(SHORT REPORTS)
Category: Colorado
Elev: ~7400 ft
Rock Type: Granite
 
2019, 2020
 

CATHEDRAL SPIRES Climbing


The Cathedral Spires in the South Platte is a collection of granite spires and pinnacles. Popular features include Cynical Pinnacle, Sunshine Wall, Poe Buttress, The Bishop, and The Dome. The climbing ranges from single-pitch cragging to multipitch. It is almost all trad, with a variety of cracks, chimneys, offwidths, slabs, and faces. Most of the routes are south-facing, making this a hot summer destination but a nice cold-weather crag. The climbing here is excellent.


Cathedral Spires. 

The first time I climbed at Cathedral Spires was in November 2019, doing a link-up of two phenomenal routes: Center Route and Wunsch's Dihedral on Cynical Pinnacle. I returned a couple of weeks later to climb a fun link-up on Sunshine Wall including all three toes of Turkey Foot Crack. I was back again in January and again in February to climb couple of more multipitch routes before the spring bird closures set in for the season.  I plan to return to Cathedral Spires several times over the years. Cathedral Spires is close to home and is a great fall and winter destination when temperatures are too cool for the alpine.

The following page features some "short reports" from some climbs I've done at Cathedral Spires. Most reports include a colorful route overlay and  pitch by pitch photos. 


ON THIS PAGE:

ROUTE/LINK  DIFFICULTY DATE CLIMBED

Color-coded: 
Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter
Cynical Pinnacle
Center Route 5.9+, 3p
NOV
2
2019
 TR #: 378b
Wunsch's Dihedral 5.11b, 4p
NOV
2
2019
 TR #: 378a
Sunshine Wall
 
Turkey Foot Crack (all 3 toes) + Rip Van Winkle + summit block 5.10b, 4p + extra toes
NOV
17
2019
  TR #: 382
Gonzo's Lament + Standard Route Pitches 1-3 5.9, 4p + 
5.11a, 2-3p
FEB
15
2020

  TR #: 393
Block Tower
Hurt Dance 5.10a, 3p
JAN
20
2020

  TR #: 390
The Bishop
Bishop Offwidth & Bishop Crack 5.11a, 1-2p +
5.12b, 1p
FEB
29
2020

  TR #: 396

SEASONAL RAPTOR CLOSURES:

Seasonal raptor closures are in effect here, usually March 1 to July 31. All of the formations are closed during this time.
   


  Cynical Pinnacle   

Route: Center Route (5.9+, 3p)  CYNICAL PINNACLE

Date: November 2, 2019     Partner: Nathan Arganbright

This route is one of the more popular routes at Cathedral Spires, climbing three pitches of 5.9 crack. 5.9 crack climbing doesn't get much better than this.

This was the first route I ever climbed at Cathedral Spires. After rapping down Center Route, Nate and I climbed the stellar Wunsch's Dihedral just 30-50 feet left of Center Route. What a great day of climbing! I highly recommend doing both of these routes in a day. 
Route Overlay:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:

Approach 
Hike 1200 feet up the hill and scramble up a steep corridor which leads to the base of the route.
1.    
2.    
3.    

 
 
 
 
1. Cathedral Spires on approach. Already sunny first thing in the morning.
2. Center Route climbs a crack system about 30-50 feet to the right of the obvious dihedral (Wunsch's Dihedral).
3. Scrambling up the corridor to the base of the route. Note the ice!



Pitch 
1
5.9. Climb a short right-facing corner to a big ledge (this corner is the same as for the start of Wunsch's Dihedral), then move right to an obvious hand-crack splitter in a corner/flake. Climb up until you reach a nook with a slung belay. 
4.    
5.    
6.    
4. Looking up the corner/flake from the large ledge.
5. A bit higher in the corner/flake. Super fun.
6. Nate climbing Pitch 1. It looks sunny but the rock is probably 25° so cold fingers!



Pitch 
2
5.9+. Climb up into a short slot, surmount the roof, and climb up the crack in the corner. Belay in a small inset. This pitch is a bit more sustained than Pitch 1.
7.    7. Looking up Pitch 2.



