Cathedral Mountain, 3190m

Cathedral Mountain worked us. Partly because it is a large ski tour ascent, partly because there was no snow for the first 4km and 300 vertical meters, and partly because the snow was bullet-proof on the moraine and post-holing down in the trees. 

With the ski season winding down, we wanted to get in one or two more ski ascents in before the end of the season. So at 4:00am May 1st, myself(Sam) and two friends, Dylan and Evan, departed Calgary and made our way to Yoho National Park. The start of the route is at the Lake O'Hara access road, which was bone dry and so we swapped out our ski's and boots with runners. The 4km trek up the access road went quickly and we were shortly greeted by a river ford, for those of us who were not awake by this point surely was now! After crossing the river we had to ascend to the snow-line which was 200-300m above us, which was a slog to say the least. 

Once we reached the snow-line, we strapped on our touring gear and started to make better headway up the mountain. After an hour or so of touring we had to ascend a large chute which normally would be a breeze to bootpack but for us it was a mixture of crusty snow and loose rock. Ascending the chute took more effort than anticipated, it was a 2-step-froward/1-step-back situation. 

 

At this point, I was starting to feel a little hooped but we still did not have eyes on the summit, not ideal...Slowly but surely we ascended the moraine features and then up and over the toe of the glacier. Finally we could see Cathedral's summit! Making our way up the glacier we could not help ourselves but be amazed by the massive cliffs on either side of the summit ridge. For the last 100 vertical meters we decided to boot-pack as the slope was quite steep and a fall could have dire consequences. The last 100m were not made easy, full on winter conditions were present at the top with lots of loose snow and wind-lips that had to be broken down along the approach. 

The weather gods did not fully co-operate with us on the summit but we were able to get a glimpse of the shear drops on the west side of the mountain! After a summit snack and waiting (in vain) for a break in the weather, we decided to make our way back down. 

There is an alternative descent route that goes down an hour-glass feature on the north side of the mountain, descending down towards the town of Field. This provides an impressive 1934m of vertical descent! 

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Halfway down the hour-glass there is a 10m frozen waterfall that can be rappelled. Once past the waterfall, the terrain opens up and you can enjoy some amazing turns on an open face down to highway 1! 

Overall this is an amazing ski tour that I would recommend to anyone who wants to get on top of a great summit and have a pretty amazing ski line down. Side-note: before reaching the highway on the descent you must cross a set of train tracks, so be aware of cargo trains and the Rocky Mountain Express Train (so be sure to wave to the tourists onboard!).