Peak(s):  Crystal Pk A  -  13,852 feet
Date Posted:  06/14/2009
Modified:  06/15/2009
Date Climbed:   06/14/2009
Author:  Jon Frohlich
 Fourth try is finally the one on Crystal  

From East Slopes above Spruce Creek TH (~5.5 miles, 2900 feet)

I've had bad luck trying to climb Crystal in the past. The first time I summited Peak 10 and then was on the saddle between Crystal and Peak 10 and had to bail due to time. The second time I was on the saddle with Pacific and due to a climb the previous day and stomach issues decided not to do Crystal and only do Pacific and Atlantic that day. The third time (about a month ago) weather, poor visibility, and doubtful snow conditions turned us around at 12,500. It turns out the magic number of attempts was 4. I decided to enlist the help of two friends to make what I hoped was my last attempt at Crystal on Sunday. Saturday night the weather forecast turned ugly and I thought to myself that Crystal might again get the better of me.

We drove out to Breckenridge and found the gate for the road up to Francie's Cabin open. I'd hiked the road twice before and decided this time we might as well shorten the attempt and make things easier. We drove as far as we could and parked my car roughly 1/4 mile from the hut. Elevation said ~10,900 as I turned on the GPS. We headed off from the car at 7:15am. We had brought my friend's dog along for the hike as well.

We made our way up towards Lower Crystal Lake and decided to hike steeply up the slope to make our way to the trail. The trail was still largely snow covered and we realized we would have to cross three large snowfields to reach the saddle.

These two photos were taken on the way down.

We were able to cross the snow without incident to the saddle with Peak 10. On the way up we saw a large group of around 8 people summit and then ski down the bowl to the north. Not sure who they were but unusual to see a group that large on a 13er. We also saw 3 people snow climb up a couloir from the lower lake to the upper and then summit ahead of us. Never did see them again so not sure where they went after that.

The clouds were slowly building but it looked like we had time to make it. We continued up the snow from the saddle following the tracks of the people we saw summit earlier. We all summited just after 10am for a 3 hour ascent.

Success at last!

Snowy Pacific in the background

Looking towards Peak 10

Quandary, Fletcher, Atlantic, Pacific

Holy Cross (right) and northern Sawatch

North towards Copper

On the descent looking back up to the summit

Still frozen Lower Crystal Lake

On the way down the snow had gotten very soft and we slowly and carefully crossed back across the snowfields. A slip would have been bad news as especially the first snowfield (coming from the saddle) had a nice cliff at the bottom.

Once we got back almost to the valley floor the dog ran off and disappeared into some bushes. A minute later we heard him whimper and he didn't come back when we called. Eventually we discovered that he had tangled with a porcupine and had about 40 quills stuck all over his body. Between him getting them out with his teeth and us pulling some out we managed to extract most of them but he had a very unhappy last mile to the car.

On the way down the clouds darkened and it looked like we would have weather but it never did much. One last little weather gift from Crystal for me. Very glad to have this finally done. I think it was more satisfying after 3 previous attempts. Round trip even with the porcupine issue was 5 hours 45 minutes.

 Comments or Questions

Ah so that is what it looks like
06/15/2009 03:55
Nice report Jon, I was wondering what it looked like up there. Glad you finally got it on your fourth try. Congrats

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