Pitch
3
5.9. Follow the hand crack inside the chimney. When the two cracks diverge significantly, step right into the main crack system and follow the hand/fist crack in a right-facing corner to the shoulder with two bolted anchors on it. (I have smaller hands, and I found this pitch to be the crux of the route for me.)
8.    
9.    

8. The handcrack just left of the chimney.
9. Looking down from the top of the pitch.



Descent
Four rappels with a single 70 (a 60 probably works too) off bolted anchors (see overlay for locations). 
10.    
10. View to the south.



Route: Wunsch's Dihedral (5.11c, 4p)  CYNICAL PINNACLE

Date: November 2, 2019     Partner: Nathan Arganbright

This route takes on the awesome, striking crack and corner system which splits the south face of Cynical Pinnacle, going all the way to the summit in four pitches. The guidebook describes Wunsch's Dihedral as "the best route in the South Platte and is a strong contestant for the best 5.11 in the state." Pitches 2 and 3 are sustained at the 5.10+/5.11 grade, but eat up gear, making this a great route for pushing your leading limit.

I climbed this route on my first visit to Cathedral Spires, as part of a two-route link-up with Center Route (just 30-50 feet right of Wunsch's Dihedral). What a great day of climbing! I highly recommend doing both of these routes in a day. 
Route Overlay:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:

Approach 
Same as per Center Route. Hike up the hill and scramble up a steep corridor which leads to the base of the route.
0.     
 
  

 
 
 
0. xThis photo was taken on approach, and included in the Center Route photoset. Wunssch's Dihedral climbs the obvious dihedral.


Pitch 
1
5.8. Climb a short right-facing corner to a big ledge (this corner is the same as for the start of Center Route). Then move left along a nice foot ledge to Breashears Finger Crack. Follow this thin crack to a comfy ledge. For a more challenging start, climb Breasheares Finger Crack (11d) from the very start.
1.    
 
  


1. Pitch 1.




Pitch 
2
5.11a. Climb the beautiful corner. Locker hand jams the entire way, with a cruxy section near the top. This is an enduro pitch, which means it is awesome sustained 5.10 the entire way with just a few rests. Triples in #1 and #2 was nice to have. Incredible!
2.    
3.    
4.    
5.    
6.   
2. Looking up from the base of Pitch 2.
3. Probably about 1/3 of the way up Pitch 2. Still more awesomeness ahead.
4. Looking down Pitch 2 while leading, about 2/3 of the way up.
5. Looking down Pitch 2 while leading, about 2/3 of the way up.
6. Nate nearing the top of Pitch 2. I found this section to be the crux for me on lead.




Pitch
3
5.11b. Crux pitch. Pull through the chimney/roof into an enduro layback corner. The crux of the pitch is a few thin moves in the corner, rather than the roof. The upper section eases up for plug and chug jamming to a large comfy belay ledge. 
7.    
8.    
9.    
10.     
7. Looking up at the intimidating roof that starts of Pitch 3.
8. Nate starting off Pitch 3.

9. Pitch 3 above the roof. Nice lead Nate, this was not an easy lead.
10. Looking down Pitch 3 about 2/3 of the way up.



Pitch
4
5.12b or 5.7 A0. Climb the 6-bolt ladder or attempt to free the 5.12 face. The final section above the last bolt is about 10-15 feet of 5.7 slab climbing to the summit....
11.    
12.     
11. The bolt ladder of Pitch 4.
12. Looking down Pitch 4. Nate looks like he found a comfortable belay position.




Descent
Five rappels with a single 70 (a 60 probably works too) off bolted anchors (see overlay for locations).
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14.    
15.    16.    
 
13. On top of Cynical Pinnacle.
14. View to the west. The obvious rock is Dome Rock.
15. The rap anchor on the summit.
16. At the base of the rappels.



  Sunshine Wall  


Route: Turkey Foot Crack (all 3 toes) (5.10b, 2p + extra toes) + Rip Van Winkle (5.10a, 1p) + summit block (5.8, 1p)  SUNSHINE WALL

Date: November 17, 2019     Partner: Erin DeMarco

Awesome 200 foot splitter + linkup with another awesome splitter all the way to the top! 
Route Overlay:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:

Approach 
Hoof up to the base of Sunshine Wall and take a right. Stop when you see the 200-foot splitter with three toes. You can't miss it.
1.    
2.    

