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Peak(s):  Crystal Peak  -  13,860 feet
Date Posted:  03/27/2012
Modified:  08/13/2013
Date Climbed:   03/24/2012
Author:  bergsteigen
 Piggy Back on Crystal's East Face   

Crystal Peak

Route: East Face/Ridge
Mileage: 7.6
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

Trench Poaching!

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

The team

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


Sarah skiing...

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.

The maze

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):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Comments or Questions
Perfect day out!!!
3/27/2012 6:46pm
That is a sick line thanks for posting. I have to check that line out one day. I like to BBQ after a bluebird day and some corn!!!

Nice Job Crew
3/27/2012 9:39pm
Great TR Otina. Looks like a fine line indeed. Was Darrin repeating the entire time that skiing is not dumb? Whats on your plans this weekend, need to get out!

Spring skiing in the Rockies!
3/27/2012 10:23pm
Looks like you all had a splendid day. Love that smile on your face Otina as you were blazing down that line!

Looks like FUN!!!
3/27/2012 11:54pm
Thanks for an enjoyable report!

Solid looking day!
3/28/2012 12:10am
Yea what were Darrin's thoughts on the descent?

It did not suck.
3/28/2012 2:30am
My thoughts revolved around nachos mostly. The skiing was pretty good too.

1hr from summit to car, that's why I made Otina learn me to ski.

Good work gang!
3/29/2012 12:03am
I'm glad conditions held for you. Definitely the best way to get Crystal don't you think?

very nice work
3/29/2012 1:03am
Looks like a great day and crew out there. Thanks for the beta

4/2/2015 7:45pm
This line is the plans for our skimo class, not sure if this will survive a few more weeks though. Sure hope so.

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