#9 Cathedral Peak – 13,943 ft.

Date: May 7, 2013
Team: Ted, Dav, Mark Falender, Linden Mallory
Route: Pearl Couloir

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers

The Pearl Couloir climbs the east side of the mountain. From the top of the couloir it’s maybe 200 vertical feet of climbing to the summit.

The Pearl Couloir on Cathedral Peak, 13,943 ft., should be on every Colorado ski mountaineer’s ticklist. Aesthetically speaking, it’s long, fairly steep, and with big rock walls and colorful spires. From a safety perspective, it’s wide enough for a group to ski comfortably and not be on top of one another, and there are ample nooks and corners to get out of the way of any hazards from above, both on the climb and descent.

When you consider the accessibility of other valleys in Aspen– Maroon, Snowmass, Capitol creeks or Independence Pass– the road access is very good, and the tour to the picturesque Cathedral Lake is worth a trip in itself. Were it not for the fact that the couloir doesn’t top out at the exact summit, this would likely be one of the most premiere summit ski descents in the Elks.

However you measure it, when you ski it you’ll agree– the Pearl Couloir is a classic.


Our route of ascent and descent is above. Disregard the third, straight line from the mountain to trailhead, an error with the iphone’s GPS and obviously not an actual route of travel.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers

Linden, Ted, and Mark nearing the top of the couloir.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, Ted Mahon

Once above the top of the Pearl, some snow/rock scrambling was needed to reach the summit.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, chris davenport

Dav, out on the Southeast Face for a little traverse.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, Ted Mahon

Further along the ridge.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, Castle peak

The view to the south. Castle Peak looms tall in the distance.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers

With skis on, the group heads back towards the top of the couloir.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, kastle skis

After some careful moves along the ridge, we arrived at a semi-reasonable entrance to the couloir.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, ted mahon, kastle skis, chris davenport

GoPro shot of Dav following me into the Pearl.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, linden mallory

Linden and Mark come down from the ridge on their little rando race skis. The new snow on a semi-firm base was friendly to the little skis.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, linden mallory

Linden in the couloir.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers, mark fallender

Mark a bit further down.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers

There was a good amount of new snow from recent storms, most of which sloughed off when skied.

Cathedral Peak, Pearl Couloir, Centennial Skiers

Dav, through the homestretch.

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Date: Mothers’ Day 2008
Team: Christy, Ted
Route: Southeast Face
[Christy and Ted skied Cathedral back in 2008. Here’s a report from the day.]

The Pearl Couloir to the right, and the ski descent to the left.

The Pearl Couloir to the right, and the ski descent to the left.

A sunny Mothers’ Day Sunday in Aspen, and during the spring of a huge snow year. Christy and I set out for Cathedral Peak.

We hooked up with a gang of friends from town and headed up to Cathedral Lake. Our goal was the Pearl Couloir of Cathedral, an area classic and sweet objective by itself. At the top of the couloir however, Christy and I would continue on up and over to Cathedral’s true summit, and ski it’s Southeast Face. (The map above details our ascent route.)

For beta, the Pearl is straightforward, but to connect it’s top with the true summit, expect a few mixed climbing moves on standard loose Elk Range rock, and a pretty airy traverse. Having skied Cathedral peak now three times myself, I find it better to climb the ski line itself direct from the lake– it’s no more committing, and you’ll get a good sense of the route and snow conditions for the descent. Since several seemingly good routes off the top cliff out, some recon of the route is usually a good idea.

Either way, we had a great climb, and a somewhat sloppy spring powder ski descent.

On approach to Cathedral Lake.

On approach to Cathedral Lake.

ted mahon

At the top of the Pearl.

Traversing from the top of the Pearl.

Traversing from the top of the Pearl.

Easier ground to the summit. Castle stands tall in the distance.

Easier ground to the summit. Castle stands tall in the distance.

Two traverses off summit through the steep section.

Two traverses off summit through the steep section.

After heading skier's right from the summit, some couloirs show the way down.

After heading skier’s right from the summit, some couloirs show the way down.

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