 
 
  
 


 
 
1. Sunshine Wall on approach.
2. Turkey Foot Crack is the splitter on the left wall.


Pitch 
1a
(Turkey  Foot Crack: 3 toes)
5.9-10b. Choose between the three toes. Or climb all three before moving on. There is a bolted anchor above the three toes.
3.    
4.    
5.    
6.    
7.    
8.       
3. Middle Toe. This is the one we climbed first. Listed in the guidebook as 5.9- and the "easiest toe" but we thought it felt more like 5.10a and was harder than the toe on the right.
4. 
Looking down from the intermediate anchor at the top of the toes.
5. Erin starting up the right toe. This one is 5.9 and felt the easiest of the three toes.
6. Crux wde section near the top of the right toe.
7. Left toe. This one is the hardest, at about 10b.
8. 
Erin climbing the left toe.




Pitch 
1b
(Turkey  Foot Crack)
5.10a/b. Climb the wide hands to fists splitter to a bolted anchor. Combined with one of the toes, this makes for an awesome 200 foot enduro lead.
9.    
10.    
11.    
12.   
9. Looking up the second half of Pitch 1, above the intermediate anchor. 
10. Erin climbing the wide splitter.
11. View of Cynical Pinnacle to the east.
12. View of The Bishop and The Dome to the west.




Pitch
2
(Turkey  Foot Crack)
5.8. Head right from the top of Pitch 1, pass below a corner that peters onto a blank face, and climb cracks in a corner after this. The finish to this pitch is sort of adventurous (at least the way we did it).
13.    
14.    
15.    
13. Do not climb up this. The crack peters out onto a 5.10 R face.
14. Instead, climb this. Fun 5.8 climbing.
15. Looking down from where I belayed at the top of Pitch 2. I suspect I went a bit higher and further onto more adventurous terrain than needed, but I like an adventure.



Pitch
3
(Rip Van Winkle)
5.10a. Climb the splitter ripping through the east-facing wall, ending at a nice platform below a final summit block. Long and awesome pitch.
16.    
17.    
18.    
19.    
16. Looking up Rip Van Winkle.
17. Higher up on Rip Van Winkle.
18. Looking down from high up on the pitch. It's a long pitch.
19. Erin on the nice platform at the top of Rip Van Winkle.




Pitch
4
(summit block)
5.8. The actual top of the tower is about 30 feet above the ledge at the top of Rip Van Winkle. I couldn't find this pitch in the guidebook, but it looked climbable and getting to the top was too compelling to pass up. To get to the top, climb the thin hands/off fingers splitter to the right edge, boulder around to the right, and find a crack leading to the top of the tower. It felt about 5.8. There are no bolts up there (as of Nov 2019), and all I found was a piece of old tat for a west-side rappel, so I downclimbed the route back to the ledge at the top of Rip Van Winkle.
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23.   
20. Climb the splitter that diagonals to the right side of the wall, and then boulder around and find another crack system leading to the top.
21. On top, looking down at Erin at the belay! There was no anchor on top, so Erin decided not to climb up and I downclimbed the route, which was easy enough to do.
22. Block Tower (in profile on the left) and Cynical Pinnacle to the east.
23. Wall of Mirrors to the north.



Descent
There is a bolted rap anchor at the top of Rip Van Winkle for a north side rappel. We rappelled to a large ledge (single 60 or 70 gets you here), and not finding another rap anchor, we scrambled down somewhat-sketchy terrain to the gully below, and then took this easily back to the base of Turkey Foot Crack to pick up our packs and hike out to the car.
24.    
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24. Erin at the rappel anchor.
25. Yea, safely back to the pokey bushes on the valley floor!
26. Turkey Foot Crack in afternoon light.
27. Turkey Foot Crack in afternoon light.



