Ely’s Dome (Cautley Traverse)

Summit Elevation (m): 2830
Trip Date: September 25, 2016
Elevation Gain (m): 900
Round Trip Time (hr): 8
Total Trip Distance (km): 17
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 1 – you fall, you aren’t sober
Difficulty Notes: The partial Cautley Traverse is off trail hiking only. If you include Wonder Peak it might go up to 3rd class.
Technical Rating: OT4; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Gaia (from a 2022 trip includes the whole traverse).

After being turned around on a traverse from Mount Cautley to Gibraltar Rock and somehow completely screwing up where Cascade Rock was, I started the traverse south from the summit of Cautley, heading towards Ely’s Dome and what I thought was the traverse from it, to Cascade Rock. Confused yet? Apparently, so was I! I should mention up front, that I’m still not 100% sure if I summitted Ely’s Dome or not. Even though it’s listed on peakfinder.com, the location is a bit vague and open to interpretation. Based on the fact that folks seem to ski to the summit and the fact that the summit cairn was clearly “dome shaped”, I am going to assume I made the official, unofficial summit, but am open to correction. There was another higher point along the ridge to the east that I could not get to, that I was assuming was Cascade Rock at the time. This higher outlier is not a viable winter objective and the photos from the Ramblers page are not taken from it either.

Cautley Traverse Route Map

The traverse between Cautley and what I assume is Ely’s Dome was very straightforward. Most folks doing the Cautley Traverse probably don’t even bother with this small out-of-the-way bump along the ridge, but the views down Bryant Creek and over Marvel Lake were worth it IMHO.

An island of brightly colored larches amongst a sea of grey, foreboding peaks. This is looking over Marvel Peak (C) towards the Blue Range and Mount Currie (L).

As I neared the summit of Ely’s Dome, I still wasn’t sure what was what. Due to my confusion on this particular day, I thought I had to traverse east from the dome to bag Cascade Rock. I soon realized that very similar terrain that had blocked my earlier attempt to traverse from Mount Cautley to Gibraltar Rock was going to block my traverse to “Cascade Rock” too. On hindsight I’m now glad I didn’t push the envelope on snowy / icy terrain for what probably isn’t a named summit at all! (I made this outlier summit in 2022 when I went back with Wietse to complete the full Cautley – Wonder – Towers traverse.)

Pano of the east ridge at my turn-around point due to another exposed, snowy, icy drop-off. Cautley on the left and Marvel Lake on the right.

I do realize however, that I may have missed the official summit of the unofficial, Ely’s Dome, if it is the highest point to the east of where I made it. I snapped some pretty decent photos towards Mount Turner and Morrison and down the Bryant Creek valley before turning back towards Ely’s Dome and Wonder Peak.

Looking over Marvel Lake towards an island of brightly colored larches among a sea of grey, foreboding peaks.
Another view over Marvel Lake towards Marvel Peak, Turner, Morrison and Currie.
Looking north towards Cautley and Gibraltar Rock at left, Beersheba and Allenby at center.

As I descended from Ely’s Dome towards Wonder Peak, I wondered (!) how the Cautley Traverse dealt with obvious cliff bands blocking easy access to Wonder Peak. 

It’s a pretty intimidating view of the cliff bands blocking easy access to Wonder Peak from the Ely’s Dome col. The traverse route up Wonder Peak is to the right of the nose and then back up – the trail covered by snow here.

Thanks to my foggy brain, I hadn’t read So’s trip report in as much detail as I should have or I would have known that there was a 3rd class route to climber’s right. I briefly thought about traversing the left cliff bands but considering the conditions and the simple fact that I’d already done Wonder Peak, I didn’t bother looking much harder and descended straight down to the Cautley Meadows from the Wonder / Ely’s Dome col.

Easy descent slopes to the meadows. Cautley at upper right, The Towers at left.

Ironically, on my way down I did briefly consider that the correct route to Wonder Peak probably went right where it does go. The descent was easy and soon I was wandering towards the Wonder Pass trail and debating about adding The Towers to my day. I was feeling slightly miffed at missing both Gibraltar and Cascade Rock.

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