| Crystal Gulch Loop
Crystal Gulch Loop – Peak 9, Peak 10, Crystal Peak A, Father Dyer, Helen
March 31, 2012
Spruce Creek Trailhead
8.5mi, 4.5K’ (ish)
Difficulty: Mostly class 2. C3 from FD to H with a couple c4 spots.
Gear used: Poles; Snowshoes, briefly, on descent.
Decided to take advantage of another free weekend, light snow, and good beta from Aaron Johnson (younger version). A solo outing at my own pace was in order as I was recovering from a recent lacrosse game and I would’ve felt bad if I needed to bail on somebody or slow them down.
The ski-traffic alarm woke me up around 0500 and I was heading up Spruce Creek Road at 0530. The beastmunks (chipmunk/mountain lion hybrids) kept me moving along quickly by headlamp. The right fork up the Crystal Creek Road came promptly, as well as Francie’s Cabin. I missed the Wheeler Trail junction, but the terrain was friendly and the snow pleasantly crunchy.
I contoured around a small hill and caught up with the Wheeler Trail beneath Pt 12408 before gaining Peak 10’s E ridge in time for some views. I left the trail and hiked straight to Peak 9’s E ridge with minor postholing in the willows.
Peak 9 was fairly gentle and the summit came quickly. I had slowed down to a gentler pace and that seemed to be the trick for staying fresh and not exacerbating injuries. Weird.
Peak 10’s slopes looked annoying, but they turned out pretty decent. Not quite mantra inducing, which is good because personal mantras always sound silly to others. I took a quick snack break before heading over to Crystal.
Reaching Crystal’s summit, I was beginning to think it would be yet another solo outing in great conditions; however, I could just pick out the skiers/alarm clocks making their way up the drainage.
The terrain over to Father Dyer began teasing me of the scrambles to come and I summitted shortly before 1100. There were recent ski tracks down one of the E couloirs and a glissade path down the Straits.
Crystal from Father Dyer
The first third of the Father Dyer - Helen ridge was class 2+. The second third was interesting. Plenty of scrambling opportunities to be had – knife edges, ledge traverses, notch maneuvers, and more. For the most part, it was class 3, but a couple spots were a bit more difficult. A couple spots required back-tracking and bypassing to the south. All in all, it is a fine reward for the day.
Looking back at Father Dyer
The slog up to Helen wasn’t so bad (13:00) as the views were pretty okay and I spotted some goats running away from me. Whatever. It’s not like they offended me or anything.
Helen’s E slopes were dry almost to treeline and a couple semi-glissades brought me closer to a brutal posthole, which was topped by the tea bag breaking in my nalgene (first-world problems). I held out on the snowshoes and pieced together tree wells before giving up and slapping the snowshoes on fifty unknown feet away from the packed Wheeler trail. Nice. I headed south on the Wheeler trail/Aqueduct Road for about 50 yards before hooking left on the Spruce Creek Road and following that on back to the car (14:30).