Route: East Face/Ridge
Elevation Gain/Ski: 3,458'
Chicks on Sticks, and a Dude: Darrin, Sarah, Jen and me
Sometimes you are the beta, other times you use beta. With Colorado's dismal snow year, I was wondering if I'd get any ski descents in this year. Most of the 14ers look nekkid. Couloirs are incomplete and thin at best. But a few nuggets of pearly white snow remain, we just need to find them. So after Benners trip report on Crystal, I knew what I wanted to do this weekend. The east face of Crystal has been on my list since I first saw its smooth white features calling to me on a spring trip up Quandary a few years ago. Crystal is a classic, not to be missed.
Add in my desire to get my friend and coworker, Sarah out on a trip. We've been trying for the past 2 years to schedule something. Our last mountain adventure was Wilson & El Diente (her first 14ers), almost 4 years ago! Way too long. But with her flying all over the world doing GPS field work, it's been tough. The stars aligned for this weekend, and so I suggested Crystal. We were a go!
After a short night's rest up at Sarah's ski condo, we make the short drive over to the Spruce Creek/Crystal Lake trail head, strap on the skis a few feet from the trucks, and start skinning up the trail.
Snow starts from the truck
After a short while on the trail, we arrive at treeline, and are able to get the first glimpse of the prize at the end of the day. From here, we aim for the summer trail, which still has a bit of snow left on it. Might as well keep the skis off our backs for as long as possible!
Treeline, and the continuous snow goes on!
Skinning in a line
Can't wait to ski that!
Sarah, the speed skinning animal!
The slope we picked to get to the trail was firm and rather icy, and would be the steepest thing we would climb all day. But once on the trail, it was an easy saunter over to the base of Crystal's upper face/ridge.
Skinning the trail for a while
Side view of the lower chute and Father Dyer
Both Sarah and Jen decided to keep the skis on, and skin up the face. Practice they said. Jen's flying to France in a few days to go skiing there. Lucky! Maybe they have more snow. Darrin and I had enough of steep, icy and firm snow skinning, so we shouldered our skis and hoofed it up the ridge. Once we gained the ridge, we made up some time on Sarah and Jen, as the kick turns got harder near the summit.
Sarah and Jen skin on up the face
Ridge up Crystal
View down ridge, over to Peak 10
And they skinned all the way to the summit
When we got to the summit, we didn't have much time to waste. The sun had been beating down on the snow since sunrise, and it was such a warm day, we were almost down to our base layers. So transition, snap some pics, and click into the bindings, Go!
Sarah checking out the northern Sawatch and Holy Cross
Pacific - North couloir looks thin but continuous
Sarah is standing still, quick take a photo
The initial face was still firm with just a little bit of softening. Only a few pockets where some dust was extra warming the surface. Quite enjoyable skiing as we leap frogged down the slope. Apparently Sarah doesn't know how I like to ski and photograph, as she more or less ripped that first face all the way down!
Ripping the upper face
Jen getting her turns in
I'm sure in a few weeks, snow coverage in the area above the chute will become thin, but for now there was only some minor rock avoidance while moving.
A look back up at Crystal
The snow was still feeling good as we got to the top of the steepest part of the ski down. Viewing the chutes from the trail, it looked so narrow, but once inside, it was much wider than expected. Quite a lot of fun!
About to drop the chute
Me enjoying the corn in the chute
Once below, all we had to do was ski across the meadow and find the trail. Then it was a straight and quick ski all the way to the trucks. Even a kicker or two near the end for some added excitement! Nachos at the Breckenridge Brewery were calling all day long, and so we answered!
Non-fattening carbs: corn and mashed potatoes! Mmmm
Bottom line - Crystal's east face is a line that shouldn't be missed! It's just steep enough that it adds some excitement, as well as allows you to feel out new partners Avy savvy. As yes, Crystal can slide. And yes, wet afternoon slides are possible. For those that are elevation snobs, you are missing out, as this is one of the classic lines with no BS. Summit to car in 1 hour or less. No rock hopping, no contrived lines. And with most 14ers looking bare, 13ers and lower may be your only option!
Be the Beta! - Next time
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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