Peak(s):  Crystal Peak A  -  13,852 feet
Mt. Helen  -  13,164 feet
Peak 10  -  13,633 feet
Peak 9  -  13,195 feet
Father Dyer Peak  -  13,615 feet
Date Posted:  03/31/2012
Modified:  06/04/2012
Date Climbed:   03/31/2012
Author:  Monster5
 Crystal Gulch Loop   

Crystal Gulch Loop - Peak 9, Peak 10, Crystal Peak A, Father Dyer, Helen

March 31, 2012

Spruce Creek Trailhead
8.5mi, 4.5K' (ish)

Difficulty: Mostly class 2. C3 from FD to H with a couple c4 spots.
Gear used: Poles; Snowshoes, briefly, on descent.


Decided to take advantage of another free weekend, light snow, and good beta from Aaron Johnson (younger version). A solo outing at my own pace was in order as I was recovering from a recent lacrosse game and I would've felt bad if I needed to bail on somebody or slow them down.

The ski-traffic alarm woke me up around 0500 and I was heading up Spruce Creek Road at 0530. The beastmunks (chipmunk/mountain lion hybrids) kept me moving along quickly by headlamp. The right fork up the Crystal Creek Road came promptly, as well as Francie's Cabin. I missed the Wheeler Trail junction, but the terrain was friendly and the snow pleasantly crunchy.

I contoured around a small hill and caught up with the Wheeler Trail beneath Pt 12408 before gaining Peak 10's E ridge in time for some views. I left the trail and hiked straight to Peak 9's E ridge with minor postholing in the willows.

Peak 9 was fairly gentle and the summit came quickly. I had slowed down to a gentler pace and that seemed to be the trick for staying fresh and not exacerbating injuries. Weird.

Peak 9

Peak 10's slopes looked annoying, but they turned out pretty decent. Not quite mantra inducing, which is good because personal mantras always sound silly to others. I took a quick snack break before heading over to Crystal.

Reaching Crystal's summit, I was beginning to think it would be yet another solo outing in great conditions; however, I could just pick out the skiers/alarm clocks making their way up the drainage.


The terrain over to Father Dyer began teasing me of the scrambles to come and I summitted shortly before 1100. There were recent ski tracks down one of the E couloirs and a glissade path down the Straits.

Crystal from Father Dyer

The first third of the Father Dyer - Helen ridge was class 2+. The second third was interesting. Plenty of scrambling opportunities to be had - knife edges, ledge traverses, notch maneuvers, and more. For the most part, it was class 3, but a couple spots were a bit more difficult. A couple spots required back-tracking and bypassing to the south. All in all, it is a fine reward for the day.

Looking back at Father Dyer

The slog up to Helen wasn't so bad (13:00) as the views were pretty okay and I spotted some goats running away from me. Whatever. It's not like they offended me or anything.

Helen's E slopes were dry almost to treeline and a couple semi-glissades brought me closer to a brutal posthole, which was topped by the tea bag breaking in my nalgene (first-world problems). I held out on the snowshoes and pieced together tree wells before giving up and slapping the snowshoes on fifty unknown feet away from the packed Wheeler trail. Nice. I headed south on the Wheeler trail/Aqueduct Road for about 50 yards before hooking left on the Spruce Creek Road and following that on back to the car (14:30).

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