Crystal Peak, Mt. Helen & Father Dyer
East Ridge Route
3,971ft. Elevation Gain - Descent of East Slopes
9.1 Miles Roundtrip - Class 4
We started at the Spruce Creek Trailhead bright and early at 6:30am. Mark and Wyatt were very tired, they had only gotten a couple hours of sleep the night before. We began walking down the road towards the Crystal Lakes and a kind hearted lady in a Red Truck offered to give us a lift. We gladly accepted and proceeded down the road to the junction with the Wheeler Trail (on our right). A small sign marked the spot. We proceeded north down the Wheeler Trail to around 11,000ft. just below tree line. You can see Mt. Helens gentle, yet steep East Slopes from here. We bushwhacked in a westward direction to the base of Helens East Slopes. Things got really steep from here! We gained about 2,100ft. in a little over a mile to gain Mt. Helens 13,164ft. summit. From Mt. Helens summit we had great views of the East Ridge Route to Father Dyer (13,615ft)as well as North Star and Mt. Quandary to the south.
The saddle does not rise enough between these two peaks for them to be officially ranked mountains in the State of Colorado.
Nevertheless, they are worth the visit. The East Ridge didn't look bad from Helen's summit. We could see the series of towers along the ridge that Gerry Roach describes in his "Colorado Fourteeners" guidebook further down the ridge. We knew these would be the trickiest spots. We descended Helen to the bottom of the Father Dyer - Mt. Helen saddle. I can remember being disappointed at this point, thinking "Wow, the East Ridge is gonna be too easy of a going!" :(
When we began ascending the East Ridge and reached the towers the scrambling became more difficult Class 3.
We stayed on the top of the ridge throughout where it was the most difficult. We spotted areas on the south side of the ridge where we could have dropped down and avoided these tough spots. We came to scramble and avoided them. At one point on the ridge, at the base of a rock tower, there is a small cliff. Getting in position to jump across this small cliff meant you had no hand holds prior to committing to the jump. It was intense; luckily the other side of the cliff had great hand and foot holds galore. This was definitely the crux of the climb.
After spending several hours on the rocky East Ridge, we were finally on top of Father Dyer. We were already tired but motivated to summit Crystal Peak, the main mountain we came for. The ridge in between Father Dyer and Crystal Peak is extremely mellow. We strolled across the small talus blocks to Crystal Peaks summit. I had never climbed so many points and summits in a single day and the sense of accomplishment had me beaming with happiness.
From Crystals summit we could see the faint trail
on Peak 10 that leads to Upper Crystal Lake. We stopped at this beautiful lake and enjoyed several cigarettes, well deserved yet counterproductive ..the marvels of nicotine addiction!
We followed the trail and rejoined the Wheeler Trail making our way back to my car approximately 10 hours after departing for the East Ridge.
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