Cathedral Epic Bag



From the moment I first saw the photo of Ken Legg and Tundra the Ultradog on the helipad at the top of the world with 3 very large green phalluses in the background, I knew I had to bag Cathedral Mountain before I died.  

Cathedral is a big mountain... one of the tallest in the BC lower mainland.  It's remote, rugged and the route is not that well marked.  Definitely not the type of endeavor to undertake alone and in the rain.  Definitely is the type of accomplishment that should be enjoyed on a sunny day and shared with a good friend.

If this epic bag was to happen for me in 2010, yesterday had to be the day.  Only 5 days remained in the 2010 Bagger Challenge... and Wednesday 6 October was the only day before year-end where the probability of rain was 10% or less.  Few words were spoken when my bagger-buddy and I communicated late Tuesday evening other than we'd meet at 06:15.   Here's how it went:

  • it's as dark as tar when my alarm goes off.  I'd arrived home from a business trip to Prince George only 5 hours ago and didn't have much time to pack the night before.  Dang I hate to eat breakfast and pack for a big day like this in only 10 minutes!
  • Oh oh.  Laundry from my solo adventure 3 days ago remains where I left it: wet, stinky and full of pine needles.
  • hop on my bike at 6:00.  Get to the meeting spot before the agreed-upon time of 6:15.  Oh oh.  Forgot to pack bike tools and a patch kit.  Oh oh.  Forgot to put fresh batteries in the headlamp.  Less than 11 hours of daylight today.  Where's Crerar?  Did he sleep in?  
  • We're off and riding through the dark side streets by 6:25.  As we crest a big hill, the pink and purple traces of a new day highlight Mount Baker.  Shortly after getting onto the LSCR bike trail we spook a deer.  It's 7:30 when we lock our bikes to the Stoney Creek bridge near kilometer 8 on the LSCR trail.  We're off by 7:40
  • our day starts with a scramble up the boulders of a dry creek bed.  The peak of the North Needle is bathed in a golden glow.  We chat about all kinds of things as we aggressively scramble up the steep trail.  Less than 1 hour to Paton Peak.  Hey, I was here for the first time 3 days ago... much better view today!
  • down the other side of Paton, up through the woods, over a boulder field and into the alpine.  We're at the peak of Coliseum by 9:30.  More glorious bagger photos... Crerar just happens to have a postcard of the Roman coliseum!  The bottle of Sambuca I found on my last trip up in the cold and fog has not been touched.  I take another hit and again thank the kind soul who put it there
  • Crerar hollers, "Trail run!" and we run across the beautiful moonscape to the peak of Burwell.  We're there in under an hour.  It's hot and sunny.  We're so happy we could burst.
  • the trail from Burwell is less traveled.  We pick separate lines down the ramp-like north face to the Cathedral saddle.  No flagging.  The occasional inukshuk.  Crerar draws first blood as we bushwhack through dense gnarl.  No tape at all.  Best line appears to be on the right under some cliffs.    
  • we do a lot of rock-hopping.  Long traverse left.  Seems to me we've gone way too far, but Crerar (who was here the year before) hollers "tape!" and we come to a very narrow gully with little margin for error.  He goes up, I go across and into a thicket of roots.  Both routes lead to a few more boulder fields and a series of steep, airy sections between small tables of flat on the north side of Cathedral.
  • we lose the trail.  I follow some tape downhill and get cliffed-out.  Crerar heads up and finds gold.  Bad climb back up for me.  Pack gets ripped open.  Knees and shins gashed and bloodied. Getting close to 2:00 and I'm feeling it's time for a picnic at the peak
  • I find a brown and white cooler just below the peak.  Open it up.  That's odd... 2 separate compartments and nothing in it?  Find another piece... the part you sit on, wedged between a rock.  Who would leave a portable toilet way up here? 
  • A familiar yellow Search and Rescue helicopter buzzes the peak.  Goodness, has it been a year since our paths last crossed?  Wouldn't that be nice if they'd stop and offer us a ride home?
  • holy crap... what a view!  Picnic lunch includes spicy chorizo, trail mix, lara bars and a few hits of fine highland whiskey.
  • no time to lallygag if we are to make it back to a flagged trail by nightfall.  Take a few silly photos (Crerar just happens to have a photo of St. Paul's cathedral!) and we're outta there.  Make good time through the cliffy-bits, whack through the jungle down and over the saddle and run and scramble up Burwell.  There's still an outside chance we can make it back to the bikes before dark so we make a game of seeing how fast we can go without breaking an ankle
  • Sambuca still in the cairn on Coliseum.  I toast friends Richard and Denis who could not be with us today, then try to catch Crerar.  I hear a holler.  Broken ankle?  No... spooked yet again by a grouse!
  • night is falling fast.  We arrive at the Paton cutoff and head steeply downhill.  I hear a holler.  Grouse again?  No, Crerar has tree'd 2 cubby bears and mama is on the trail.  We make a high traverse of the boulder field.
  • woo hoo... trail run!  The trail is soft and we are fairly flying down it.  We take a short cut around Paton Peak and descend as fast as we can.  Lights on.  Dang... I wish I'd changed batteries after the last epic bag in the dark!  I dawdle in comparison to my partner, but were back to the trail-head in under 12-hours.  A new world record?  Hell, let's claim it!
  • going down the dew-covered creek bed in the dark was a blast.  Ankles, don't fail me now! 
  • legs are tired.  Nothing like a little bike ride to flush out the lactic acid.  Lucky the LSCR trail is smooth 'cause I can't see a thing!  It's almost 8:00 when we arrive at the DQ (Dairy Queen) for a peanut buster parfait.  We stink.  We're covered in dirt and blood.  Soccer moms eyebrows are raised.  If only they knew...