Route: Gonzo's Lament (5.9, 4p) + Standard Route Pitches 1-3 (5.11a, 2-3p, toprope)  SUNSHINE WALL

Date: February 15, 2020     Partner: Michael Cantrell

Fun 5.9 crack and chimney climbing with a little bit of ice to spice things up. We capped of the day by toproping the two stellar lower pitches (5.10d and 5.11a) of Standard Route on the descent.
Route Overlay:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:

Approach 
Hoof up to the base of Sunshine Wall and take a right. About an hour from car to base of route.
1.    
2.    
3.    
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1. The trailhead. Always chilly in the morning shade.
2. Approaching Sunshine Wall.
3. The Bishop. I really want to climb the obvious offwidth/chimney (appropriately named The Bishop Offwidth, 11a).
4. Icicles.









Pitch 
1
5.9. Begin in a chimney immediately right of Standard Route.Above the chimney, climb an enjoyable hand crack in a corner to a ledge.
5.    
6.    
7.    
8.         
5. The usual start to Pitch 1 is the chimney. Hmmm....
6. 
The chimney was pretty icy, so we climbed to the right, which was still a bit icy but at least protectable.
7. Ice on Pitch 1. A good way to spice up the 5.8.
8. 
Fun hand crack in the corner to finish off Pitch 1.


Pitch 
2
5.8 or 5.9+. Continue up to the left facing dihedral to a belay notch. A 5.9+ variation takes intermittent cracks to the left of the corner.
9.    
10.    
11.   
9. Pitch 2 corner. I took this photo as we were descending via the rappel route just left of the route.
10. 
Michael nearing the end of the pitch. I had climbed the 5.9+ variation following intermittent cracks to the left of the corner. The corner looked more my style, but had been guarded by a triangle of snow, and I didn't feel like wallowing through it in my TC-pros.
11. The Bishop and The Dome to the west.



Pitch
3
5.9. Traverse left from the belay to reach a vertical crack. Continue up the crack to a small ledge.
12.    
13.     
12. Michael starting off Pitch 3, which begins with a traverse left from the notch.
13. Pitch 3 follows a vertical crack. Fun stuff.

Pitch
4
5.8. Climb the squeeze/flare/chimney to a ledge at the top. We had a #6 and found it quite nice to have (#3-sized gear fits further back in but this means you have to go further into the flare, and it is much more enjoyable to be able to stay in a wider part of the flare).
14.    
15.    
16.    
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14. Looking up Pitch 4.
15. The squeeze/flare. I love this sort of climbing.
16. Looking back down before committing to the squeeze.
17. Michael following Pitch 4.



Descent
Rap the Standard Route to climbers left of Gonzo's Lament. 5 raps with a single 70.
18.    
19.    
20.      
18. The first rap anchor is on the edge of the ledge.
19. The first rappel.
20. 
On rappel. The rope is going over a 12c pitch of Sunkist. No wonder it looked hard....

BONUS PITCHES!

(Stand-ard 
Route Pitches 1-3)

(toproped on rappel descent)
Pitches 1&2: 5.10d, 130' (the guidebook lists this as one pitch, but mountainproject has this as two pitches, and there is an intermediate bolt anchor). Climb the obvious flake system, which starts with delicate moves and eases in the upper half of the pitch. Reach a two bolt anchor. From the anchor, layback, stem, and jam up the crack/corner, pulling over the final overhang to a large belay ledge with a two bolt anchor. 
Pitch 3: 5.11a, 50'. Head up towards a large, downward-facing flake, and make bouldery moves through the overhang and onto the gigantic block.
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22.    
23.    
24.   
21. The bouldery 5.11- roof move on Pitch 3.
22. The start of Pitch 1.
23. A little higher on Pitch 1.
24. Pitch 2 corner. We linked this with Pitch 1 on toprope (we had an 80m rope which just allowed us to do this). The guidebook puts this as part of Pitch 1 but mountainproject has it as Pitch 2. 

Hike out
Hike out the way you came. Probably easier on the way out.
25.    
26.    
25. Quite a bit of melting since we approached that morning. 
26. Cynical Pinnacle basking in the afternoon light.




  Block Tower   

Route: Hurt Dance (5.10a, 3p)  BLOCK TOWER

Date: January 20, 2020     Partner: Erika Bannon

I love a route where you need a #6 on every pitch! Thanks Erica for proposing this route and being an awesome partner. What a fun way to spend a sunny winter day.
Route Overlay:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:

Approach 
Hike up to base of Cynical Pinnacle, then cut hard left, and then semi-bushwhack due west to the base of Block Tower.
1.    
2.    
3.    
  
