| Crystal Peak, East Face
E. Face ski descent, 22 July 2011
The snow gods were good to us this year, but our massive winter snowpack is finally starting to disappear. The early monsoon rains throughout the first two weeks of July really did some damage to the remaining snow, covering it with runnels, peppering it with rocks, and creating random patches of ice here and there. But there is still snow to be found, and someone needs to ski it. Last Friday morning I got out to ski one of my favorite Tenmile peaks, Crystal Peak.
As I was driving along Indiana Creek road on Thursday, I noticed that Crystal was still holding a good amount of snow. I've climbed this peak 3 or 4 times before via various routes, but I've never skied it. I got up just after 4 a.m. on Friday and brewed a mug of what is possibly the best coffee known to man, Camp4coffee from Crested Butte (thanks Jenny). I left the house and drove the 15 minutes to the Spruce Creek trailhead. I was on the trail by 4:45, still dark enough to need a headlamp.
For the first time in weeks the forecast called for a zero percent chance of thunderstorms, but there were a few low clouds hanging around which made for a nice moody sky at sunrise. I reached Crystal Lake at exactly the moment the sun came up, and ran around trying to compose a shot worthy of this beautiful spot. The lake is guarded by willows at its east end, which makes it hard to get close enough for a good composition, but the old cabin is hard to resist. I met one guy who was headed up the east ridge of Father Dyer en route to Crystal.
Crystal Lake at sunrise.
Father Dyer Peak
After fueling up again I headed up the trail which switchbacks up the south side of Peak 10. I cut off the main switchback to avoid a small snowfield and made good time into the upper basin. The wildflowers are exploding in the alpine right now. It's amazing how lush everything is this year.
A view of most of the line on Crystal
After a slow slog from near the upper lake to the Crystal-Peak 10 ridge, I made better time on the solid north ridge of Crystal and topped out around 8 a.m. The snow was still a little firm so I had some more coffee and took in the views. Pacific Peak dominates the view to the north. I had a good long look at the now heinous-looking North couloir on Pacific that Fritz and I backed off on a few weeks ago. I'm still glad we made that decision but can't wait to ski it in perfect condition. Looking down the north side of Crystal made me want to ski that, too. Next year.
Pacific Peak, north face
Tenmile & Gore Ranges
After about 45 minutes of lounging in the sun, the climber I had seen earlier in the day, Simon, summitted Crystal and we spoke for a while. On the way up I had been thinking that the alpine tundra looks more like the rolling hills of Scotland than the Rockies this year. Simon mentioned the same thing, adding that he was actually from Scotland. So it must be true.
Sky Pilot on the summit
I clicked in to my skis just before 9 a.m. I was able to ski from within a few feet of the summit, which is a nice treat in July. The snow was smooth and soft and I made turns all the way down the upper east face, then had to walk to the next snow patch. I repeated this process a few times and then walked for a while longer to reach the lower headwall above Crystal Lake.
Evidently a popular place to ski..
The skier's right branch of this snowfield had been skied a few times recently, but the less convenient, although slightly longer, left branch had not. So I scrambled over to it and got some more really fun, steep turns before transitioning back to shoes at the bottom.
At the top of the lower headwall
I made good time down the trail despite recieving some very strange looks from the tourists. Got back to the truck just after 11, in plenty of time for work. Another awesome day in the heart of the Tenmile. Only two months left until I have skied every month for 4 years in a row. Let's hope the snow sticks around that long.
Two of the many, many Columbines in the lower basin
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