Monday, July 13, 2015

Father Dyer Peak and Crystal Peak

Father Dyer Peak
I wasn’t able to make an ascent on Father Dyer last weekend, so this weekend I made a return trip to the Crystal Basin to climb the East Ridge. Ryan was up for a scramble so we made plans to attempt the Crystal Basin group of Father Dyer, Crystal Peak and Peak 10.  We had an early departure from the Denver area and made our way to the Breckenridge area by 7am.

From the standard Spruce Creek TH (39.436909, -106.050611) we started making our way to the Spruce Creek 4WD TH (39.428680, -106.069556).  The gate for Crystal Road (39.435797, -106.053966) was open for the first time this year, so we decided to give it a shot.  This road is pretty narrow and steep, but it does go all the way to Lower Crystal Lake.  After about a mile it was too much for my Blazer, so I found a spot to park it in the trees and that would be our trailhead for the day.  If I were to come back I would just drive to the Spruce Creek 4WD TH and start from there.  The Crystal Road is pretty bad in the steeper sections.

False Summit of Father Dyer
By 7:30 a.m. my heels were all taped up and we were heading up the road.  From our start the road was pretty steep, so we both got the blood moving pretty fast. About a mile from the start we reached tree line at around 11,300 feet.  We continued up the road to Lower Crystal Lake at around 12,000 feet.  There was one creek crossing that was still a little bit challenging, but we were able to cross without getting too wet.

It took us about an hour to make our way to Lower Crystal Lake.  Here there is a split (39.436016, -106.088639)– if you take the road to the right that is the route directly to Crystal Peak, if you take the old mining road to the left that heads to the East Ridge of Father Dyer.   So, go to the left and follow the road till it makes a bend (39.433191, -106.090134) to the east onto the rock glacier.  From here it is a cross-country route with some nice scrambling to the summit of Father Dyer.

Ryan Making His Way Up The East Ridge
Follow the edge of the rock glacier till there is a nice opening heading up the slope to the west.  After making your way through some large rock outcroppings the terrain turns more to grass and levels out for a bit.  You will soon find yourself at the base of the rocky East Ridge and this is where the scrambling starts.  We took a long break here in order to fuel up for the climbing ahead of us.  This route stays in the lower class 3 level and would be a great place to introduce new climbers to some solid rock.

We had a goal of summiting at 10am, which would have us climbing at about 1,000ft and hour.  This was a high expectation considering today was Ryan’s first day at high elevation, and we both were taking our time checking out the cool rocks along the route.  There was more than one occasion where we had to stop and rock hound the pegmatite veins.  We were pulling terminated crystals out of veins and on the surface.  Soon I found my pack was loaded with minerals and we were still on the ascent.  If I grab rocks or minerals I like to usually do it after peaking, but these were just too beautiful to leave behind.  I think both of us will be back just to rock hound the area at a later date.

Ryan Seems To Be Having Fun
Getting back to the scramble...  We stayed true to the ridge for the most part.  There were a few ledges and narrow sections with moderate exposure that required some attention, but nothing that a rookie couldn’t handle.  I would say the crux would have been climbing up and over one of the notches mid-ridge, but overall it was very basic class 3 climbing.  As you follow the rest of the route, it leads you to the large false summit that was visible earlier from Lower Crystal Lake.  As you are climbing the ridge and glance to the south there is a large arĂȘte, and that is the true summit of Father Dyer.  From the false summit it is a rocky ridge walk to the true summit of just a few hundred yards.  On the summit there is a plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of Father Dyer of the United Methodist Church.

The view of Pacific is well worth the climb alone.  It is a very impressive looking mountain that needs to be inspected in the near future.  We took a short breather, and Ryan made friends with a couple of pikas.  Soon we were off on the ridge towards Crystal.  From Father Dyer it is less than a mile to Crystal.  The ridge is covered in large boulders which made the moving slow.  It took us a little over an hour to go from summit to summit.  As we were making our way we monitored the weather to the south.  There was a good amount of precipitation coming down on Elbert.  We got a few graupel pellets on us, but nothing more than that.  The weather didn’t look too promising so we decided to skip Peak 10 today.  I was up on Crystal and Peak 10 last week so it didn’t bother me too much.

Pacific Peak
We took a few minutes on Crystal’s summit.  I took the tape off my feet.  I think my boots are finally broken in so I can forego the tape from here on out.  We started down to the saddle between Crystal and Peak 10 around 12:30 pm.  It was a little rough making our way through the boulders but once on the saddle the terrain eased up a bit.  Another 600 foot drop had us on the trail that ends at Upper Crystal Lake.  We followed the trail till it started switchbacks then made our way cross country till connecting with the Wheeler Trail.  This saved us some mileage from following the road all the way down and was more interesting in the open country.

Once on the Wheeler Trail we followed it about half mile till meeting up with the Crystal Lake Road.  We were pretty much home free now with less than a mile down the road to the truck. Today was a great climb; one of my favorites in Colorado so far. I am still hoping to get in Pacific, Atlantic, Fletcher, Drift and North Star this summer.  The season is going well so far, and I hope to see some of you on the mountains.  Cheers!

