Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Unicorn Peak - Direct North Face (5.8 A3..or 5.9+ish)

Cathedral Peak seemed like a great objective for my 'opportunistic climber' friend Julia. The SouthEast Buttress is a sweet 5.6 with incredible views of Toulomne Meadows. A bit crowded, but how bad could it be on a Sunday with a 40% chance of thunderstorms? We can leave early and be done by noon...in the worst case it will be a scenic hike to Cathedral Lake. At least, that's what I told her...
With backcountry first ascents, onsight of the Evolution Traverse car to car, climbs of multiple 6,000+ M peaks and other things worthy of spraying under my belt, I did not expect the Cathedral Peak to be a difficult objective. Especially after I have free soloed it, along with Tenaya and Matthes Crest last year. Hell, I have hiked the Budd Creek trail at least five times over the years. 
North Buttress of Unicorn. Route we climbed goes directly up the center.

A bunch of bushwhacking in Toulumne? Seriously? Well at least the views are nice!
Purdy flowers
After getting up at 5am we started up the trail. It did not seem much different then usual, but after about 20 minutes of walking I saw a campground.  There were cars parked near the trail and people walking around with their coffee mugs. I was confused to what the hell happened, but my free GPS app suggested we hiked down to the visitor's center! I was totally confused. For an ego driven male with a liter of coffee in the system, defeat is not an option, neither is common sense. Instead of hiking back up the road and taking the right trail, I decided to cut cross country till we were back in the right drainage. We gained elevation. We bushwhacked. I was still confused to what happened, and I still felt lost because the trees did not allow me to see the surrounding peaks so I could identify our location. Some more walking brought us face to face with a beautiful looking buttress. Was it Cathedral? It did not look like it, probably because it was not. The Unicorn peak was directly above us with Cathedral still a ways to the west. 

A day earlier with Bear Creek Spire in the background.
Julia on top of the Unicorn
Cockscomb, Matthes Crest and Echo Ridge
Can't see Cathedral Peak from Cathedral Peak. Our proj for the summer! :)
The buttress looked large and worthy so I proposed we do some adventure climbing. Julia said it was up to me, and I got fairly excited to climb something I know nothing about. As we hiked further to the base the views opened up and we hiked through a beautiful meadow with a clear stream running down it. We got to the base and I racked up. Since we planned for Cathedral, I brought a spartan rack of singles to a #2 camalot. Taking a direct line up the buttress we made our way up. I had fun. Placing a single cam on the first 60 M pitch and four on the second, I also had a benefit of finding an old pin. The weather was getting a little iffy and Julia realized it was not 5.6. : ( For the last cruxy pitch I took majority of weight and wore one of the packs to make her life easier. It was a 5.9+ish vertical crack with not much cheater holds. 
When we did top out on the summit, the views made up for the suffer my friend had to go through to get there. Well, at least I hope they did! 
On the descent 
More pretty flowers
Bouldering up some sick crack!
Sent the proj brah!
More views
The descent through slot canyons was adventurous and enjoyable. When we got home I was curious to see what route we have climbed and the Secor guidebook suggests it was the Direct North Face (II 5.8 A3). I was not able to find any info about repeat ascents but thought the climbing was no harder then about 5.9+ish. Those looking for something off the beaten path will be rewarded with no lines at the base and some original views of the surrounding peaks.

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