| Relative solitude in summit county
Some friends and I decided to try father dyer peak and crystal, via the route described in the cooper book. We wanted to do something close, relatively easy and avoid the massive weekend crowds. Father Dyer seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Annie and her boyfriend Ryan had never done a class 3 route, and Ryan actually had never hiked a high peak. I had read that father dyer is a great easy class 3 route to start with, so we decided that would be the plan. Chase, Nate, Annie, Ryan and myself headed out of golden about 445, arriving at the 2wd driving parking lot around 610. Only 3 other cars and 1 other party setting out when we arrived.
We didnt even bother trying to drive up the road as it had been pouring with rain the night before. I would say the road is passable for higher clearance 4wd...i saw a couple jeeps, an xterra, and a seemingly stock 4runner at one of the lakes later in the day. The road is steep in places and pretty rocky, but no really big dips or holes or anything. We made good time up the road and soon were approaching francies cabin. id guess its a little over a mile from the lower trailhead. there was a sign that said not to disturb the occupants of the cabin and we passed by quietly. I think there was another trail that went further around the cabin but we missed it on the way up.
We continued up the 4wd road/ wheeler trail to the first creek crossing. I have a history of failure with creek crossings, but luckily this time i just got the tip of my shoe wet. The scenery in the basin is absolutely awesome. the ridge between father dyer and helen looks rugged and wild. I believe it was atlantic on the right side of the basin and then father dyer and crystal front and center.
As we started getting nearer to the ridge, we made a route finding error. At the last lake, right before the ridge, we continued to follow some kind of 4wd road up a couple switchbacks to a dead end. We then talus hopped for a while and made our way up a steep grassy slope. There was a much easier route to the right that ascended less talus and a less steep slope. We noticed another party zipping up to the ridge using this route and they seemed to be having a better time than us. Finally, we hit the ridge, and the fun was about to begin. The weather wasnt looking too good, and i felt like it was pretty likely we would have to turn around before the summit, but the route didnt seem overly committing and we decided to continue.
This ridge was so much fun. There are multiple options for most sections and there is almost always an easier way to bypass any of the class 3 sections, usually just below the ridge crest. I tried to stay on the ridge as much as possible, as did nate and chase. annie and ryan were having a great time, not having any difficulty making their way up the ridge. The rock is super solid, and sections of it seem to almost have holds cut into the rock. The exposure isnt too bad, certain spots you can see it but overall very mellow. Definitely wish i would have done this for my first class 3 route.
first class 3 section
me and nate
gotta give the ladies what they want haha
annie and ryan having fun
chase opting for more of a challenge
down into the basin
As we worked our way up the ridge, the clouds continued to build and one cloud behind crystal looked particularly menacing. I was beginning to get concerned now, but there still had been no thunder and no rain, so we went as quickly as we could to the summit. By now, i realized that crystal wouldn't be happening...bummer! i wanted that centennial haha. We made the false summit and then had an easy walk to the summit.
final walk to the summit
the cloud that made us bail on crystal
quick summit shot!
We snapped a few shots, ate some food and then decided that instead of going over crystal, we would go down into the basin to the jeep road on the side of the lake. We figured it would be a safer place to be than the ridge if lightning started going off. Going down this slope was a NIGHTMARE. Super loose, moderately steep and just pure suck. I nearly had a disaster when i stepped on a little rock that was under a big rock and the little rock shifted, causing the big block to roll over and damn near pin my leg. Somehow i twinkle toed it and managed not to get to stuck. i felt pretty certain that had that thing fallen on my leg, it would have broken it. Definitely would have sucked for the other 4 people i was with...carrying me out wouldnt be fun. Slowly and carefully we picked our way down to the lake and all emerged ok. Just to rub it in, the clouds dissipated and we got nothing in the way of lightning or thunder or even rain. Still, i feel like we made a good choice. better safe than sorry with lightning.
the slope we bailed down...doesnt do justice for how awful it was
The rest of the hike down was uneventful...a couple of creek crossings (stayed dry!), a couple of hikers hiking up to the lakes, some 4wd vehicles, a very cool older guy eating lunch, a happy dog frolicking in one of the lakes and before i knew it we were passing francies cabin and headed down the 4wd road. We encountered a lot of people on the way down...bikers, runners, 4wds etc. The parking area was full with probably 60 cars...there are a ton of trails there. however, we only saw 5 people the whole time on our route up father dyer, which was really nice. Solitude in summit county on a saturday is something i can definitely get used to!
hiking back down
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