Cathedral Park 2017

Date: July 28-31, 2017

Participants: Eira Zenger, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger, Ed Zenger, Leslie Zenger, Peter Zenger, Nancy Zenger, Jeff Wallace

Difficulty: 1-3

Report: Ever since Brittany and I climbed the Matriach-Macabre-Grimface traverse from Wall Creek back in 2013 I had the idea in my head to book a cabin at Cathedral Lakes Lodge for the whole extended family and explore the core part of Cathedral Park.  Earlier this year, Brittany and I finally got our act together and pulled the trigger to organize a 4 day trip into the park.

We all met on the night of the 27th at a Keremeos campground so that we wouldn’t have to drive too far the next morning to meet our 10am ride from Cathedral Lakes base camp up to the lodge compound at Quiniscoe Lake, and after a poor night’s sleep due to the sun waking Eira at 4:45am, we drove down Ashnola Creek road to meet our ride in.  Lucky for us, as we were going to be staying in Tom’s cabin, which is a few minutes walk above the lodge we all got to ride in a comfortable Suburban rather than the dusty Unimog with the other campers that morning.  The ride in takes about an hour and was made enjoyable by our driver, Ernie, and by noon we had all our belongings in the cabin and sat down for lunch.

Now, this is my largely my fault for not doing research beforehand, but I had no idea how nice the cabin was going to be.  We had a 4 bedroom cabin with sheets and sleeping room for 8 people, running hot water, as well as a stove and fridge!  True luxury!

As we ate lunch the valley filled with smoke from a fire burning south of the border in the Paysayten Wilderness, and Peter developed a fever that would stay with him for the next 4 days.  However, I was motivated to make it up all the remaining scrambles in the park and convinced my dad, Nancy, and Jeff to head out with me in the smoke to climb the east ridge of Pyramid Mountain.  This is a fun and easy half-day scramble from Quiniscoe Lake.  There is no exposure on the route and we made it to the summit in roughly 2 hours from the lake.  By the time we reached the summit, the smoke had started to subside, and from the summit we rambled along the ridge to Devil’s Woodpile, and down to the col to the south of Quiniscoe Peak.  From here, Jeff and I decided to take the long way back via Quiniscoe Mountain and Red Mountain while the others descended directly to Quiniscoe Lake.  Total round trip time for Jeff and I was about 4.5 hours.

The following day, all of us except Peter headed up to Lakeview Mountain via the Centennial Trail (note: this is not the route indicated in Gunn’s book.  We used that route for the descent).  The smoke had cleared completely by morning, and although it’s very heavy to carry an 18 month old baby all day, we shared the load around and ascended through wonderful meadows on the long gentle climb to Lakeview Mountain.  All day we could see the thick smoke to our south but it never quite encroached on us or severely diminished our views.  From the summit, everyone except for Nancy, Jeff, and I decided to head back down the way we ascended, but the 3 of us descended the south ridge of Lakeview on a good trail and made a quick jaunt up to the summit of Boxcar mountain.  From here we faced a decision of whether to return to the Lakeview-Boxcar col and follow the trail from there down to Goat Lake, or whether to continue to the south and head up Denture Ridge before descending to Goat Lake.  In the end, the decision was simple to head directly down as the smoke was starting to close in, and I found myself as able to justify not going up Denture Ridge because of how close to its high point I’d been on aforementioned trip to Matriarch.  The descent to Goat Lake was quick, and we caught up to the rest of the group not far past the Goat Lake – Centennial Trail junction, at which point I resumed my baby carrying duties.

On the Sunday, Peter was feeling well enough in the morning to join us for the beginning of our hike.  The goal was to make a circle, heading to Glacier Lake, then to Stone City, Smokey the Bear, the Giant Cleft, and then down via the Ladyslipper Lake trail and back to the cabin.  Peter and Leslie only made it as far as Glacier Lake before returning to the cabin on account of illness, but the rest of us continued upwards and made the full loop as described.  Smokey the Bear was worth checking out, but I wouldn’t really recommend people go check out the Giant Cleft.  It’s a neat formation, but if you’ve spent time in the mountains you’ve seen similar features before and visiting it requires significant elevation loss from Smokey the Bear.  In all, the loop took us nearly 7 hours.

