Cantata Peak

Allison and I had scheduled three days in Chugach to climb mountains. I pulled some maps and route descriptions off Summit Post, and we decided to tackle the most intimidating peak on day one. We figured we would be coming off a day-and-a-half of rest, so it was probably our best chance for success.

Starting the hike through the fog

Starting the hike through the fog


Eagle and Symphony lakes in the background

This “intimidating peak” – Cantata – is reached by hiking six miles to a pair of glacial lakes (Eagle Lake and Symphony Lake), then climbing another three-ish miles and several thousand feet up a valley and along a razor-like ridgeline, and finally up the scree fields on the south-facing slope. The crux of the climb is the western ridge.


The western ridge, from below

At first glance, the ridge appears way too sketchy to attempt without climbing equipment. I’d read online, however, that it could be kept at class 3 with some patient route-finding.

Allison and I reached the base of this ridge after a few hours of steady uphill hiking. Instead of standing around gazing at the towering slopes before us (and likely talking ourselves out of the climb), we paused for only a few seconds before jumping right in.


Crossing a snowy patch

Cantata Peak

Cantata Peak

In hindsight, we really had no business attempting some of the more exposed sections.




Routefinding (mud glacier in background)

“Do you think we ought to turn back?”
“Do you think we ought to turn back?”
“Sorry, it’s really windy up here. But yeah, we can stop for a snack.”


Free climbing

We ended up missing the essential turnoff to keep things class 3, and wasted nearly two hours scrambling around on some genuinely scary class 4 stuff (“but we can’t stop NOW! We’re only 200 feet from the top!”). We finally decided to turn around…but before doing so, I wanted to explore one more scree chute. This turned out to be our ticket to the top…but only after descending several hundred feet and side-sloping over to the more friendly south face.

The final stretch

The final stretch

Signing the summit log

Signing the summit register


Looking back toward the lakes


Summit view, looking south

Of course, the battle was only half-won at this point. Allison had humored my enthusiasm on the way up, but now I was starting to realize exactly how dicey the descent was going to be (and to appreciate why she had been so concerned on the way up). The image of a cat getting stuck up in a tree would be appropriate here. I won’t go into the details, but it was a very slow and methodical process getting down.

Crossing a mildly exposed section of ridge

Going down the ridge

But we did make it down, eventually.

Looking back at the summit

Looking back at the summit

After descending the mountain, we made the final 6 mile trudge back to the car – just in time for an 11:00pm dinner at a local pizza joint. The entire trip took 15.5 hours.

Published in: on June 25, 2013 at 9:25 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. !!!

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