Having made two attempts recently, not making it to Cathedral Rock was gnawing at me and so, back to Sabino Canyon Park on Thursday to try again. I believe that is it, center/right, highlighted by the rising sun. CR is the highest point in the Catalina Mountains, which are a front range to Mount Lemmon. It was going to be a long day but enjoyable.
Gaining a little in elevation, I looked to the southwest. Beautiful and glimmering in the sunshine was the observatory on top of Kitt Peak, way, way distant.
My least favorite part of the hike, the mile long Cardiac Gap climb. I reached the top of the saddle in 1:30, total time from the parking lot, about the usual time.
At mile 6.25, the trail, having emerged out of the canyon, rather steeply that contains Bridal Veil Falls arrives at a broad expanse of slick rock with a couple of large boulders. Here, I stash my backpack and in a waist pack, carry about a liter of fluids, snack, etc... for the final push to the top. Note the blue sky, which contrasts with.....
....what I saw on Sunday when I turned around. With 3000' of climbing, I have about that left which means, lots of climbing to go and about another 3 miles.
The trail rises above Esperero spires with mountain ranges in the distance. I make a right off Esperero Trail on to Cathedral Rock trail. So far, the trail has been fairly easy to follow and since I have been on CR trail once before, I now know where not to become confused. After meandering beneath a rock face, the trail emerges on to another saddle. If you have read previous reports, you know here is where I missed the off trail route to Cathedral Rock and ended up walking down hill away from the objective.
This time, I found the route, marked by cairns going steeply uphill but the cairns were spotty and I kept getting off the route. Once I realize I am off a route, I retreat to the last cairn, begin an arc of reconnoitering to try to find the next cairn but this really slows the pace. Frequently I would find a cairn, be encouraged and then, nothing. Looking at my watch, I grew very frustrated and begin shouting expletives. What the heck, maybe it would scare off a mountain lion. Finally....
.....I decided to pick a spot, in this case that obvious notch, and shoved my way through the brush, fallen trees, up scree slopes, nasty.
I arrived at the notch and faced a 12' wall and nothing to suggest this was the route. Only later, coming back down did I find this was one way but that wall.... To the left was a hundred foot drop so scouted to the right. I was running out of time but did bring a head lamp so while it would be useless up here in this morass of scrub, down below on the more obvious trail the lamp would be an asset.
I found a series of cairns that led me along this ledge and up and up. Exciting stuff to be sure.
I finally made it. I could see there were some spires that could be climbed that I understand, sitting on top of is amazing but no time for that. I shot some very cool video, a few pics, wolfed down some food....
...admired the few a little longer, that's Mount Lemmon beyond the rocks.
It's actually mesmerizing and I didn't want to leave but I began entering an anxiety phase because as I climbed down with the absence of cairns, everything looked different. I'll admit to getting a little panicky. Getting lost up here, not good. I got off the trail but found a couple of cairns that led me to that notch I had bypassed earlier and it proved to be a shortcut too!!!! The down climb was a little dicey but made it ok, got off trail, began a sweep, then just plunged through the thicket toward what I thought was the saddle with the Cathedral Rock trail and, what luck, found it.
The sense of relief was palatable. There are the Esperero spires way down there. I ran into a guy from Germany who was headed to "The Window" another great hike. I reminded him of sunset because I did not think he could get to the window and back prior to dark. On the way down, I ran into a Tarantula, below. Played with it for a moment and kept going, reaching the parking lot with an hour of daylight to spare, 6400' of climbing and 18+ miles. Fun day.
Mark is a long-time cyclist who enjoys poking fun at himself but most especially at his friends. No nicknames or comments are intended to offend, accept them in the humor they are intended.