Remmel, Amphitheater and Cathedral

Pat and I climbed Remmel (8685, class 4), Amphitheater (8358, horse trail), and the Southeast Buttress of Cathedral (8601, 12 pitches of 5.7 and 5.8) last week.

Trailhead is Andrews creek, 20 miles north of Winthrop. First thing we noticed when we arrived at the parking lot was that unlike all the other people, we had forgotten our horses. We were one of the two vehicles at the trail head not sporting a horse trailer. The other 12 trucks came packing horse meat.

Undaunted (or at least committed), we lugged out the big !McHales with a big ole rack, double 8 climbing ropes, and 9 days of food. We later found out that you can hire a mule for $100 / day who can carry 250lbs of stuff. Look for a mule-powered trip next year!

It's 20 miles in to Cathedral lakes. The trails are all like the PCT: wide, gentle grade, and dusty from decaying horse manure returning to the earth. Lot's of horse people passed us, looked at our packs, and shook their heads. Both of us developed blisters, which we hadn't done in a long time. I blamed the heavy pack, not the fact that i've spent the entire summer on the sofa watching west wing.

Day 3 we scrambled the NW ridge of Remmel. It's got a couple of grippy class 4 moves, but otherwise goes easily. There's a horse trail up the south ridge. That night a yearling buck dear meandered fearlessly into our camp browsing for pee salt. We tried to scare him away by explaining to him what would happen to him if he kept approaching people within an hour's drive of Winthop but he appeared unconcerned. We named him Not-Long-For-This-World.

Day 4 we moved camp to some great granite slabs just to the NE of Cathedral lake. There's a small lakelette up there for cooking water and less delicate vegetation than near the main lake, plus it's removed from the popular horse campsite at the west end of Cathedral lake.

Day 5 was a pretty walk up Amphitheater. It's a spiral shaped mountain with 4 spoke ridges. The north side of the West ridge is a beautiful granite cliff, 800 - 1000 feet tall, ending in Cathedral lake. Many, many rock routes up that cliff face. Big views from the top, especially as you can walk along the whole cliff face for almost a mile.

The big climb was the southeast Buttress of Cathedral. We hit the rock at 8:30 am and didn't top out until 5. It's a bunch of short pitches, most of them easy to protect. In places the rock is not as solid as Becky would lead you to believe. Horns exposed to the weather were sometimes brittle and crumbly, but the rock inside cracks was bomber as could be. Even with heavily taped hands we were pretty chewed up by the cracks. We used twin 8s, which worked great, and a medium sized rack w #.5 - #3 black diamond cams, plus stoppers and a few tri-cams. There were a couple of cracks where a #4 would have been nice, but we could generally find alternatives. We thought the ratings were on the low side (either that or we were off route or perhaps just plain wussy).

We swung leads, with Pat conveniently taking most of the 8s and me the 7s. After leading the 2nd pitch, i somehow lost the pages to the guide book. This is not a good idea. Much head scratching ensued as we went up trying to decide where the route was supposed to lead (there are *lots* of options), but luckily Pat had read it about 6 times and his age-induced dementia was temporarily reversed by fear of death, and he pulled us through.

At the very top there's a 2-pitch, 5.9 wall that you can bypass by moving right and searching around for a 5.6 - .7 chimney. Lot's of poking around on the pointy end of the rope hoping that the route doesn't dead end, but if you keep at it, the chimney is findable, and we gladly rode it up.

Walkoff the back side is non-trivial. We rapped one pitch down. Becky claims there's a 4th class ascent up the back, but I'd want a rope for sure.

Hiked out in two days on very sore feet. Still craving salt, our friend Not-Long-For-This-World ate Pat's ski pole staps while we slept the last night at Andrews pass. Just consider for a moment the grossness of what i just wrote. Yuck! Pat cursed him to spend enternity gazing over the cool green felt of some basement game room pool table, and I bet he gets his wish.

Only bad part of the trip was not bringing a mule. This is a great area to basecamp into and do a *lot* of climbing. There's lots o trout in the lakes, one of whom took my lure and gave his or her life to provide us very tasty ordourves.