For our final day, a few of us hiked around the lakes near the cabin, and spent the midday rowing boats around Quiniscoe Lake, although both my mom and dad chose to hike the Diamond Loop trail, which apparently has the best flower meadows of any trail in the core park.  After this, we packed up and caught our scheduled ride back down to our cars.  On the way out we stopped as usual at Benji Thai in Keremeos, and then had a terribly long drive home because a logging truck had dumped logs all over highway 3 near Manning Park and we were detoured from Princeton to Merritt in order to drive the Coquihalla to get back home to the Lower Mainland.  Oh well.

In all, this was a terrific trip, and I am very grateful that my whole family was able to join our experience.  The cabin exceeded all my expectations and the staff of the lodge were friendly and very helpful.  Highly recommended for everyone!

Continue ReadingCathedral Park 2017

Matriarch, Macabre Tower, Grimface Traverse

Trip Date: Aug 11-13, 2013

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger, Kris Wild (guide)

Difficulty: 5 (Mandatory climbing to 5.6, optional to 5.10a)

Gear: We climbed on two 30m ropes, and a small rack of small to mid-sized cams with a couple nuts.

Report: Ever since encountering a description and topo for the Matriarch, Macabre Tower, Grimface (MMG) traverse in Beckey’s Cascade Alpine Guide a couple years ago, it’s been near the top of my list of routes that I’d like to do.  Described as a classic traverse of three peaks over an exposed ridge on solid granite, requiring numerous climbing techniques, but never becoming excessively difficult, it appeared to be a great way to get a taste of alpine rock.  In order to have a good chance of success, for our anniversary this year I decided to arrange for a guide to come with us into the southern parts of Cathedral Provincial Park to attempt the route.  The route did not disappoint.

Brittany and I drove out to Keremeos Saturday evening (Aug 10) and camped in one of the pleasant forest service campgrounds along the Ashnola Creek FSR while an intense thunderstorm raged overhead.  We woke up early Sunday morning to wet ground but clear skies, and travelled back to Keremeos where we met our guide Kris at the Ranch restaurant for breakfast just before 7 am.  After a quick bite and filling out the requisite paperwork we headed back up the Ashnola road for approximately 48 km (to just past the 38 km marker) to the Centennial trail trailhead from which we departed a bit past 9 am.  The road would be drivable by a low-clearance 2wd vehicle, but as the road is rough in places, the drive would go a fair bit quicker in a high clearance vehicle.

The first ~5km of the route into Wall Creek are on the Centennial trail, which was in great condition as it had recently been prepared for the upcoming Fat Dog trail race.  After approximately 5km the trail branches, with the left branch clearly labelled as heading to Cathedral Lodge / Quinscoe Lake.  To head up Wall Creek, take the right fork.  The trail has a lot of deadfall in places, which led us at one point to end up off the trail for about 30 minutes, but for the most part it is easy enough to follow and as long as you stay on the north side of Wall Creek you will eventually return to the trail and to the beautiful camping meadows.  We reached our camp site after just over 4 hours of hiking and sat down to prepare some soup and enjoy the sun, but the sun wasn’t to last and within the hour a thunderstorm came in to get us wet again.   Luckily we found a tarp stashed nearby that we set up to keep ourselves dry as we ate our dinner, and after the storm died down, Kris and I headed up the slopes towards Grimface to explore the ledges below its south face, and made it back before the storm came back in again.   We went to bed wondering whether the weather would be good enough in the morning for us to attempt the traverse.