GPS Track
Date: July 11, 2015
TH Elevation: 10,747 feet
Father Dyer Summit: 13,596 feet
Crystal Peak: 13,822 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Distance: 7.31 miles
Moving Time: 5hrs
Stopped Time: 2hrs 15min

Climbing Partner: Ryan

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Crystal Peak and Peak 10

Brian and Nick on Peak 10
My old climbing partner Brian was ready for a mini-cation to Colorado so we decided to plan a day in the mountains.  I have recently become interested in the 10 Mile Range near Breckenridge, and thought that Crystal Peak and Peak 10 would be a good choice for a climb.  These are two 13ers that can be approached from Crystal Basin by the Spruce Creek Trail Head.  We utilized the same trail head as my previous trip report up Mount Helen.  This time however we drove the additional 1.25 miles up to the upper 4WD trail head which intersects the Wheeler Trail.  The road was in pretty bad shape compared to a couple weeks ago, so I wouldn’t try heading up to the upper trail head unless you have a high clearance vehicle.
Bryan en route to Crystal Peak
We started up the trail just after 7am.  The Wheeler Trial starts about 50 yards past the gate.  We took the trail on the ascent, but came down the road on the descent.  There is a pretty bad creek crossing which took us quite some time to negotiate.  Finally we were able to toss a log across a narrow section and made it to the other side.  I would recommend taking your boots off for the crossing or just staying on the road and walking a little further around since there is a bridge.  After we crossed there was a short climb out of the drainage and we ended up in some backpacker’s campsite.  From there we just walked cross-country heading towards the peaks till hitting the main road that makes its way to Crystal Lake.  There was a lot of snow runoff so some sections of the road were pretty flooded over and crossing was bit challenging.  I was pretty good in my boots till the water made its way in from the top, and I think Brian went all the way in with his trail shoes a couple times.  Soon after that crossing we stopped and had to ring the water out of our socks.  I’m sure there are ways to avoid a lot of the water, we just didn’t take the time to scout it out too much.
Crystal Peak
Our last water crossing came when we needed to cross the outlet of Crystal Lake.  This was the most manageable of all as there were many rock islands to hop to as we crossed the 30 foot outlet of water.  After this crossing we were pretty much in the clear.  Brian got his shoes soaked in the marsh and had to squeeze the water out of his socks one more time.  After that we were good to go and were on our way towards Crystal Peak. 
We chose to follow the old road that heads to the Upper Crystal Lake.  The road is faint in places and narrows as you rise in elevation; it eventually becomes a single track trail.  This trial goes all the way to Upper Crystal Lake.  We spotted a side trail marked with a cairn that looked like it was heading to the saddle between Crystal and Peak 10.  This lead to a traverse across a boulder field, which went by pretty quickly.  Once at the saddle it is about a 500 foot climb to the summit of Crystal.  The clouds were starting to build, so we took a few minutes to refuel and monitor the weather.  I was satisfied with the weather and we started heading up the route to Crystal’s summit.
This was a solid class 2+ section, I left my poles at the saddle but Brian opted to keep his for the climb up.  I stayed on the rock as Brian hopped between the rock and the snow on the way up.  Within a half hour or less we were on the summit.  There were seven skiers getting ready to make there descent as we arrived.  I was jealous of their descent method, but I was thankful I didn’t have to carry all that equipment up this high.  Brian did very well for being a flatlander.  He lives at about 400 feet above sea level, so I definitely had the advantage today.  We took a few pictures then started making our way down to the saddle.  I was feeling pretty good heading down the rock, and for once my knees weren’t killing me.
Peak 10 East Ridge
At the saddle we checked the weather again and decided we were good to head up Peak 10.  From the saddle we only had to gain about 400 feet and the slope was much more mellow than the climb up Crystal.  This went pretty quick and I didn’t really have to stop on the ascent.  I chatted with another hiker on his way over to Crystal.  He was doing the same route we did but in reverse.  A few minutes later and I was on the summit.  There were about 10 others up there, mostly skiers that were heading down the north face into the Breck ski area.  A few minutes later Brian made it up and we were feeling pretty good that it was all downhill from here.  It there wasn’t the threat of thunderheads we were considering adding Peak 9 as well, but that wasn’t going to happen today.  After a few minutes we started making our way down the East Ridge.
The first few hundred vertical feet was on a snow covered ridge.  I think I can blame that snow on the sunburn my legs are dealing with today.  Our goal was to follow the ridge until it meets up with the Wheeler Trail.  There were a few steep snow fields that we avoided and a large boulder field we had to negotiate.  Once hitting the trail the going was fast, we were actually trotting for a good section of it.  Brian found a snow bank and made himself a snow angel.  He didn’t get any snow days living in California, so he was trying to make up for it.  I wanted to avoid the creek crossing, so we followed the road the rest of the way back to the trail head.
Today was a great day out.  I’m patiently waiting for Brian to move back to Colorado so we can continue checking mountains off our list.  I took some time checking out the East Ridge route of Father Dyer and it is looking like a great possibility for next weekend.  I hope everyone got the chance to enjoy the Freedom of the Hills over the Fourth of July weekend.  Cheers!
GPS Track
Date: 7/4/2015
TH Elevation:  10,960ft 
Crystal Peak: 13,822ft
Peak 10: 13,615ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,240ft
Distance: 8.07 miles
Moving Time: 5:15
Stopped Time: 1:40
Partners: Brian

Picture Link: Crystal Peak Album