 
  
  
 
  

 
 
 
 
1. The trailhead for Cynical Pinnacle / Block Tower.
2. Hurt Dance starts around left of this pinnacle feature. Sex Dwarf Direct start starts on top of the block just left of the pinnacle feature. Dance of Chance starts just right of the pinnacle.
3. Scrambling up to the start of Sex Dwarf Direct.



Pitch 
1a
5.9. Sex Dwarf Direct (bonus offwidth start!). By doing this start you can use the #5 and #6 on all three pitches of the route. Scramble up onto some blocks out and around to the left of the cave start of Dance of Chance. Climb a short #5- and #6-sized offwidth to a ledge. Turn left and take a short hand crack in a right-facing corner to the base of Hurt Dance. Easily link into first pitch of Hurt Dance.
4.    
5.    
6.     
4. Erika starting up the #6-sized offwidth of Sex Dwarf Direct. 
5. The #6-sized offwidth of Sex Dwarf Direct. Yay, bonus offwidth! This way you can use the #6 on all three pitches.
6. The short hand crack leading left linking Sex Dwarf DIrect and the start of Hurt Dance.




Pitch 
1b
5.9+. Layback a short but wide low-angled left-facing dihedral to a ledge. Jam a varied finger to hand crack to a small ledge with a pair of old bolts.
7.    
8.      
7. Pitch 1.
8. The bolted belay anchor at the top of Pitch 1. The bolts are a tad old, so best to reinforce them with cams.



Pitch 
2
5.10a. Continue up the crack, which widens from hands to a offwidth (a #6 is nice to scoot along with you and a #5 also fits further back). Gain a ledge with an old bolt, and climb up a hand and finger crack on the left wall. When the finger crack on the left wall ends, clip a bolt, move left on the face and up to a ledge and belay on gear.
9.    
10.    
11.    
12.  
9. Start of Pitch 2.
10. Looking back down the offwidth section on Pitch 2.
11. An old bolt midway up Pitch 2. This is the location of the "optional belay" noted in the guidebook. We did not belay here. No need. Plus the bolt is not confidence-inspiring.
12. The hand/finger crack on the left wall of the chimney. Good climbing.



Pitch
3
5.10a. Start up a nice hand crack that quickly widens into a full-blown squeeze chimney. You can scoot the #6 cam while you place hand-sized pieces at the back of the flare. Thrutch up the chimney, again protecting with hand-sized cams in a crack. A big cam (#5 or #6 or both) is nice to have near the exit. Pop out and then romp up easy 5th to the top and set a gear belay.
13.    
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13. Erika cruising up the fun hand crack at the start of Pitch 3.
14. Erika in the chimney/flare near the top of the pitch.
15. The start of the chimney/flare.
16. The chimney/flare near the top of the pitch.
17. The #6 got used on every pitch yay!


Top
Enjoy the view!
18.    
19.   
18. Poe Buttress to the west.
19. Cynical Pinnacle to the east.


Descent
Two options:
(1) Scramble off to the east, towards Cynical Pinnacle. 
(2) Scramble off to the west, between Block Tower and Poe Buttress. 
20.    
21.    
22.    
23.    
24.     
20. Decent option 1: towards Cynical Pinnacle.
21. Decent option 2: towards Poe Buttress. This is the way we went. Actually, we had planned to go the other way (I think the descent Option 1 towards Cynical Pinnacle is more standard), but we mis-remembered the descent beta and took descent Option 2 between Block Tower and Poe Buttress.
22. Steep 3rd/4th class scramble between Block Tower and Poe Buttress (Decent Option 2).
23. A cool tunnel feature.
24. Looking up Poe Buttress.


