Peak(s):  Crystal Peak A  -  13,852 feet
Date Posted:  02/04/2021
Date Climbed:   08/15/2020
Author:  Chelsea
Additional Members:   torimeri, 13erRetriever
 Smoky Crystal   

Crystal Peak A (13,852′)

08/15/20 | 5.22 miles | 1,956′ gain | Class 2


The summer of 2020 was a particularly bad wildfire season in Colorado with the three biggest wildfires in the state’s history all occurring within just a few months. So far we hadn’t been horribly affected by smoke, but this hike marked a noticeable change for the worse both on hikes and at home. The prominent haze in many of my pictures may look like poor picture quality but it’s actually thick smoke.

Allie picked a trio of 13ers (Crystal Peak, Peak 10, and Peak 9) to hit her peaks #98, 99, and 100. Her parents came with to help celebrate and Tori tagged along as well. It’s not very often we have such a big group! Tori and I met Allie and her parents at the 2wd trailhead where we caravanned up the 4wd road to Lower Crystal Lake.

Lower Crystal Lake

The road to Lower Crystal Lake is a stiff 4wd. Both the high clearance and 4-lo of the Tacoma were needed in some sections. Towards the top the road is overgrown and the shrubs scratched up the sides of the truck. (Oops…thankfully this was all superficial and we were able to get this buffed out before Klay took his truck back.)

There was room for a handful of vehicles at the lake. Parking this high cut off ~4.25 miles and 1,500′ of hiking. A trail starts at Lower Crystal Lake and switchbacks up the hillside, eventually making its way to Upper Crystal Lake. Just like in many other areas of Colorado, the trails and roads in this area were originally used by miners in their search for metals like gold and silver.

A great trail all the way to Upper Crystal Lake
Looking back on Lower Crystal Lake – Mount Helen (13,164′) rising behind
Arctic Gentian
Crystal Peak is in sight now! (just left of center)

We decided to do Crystal Peak first since it’s the tallest. Just before Upper Crystal Lake, we cut off the trail and hiked up talus and grass to the Crystal/Peak 10 saddle.

Upper Crystal Lake and Father Dyer Peak (13,615′)
Looking down valley at…smoke.
Crystal Peak from the Crystal/Peak 10 saddle

After a quick break at the saddle, we continued up Crystal’s northeast ridge. There were often trail fragments through the talus.

Peggy with Peak 10 (13,633′)
Upper Crystal Lake (though we jokingly called it Creepy Jack-o-Lantern Lake)
Going around an obstacle on the ridge. There are easy options on both sides.

The ridge went by quickly and we soon found ourselves at the summit with a handful of others, all of whom had ascended different routes. Tori’s asthma had been acting up due to the smoke, which didn’t seem to want to go away.

Peak 9 (13,195′) and Peak 10 (13,633′)
Pacific Peak (13,950′, nearest peak on the right), Quandary Peak (14,265′, further peak on the left)
Mohawk Lakes

Unfortunately Tori’s asthma didn’t show signs of improvement after a long rest. We decided it would be safer to head back down to the trailhead instead of finishing the trio of peaks.

I believe this plume is from the Williams Fork Fire which began the day prior. This wildfire was human-caused.
Zoom of smoke plume
I’d jokingly told Allie I’d be angry if we didn’t see crystals on Crystal Peak and look at what we found!
An old prospect or mine

We parted ways at the saddle, Allie and her parents heading up Peak 10 and Tori and I retracing our steps back to the truck. Since we’d driven separately, the rest of the group was still able to finish the loop and Allie made it to peak #100! Tori and I maintained a slow pace so as to not make her asthma any worse. Now that I’d been in smoky conditions for a few hours, my body was feeling the effects as well. It was definitely time to get down to fresher air.

Parting views: Mount Helen, Lower Crystal Lake, and harebells (foreground)

Our drive out was straightforward and I was thankful we didn’t have any difficulty passing other vehicles. We got a lot of funny looks from hikers and backpackers. Maybe they didn’t know driving was an option? Even with the smoke (and only getting one peak instead of our planned three) it’s always a good day in the mountains and we were lucky to experience it. Tori recovered just fine and was ready to hike with me again the following week, thankfully in a less smoky area.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Great Report!
02/05/2021 11:44
Thank you for this detailed and concise report on Crystal. It‘s been on my list for years and I will use your report as a guide.

02/05/2021 14:24
@edmdais1: I'm glad you found it helpful! Hopefully it's not quite as smoky when you visit.

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