From Lake George, take the trail shortly before the parking lot towards the Mammoth Crest. At about 9,600 ft., the trail will split. Take the L-hand (subsidiary) trail towards Crystal Lake. After descending briefly, you’ll reach Crystal Lake. Cross its outlet. After briefly following a trail through the woods paralleling the lake’s shore, a sign notifying climbers not to attempt climbing Crystal Crag unless first registering at the Mammoth Ranger Station will be reached. A climbers’ trail can be discerned branching to the L from the more prominent trail approximately 10 yards after this sign. Follow this intermittent trail to the base of the N Arête of Crystal Crag.
Facing the north side of Crystal Crag, a steep, prominent R-facing corner will be obvious. This is a 5.8 variation that supposedly leads to the arête proper as well. The standard 5.7 start is over a small rise to the right of said corner. The 5.7 start is also in a R-facing dihedral, which is lower angled and not quite as obvious as the aforementioned one. Look for a small tree growing on a ledge ~20 ft. up the route (keep going up the obvious dihedral above this point). Keep following the easiest line. The crux of the climb is found halfway up the first pitch, and consists of surmounting a bulge (at least the way we went). Various places for the leader to belay the follower up the first pitch are available- try to look for one as close as possible to a full 60-meter rope length.
After the first pitch, take the path of least resistance, and go another full 60-meter rope length. This should put you right below the famous crystal section of the climb (look out for rubble on the ledges around here). Go to and through the crystal section- this should be 3rd or easy 4th class, depending on the chosen variation. Shortly following this, the false summit is attained. Down-climb 4th class rock to the notch between the false & true summits.
From the notch, follow the ridge to the summit. This is considerably easier than the climbing encountered on the first 2 pitches (3rd to 4th-/easy 5th-class rock), but has considerable exposure on both sides- exciting! The summit block itself is about as pointy and exposed as any you’re likely to find, & exhilaration and satisfaction may be had here.
Following the path of least resistance, down-climb 3rd- and 4th-class rock on the W face to get to the base of Crystal Crag.
· approach shoes
· walkie-talkies (verbal communication can be difficult during the 1st two pitches as there will be mountain between leader & belayer at times)
· 60-m rope (hardest climbing, before false summit, can be condensed into 2 pitches this way)
· 1 set of nuts
· cams: Camalot 0.1 (red) through 3 (blue), or equivalent (doubles through size 2 helpful)
· runners: 3 singles, 2 doubles
Peter Croft's guide "The Good, the Great, and the Awesome" (Maximus Press) is also a good reference for this climb.
· 7 quickdraws ought to suffice.
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