Bob Perlmutter had been looking at this line for a while — we’d talked about it many times. Today was the day!
After checking NOAA weather radio, I figured we’d have a weather window on Monday morning, after a weekend of beautiful high pressure had matured the snow. After doing a few “ski fitness hikes” this past week a big line was all I wanted, so I called Bob on Sunday afternoon and told him there was only one place I felt like going. It would be his third day in a row of alpine starts and sleep deprivation — but a first descent on this beautiful mountain was all the motivation he needed. The trip was on.
Cathedral Peak is about as close to being a Colorado fourteener as you can get without it having official status. Per the usual state of affairs for our 14,000-foot peaks, the lines are big and steep, but doable. We had a fantastic day. Weather doubts kept the adventure alive, the crampon climb up steep firm snow was alpinism at its finest, and the ski down worked out super well. The line goes from the exact summit down the ridge a few feet, then over a scary steep entrance to the couloir. It averaged about 45 degrees steep, with a couple of sections that were around 50 degrees but short and easily handled. Perlmutter was excited to complete this route, as he’d known the line for years. Ditto.
Bob has a history with Cathedral Peak. Along with Kirk Lawrence, he did the first ski descent of the peak in the late 1970s, via a stunning line that I named the “Pearl Couloir” in my guidebook, as a way of honoring Bob’s long term contribution to backcountry skiing in Colorado’s Elk Mountains. In 1999 Bob and I skied another first descent on the west side of the peak, down the diagonal Lisa Couloir we’d also gawked for years (I named that one after my wife Lisa). With our new line today, Bob has possibly been in on the first descent of every line that’s been skied on Cathedral Peak. Perhaps we should change the name to Mount Perlmutter? (Just kidding).
One of my favorite things about alpinism is the friendships that go along with it. I loved skiing this great line, but equally special was spending a day with Bob. He’s a stellar guy and a superb mountaineer. We’ve shared many ski descents over the years, beginning with an early (probably first or second) descent of the Crystal Chute on Mount Sopris, Colorado in 1979, and then skiing fourteeners together. Bob and I always seek the “aesthetic line.” Thinking back, that all started with the Crystal Chute — to culminate 25 years later with today’s East Face of Cathedral Peak.