  The Bishop   

Route: Bishop Offwidth (5.11a, 2p) + Bishop Crack (5.12b, 1p)  THE BISHOP

Date: February 29, 2020     Partner: Will Starks

Squeezing in a day on the Bishop before the bird closures in the Cathedral Spires area. Will and I climbed the two crack systems splitting the vertical east face of The Bishop.The climbing is sustained and superb. It was cool to reconnect with Will, who I had last climbed with on my road trip to Colorado in Summer 2018, which was the trip that led to my decision to move to Colorado. I am looking forward to more days of climbing with Will in the future!
Route Overlay:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:

Approach 
The approach starts the same as for Sunshine Wall, but continues up the old road. Once pretty much directly below the Bishop, head up a rib directly up to the base of the East Face. (On the approach, we took a route up to the base of Dome and then traversed left to Bishop, which involved weaving in and out of snowy boulders. On the way out we went down the rib and it was much better and more direct.)
1.    
2.    
3.    
 

 
1. Winter conditions on the approach.
2. Nearing the base of The Bishop (this photo was actually taken on the descent, since on the approach we came in from the right).
3. Looking up the steep east face. We climbed the two major crack systems. Splitter fingers on the left, offwidth and chimney on the right.




Bishop Offwidth
5.11a, 1-2p. This is the beautiful jagged crack/chimney/slot that splits the east face, which can be seen from miles away. The route can be climbed as a single pitch or broken into two (rope drag can be an issue if one pitch). The first half of the route has an 11a offwidth crux (protected with a #6), while the second half is 5.8-5.9+ depending on which way you go at the giant block. Bring wide gear for this one. We had 2x#5 and 2x#6. We also borrowed a Valley Giant from another party up there, but found that once the crack widened past a #6, that it was too wide to protect. The largest big bros might have worked but it was pretty wide. Fortunately, the mandatory unprotected sections were relatively secure and rated 5.8. Superb athletic route up a unique feature.
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4. Will in the 11a crux section. It looks easier than it is, as the rock is a bit smooth here and the upper lip sort of pushes you out. I think the way to do this is to figure out a way to wedge the left leg in.
5. The start of Bishop Offwidth goes up the layback ramp. The climber on the upper left is in the squeeze in the first part of Bishop Crack.
6. Higher up on the layback ramp section. There are some old bolts along the way (we clipped one or two, but relied more on our big cams).
7. An old bolt.
8. 
The first 5.8 squeeze. Too wide to protect with cams. I would not have felt comfortable leading this due to the lack of protection, but Will kept a cool head and did an awesome job.
9. Looking down the first 5.8 squeeze.
10. The second 5.8 squeeze. Quite enjoyable as far as squeeze chimneys go.
11. The upper section of the route intersects the last bit of the Ellingwood Chimney route.
12. The exit to the top. There is a harder way on the east side which pulls over the chockstone roof on jams.






Bishop
Crack
5.12b, 1p. The guidebook calls Bishop Crack one of the most aesthetic finger cracks in the country. Indeed it is superb climbing, consistently steep and great protection throughout. There is even a fun offwdith/slot section guarding the finger crack above. A phenomenal pitch. So good we climbed it twice. Bringing 2 ropes allows the leader to come back down to the ground to belay the second up, and to do a few more laps while you have a rope on it.
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13. A climber (Gary) on Bishop Crack, as seen while climbing Bishop Offwidth route next door.
14. Michael and Gary on Bishop Crack. They were the only other party up there.
15. Will embarking on a lap on Bishop Crack. Notice that you can belay from the ground if you have 2 ropes, and you will pass the knot when the follower  is securely in the wide slot.
 Having 2 ropes is also nice for a double rope rappel from the top anchor. 
16. Looking up the squeeze slot at the start of the pitch. I like wide climbing so this part was really fun.
17. Looking down the squeeze slot.
18. 
Looking up the endless splitter fingers above the wide bit.
19. Looking down the endless finger crack of glory.




Other photos from the day
The South Platte is such a cool place.
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24.    
20. View of Sunshine Wall from The Bishop.
21. Evening light on the South Platte. 
22. Evening glow on Sunshine Wall as we hiked out.
23. Taken on the hike out. Best approach is directly up the rib below the Bishop. Note the position of the Dome on the right side of the photo.
24. When we got back to the parking lot, the signs for the raptor closure were up. It was nice to squeeze in one last day at Cathedral Spires, and I am looking forward to more climbing here in the fall!