We woke up early on Monday morning to clear blue skies, and set out quickly, beginning our march towards the Wall Creek-Ewart Creek col at about 6:45am.  It took us about 40 minutes up to the col, from where we began our fun scramble up to the notch between Matriarch Mountain and Denture Ridge (including encountering a relaxing mountain goat on the route).  It took us approximately 30 minutes up to the notch, and from there we roped up, put on our rock shoes (wear comfy ones!), and started on the technical part of the route around 8:30.

The climb to Matriarch mountain begins with a short pitch of low-5th up a gully, and then hits you quickly thereafter with a wild short exposed pitch of 5.6.  Once on the ridge proper, it rambles along towards Matriarch through a series of short low-5th notches, eventually reaching a short wall just below the summit that has a 5.3 chimney on the left and 5.8 crack straight up the middle.  We took the 5.8 crack up the middle, and reached the summit at about 9:45.  From here, there is an exposed rappel into the first major notch, where there is a short bolted au cheval over the chockstone at the bottom.  From here we went up and over another bump, followed by a longer rappel to a nice sandy ledge, and then a longer pitch up to a large flat and sandy ledge right below the blank wall / bolt ladder pitch.  We reached the ledge just past 11 o’clock and ate and relaxed for 30 minutes as Kris worked to reassemble a wood & webbing ladder that he had constructed years earlier to make it easier to second the bolt ladder.

We got climbing again a bit past 11:30 with Kris leading the bolt ladder and setting up the newly repaired ladder for us to follow (the ladder is now properly stashed away at the top of the pitch.  Please do not leave the ladder hanging off of the top bolt and in the wind after you use it!).  Another short pitch brought us to the top of Macabre tower, and we shortly found ourselves rappelling / being lowered into the third major notch, this time having to climb over an exposed chockstone before reaching safety at a bolt on the far side.  One move of 5.6 brings you up to a long scrambling section that eventually leads to a long rappel down a chimney, leading a ledge from which we downclimbed to the top of a large sand and scree gully that led back down to Wall Creek.  Yet another few pitches of low-5th, scrambling, and lowering brought us up and over the final rib to the base of Grimface mountain, which we reached at about 1:40pm.

From here we climbed the route listed in Beckey’s book as the “Southeast Notch” route.  Although it appears steep and exposed from below, the route in fact works its way up a series of quite unexposed mid-5th chimneys towards the summit of Grimface.  For the final pitch, I elected to take a 5.9/5.10a slab variation straight up as I was on top-rope (the standard route cuts left, then right on ledges to keep the climbing to mid-5th), and we were on the summit at 2:40pm.  Somehow, despite hearing thunder at times during the traverse, none of the storm clouds ever passed over us, and we had great (albeit very windy) weather for the entire route.  We relaxed on the summit and took in the views back at our route and also down at the part of Cathedral Park to the north that’s far more visited than where we were staying.

From the summit, we headed down the NW ridge of Grimface (the route described in Gunn’s “Scrambles” book) to the first notch, where we removed our rock shoes, put our mountaineering boots back on, and headed down the easy sand slopes straight back to camp, reaching camp just before 5 o’clock, surprisingly exhausted.  We relaxed for the evening and went to bed early.

We woke up around 7:30 on Tuesday, packed up camp, said goodbye to the salt-loving deer that had hung out at our camp since we arrived, and started on our 14km hike back to the cars.  We managed to stay on the trail for the whole route out (it would be great if whoever goes in there next brings flagging ribbon to mark the trail better for future parties heading in), but didn’t move terribly quick, and it took us just as long to hike out as it took us to hike in.  Nonetheless, by a quarter to 1 we were down at the cars and washing our limbs in Ashnola creek.

In conclusion, it was a fantastic trip.  The route itself was phenomenal with good rock, exciting exposure, and plenty of interesting but not difficult climbing, the camping location is beautiful, and our guide (Kris) was great as well.  I would highly recommend him to anyone looking for a great day to have fun and push their limits in the mountains.  In all, this was a great introduction to alpine rock climbing.


Continue ReadingMatriarch, Macabre Tower, Grimface Traverse