Pond

After crossing the broad gully to the other side, I retrieved my overnight items from the trees. I said hello to three folks who had come back from Mount Daniel. Soon, I followed the beaten path down to Peggys Pond.

It was two hours before sunset, and many campers had filled the basin. Knowing I’d lose more time by chatting, I bypassed the lake from the north. I’d also avoid the party of two who had just descended, looking for a way off the talus.

One step close to Cathedral Rock
One step close to Cathedral Rock

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Final Stretch on Cathedral Rock

I crossed the boulder field from the north and soon went on the west ridge. Route descriptions I had all seemed to go various ways over the class 3 scree terrain. But higher up, I followed Outside & Stuff‘s info through the chockstones.

A rope was hanging from the chockstone, which I didn’t want to pull. I didn’t find the tunnel noted in reports but took a route among the boulders up to the south ridge. Then a short, enjoyable traverse took me to the top.

Below the south ridge
Below the south ridge

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Cathedral Rock Summit Views

Mount Daniel had taken up the western skyline, so I couldn’t see Ares Peak. But I had a direct view of The Citadel, today’s highest climb. To the east were many familiar peaks, including The Cradle and Stuart Range.

I looked to the north and noticed the inversion in the Deception Creek Valley. It ended up being the heavy smoke from the recent Bolt Creek Fire. Even with the haze, I could make out familiar peaks like Sloan Peak.

Deception Creek Valley from Cathedral Rock
Deception Creek Valley from Cathedral Rock

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Back to Tucquala Meadows

Earlier during the climb, I realized I still had time to make it back tonight. So instead of going back through Peggys Pond, I took Chad‘s route and made a beeline south. Since I didn’t bring a rope, I exited via the southwest gully.

I ran into cliffs in several places but could find ways around them. I reached the main trail before the PCT fork after dark and continued. Then it was under five miles of hiking back to the trailhead packed with cars.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

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