StatsPeak 10 (13633')- CO Rank 178
Crystal Peak (13852')- CO Rank 82
9.1 miles RT, 4164' gain
via Spruce Creek TH
Participants: Dan England & Kevin Baker
Dan and I had planned a climb of centennial Crystal a couple months back but were thrwarted by a bad forecast. We rescheduled the trip for 4/29, hoping for better weather and less snow. We also planned on adding Peak 10 on the way, which would avoid most of the avy danger. Nearby 13er Peak 9 would complete the trifecta, but as is always the case with spring climbs in CO, it always look easy on paper!
I left C. Springs at around 3:30am, driving across South Park and over Hoosier Pass amidst occassional snow showers. The mountains still looked to be socked in, but there were glimpses of clear skies that gave me hope. I met Dan at the CO-9/Spruce Creek Rd junction, which is a couple miles south of the southern edge of Breckenridge. We introduced ourselves and headed up the short 1.2 mile drive to the 2WD trailhead at 10360'. The day started out pretty warm and pleasant as we trudged up the well used 4wd road, starting our day at 6:33am. After about .15 miles, the route joins Crystal Creek Road which climbs up to Francies Cabin, a popular hut for backcountry skiers and snowshoers. The snow was bomber except for 3-4" of fresh powder, which would later cause us problems. The views in this basin are stunning, including the impressive north face of nearby Helen.
Once at Francies Cabin, we put on snowshoes for the steep grunt to the east ridge of Peak 10. The summer route follows the Wheeler Trail, but we couldn't find it in the deep snow. We were expecting quite a bit of snow, but not this much! The climb to the ridge was tougher than we thought, as we were sidehilling at times on the fresh snow, struggling to keep our footing with snowshoes. After a hard fought battle, we took a break at the ridge just west of Pt 12408 and put on some extra layers as the wind picked up. To this point, the weather was holding amidst occassional snow showers. If the visibility held, we felt the peaks were doable.
From here we took a n.w. heading to the steeper part of Peak 10's east ridge. The ridge quickly became steeper than anticipated, but as expected it leveled out at around 13K'. We past a couple buildings on the ridge that were part of a nearby mine, and lo and behold what looked to be an intimidating cornince appeared ahead!
As we drew closer, it was more a ridge of snow than a cornice as the runout on both sides wasn't too bad. A fall here could easily be stopped because the snow was so soft. I was surprised at just how much snow was on this ridge so late in the season.
We both expected it to be wind scoured. I took out the ice axe and left my snowshoes on crossing the final ridge to the summit, arriving at 11:15. The spindrift was pretty brutal across this, and Dan wished he had brought his goggles as he struggled with the visibility. He yelled at me just a few minutes below the summit as he was concerned that the spindrift was giving him problems without goggles, but I reassured him that the summit conditions were nice. He topped out a few minutes later and was rewarded for his efforts with awesome views and a nice wind shadow to relax in on the summit. We quickly axed our plans of Peak 9, as Crystal would be enough of a challenge.
Dan was concerned with his face protection and wasn't feeling up to par, so he encouraged me to head to Crystal while he waited for me. I left Peak 10 at 12:10, leaving my pack and taking some Gatorade, my camera, and a little food. The descent down the s.w. ridge was tiring as the snow was too soft to stay on top of with snowshoes. The 600' climb of Crystal would be rather trivial in summer, but the lack of bare rock made this brutal.
I left the snowshoes on for traction and used my axe in the steeper sections. As I got higher, the spindrift whipped around again, but the gusts were probably no worse than 40mph. I tried the rest step but couldn't get much of a rhythm in this mess. I finally topped out on Colorado's 82nd highest at 1:05pm, rewarded with a stellar view of impressive Pacific.
I layed down in the snow for a few seconds, took a few pics, and got out of there. Conditions were not very friendly on Crystal. Peak 10 looked like an oasis over there. It looked like Dan had headed down, as I told him to do so if he got cold.
In hindsight I should have dumped my pack at the saddle as the south slopes of Peak 10 looked safe to descend. This would have saved a reclimb of it, which I ended up bonking on. I downed some gummy worms, but was breathing so hard I couldn't eat and climb at the same time! At 2:40, I was back on Peak 10's quiet summit. On the descent, I left the ridge early from our ascent path and did a couple of long, slow glissades with snowshoes on down the stable s.e. slopes all the way down to the valley at 12000'. I spotted Dan, who was nice enough to wait for me on a couple of occassions. I found our ascent tracks and met back up with him just above Francie's Cabin. The hike back was very pleasant as the snow never softened up enough to posthole much. How lucky for late April! We arrived back at our cars at 4:32, happy to experience another adventure in the mountains.