Peak(s):  Pk 9  -  13,195 feet
Pk 10  -  13,633 feet
Crystal Pk A  -  13,852 feet
Date Posted:  08/17/2014
Date Climbed:   08/15/2014
Author:  rajz06
 Count up from 9 and Stop at C  

Starting Point: Breckenridge Ski area (11,400')
Peaks Climbed in order of ascent: Peak 9 (13,195'), Peak 10 (13,633'), Crystal Peak (13,852')
Route: East ridge ascent of Peak 9, northwest ridge ascent of Peak 10, northeast ridge ascent of Crystal and loop descent
RT Distance: 8.1 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3,700 feet
Group: Solo

Crystal peak has been on my wish list for a couple of seasons. It is often climbed with its neighboring centennials, Atlantic and Pacific or, for the more ambitious, as part of a seemingly endless lineup of high peaks on the Tenmile traverse . My goals today were far less lofty: climb less visited 13ers 9 and 10 en route to Crystal and make a loop on the descent.

Ski area without the snow

I followed Peak 9 4WD road as it meandered up the ski area, soon bringing beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

Peak 9 road

My previous visits to this area were when there was considerable snow cover, so the summer look was a change indeed. Peak 8 was barely holding a few patches of the white stuff on its north ridge.

Peak 8

Peak 9's east ridge looked almost completely barren.

Peak 9 and its east ridge

As the road emerged from the trees, I got my first view of the first two peaks on the agenda and the ridge routes that I would be attempting.

Peak 9 and Peak 10

I decided to abandon the road shortly after this point for a more direct approach which proved to be a not so bright idea. This basin was quite wet and the bushwhacking that was needed to get to the base of the Peak 9 turned out to be a somewhat unpleasant exercise and none too expedient for that matter.

Whacking through wet bushes

After some ten minutes of whacking through the dense, damp undergrowth, I stood at the foot of Peak 9 with all the eagerness of a wet dog, ready to climb the 800 vertical feet to Peak 9's summit which is hidden behind the false summit that is visible in the next shot.

At the foot of Peak 9

Chances are you haven't seen these peaks up close without snow on them, so I can tell you that Peak 9's east ridge is a grassy terrain strewn with boulders and stretched over a bit under two-thirds of a mile. In other words, just perfect for a warm-up jaunt.

Up the grassy slope we go

I took the next shot some 200 vertical feet short of the summit, as the clouds caressing the top of Peak 10 made for a memorable sight.

Mist oer the peak

Meanwhile back on Peak 9's east ridge, a false summit lead to a small talus field as the summit marker sprung into view spurring me on to the top.

Amost at the top

A good warmup pitch indeed - elapsing in less than 25 minutes and invigorating the body and soul for what lay much farther ahead. Specifically, Crystal Peak.

Crystal Peak

Clouds were hovering everywhere except on Peak 9's summit so I didn't linger on this perch. I started my descent down the north ridge, focused on the steep northwest face of the peak in front of me.

Peak 10 in my sights

Peak 10 has a gentle east ridge, fed by the 4WD road which goes to 13,360' some 300 feet short of the summit. Its north ridge is steeper and rated difficult class 2. The northwest ridge I was gunning for was steeper still - rising about 860 feet in a breezy third of a mile! That's about 26 degrees - easy for a snow climb, not so much under these conditions.

Peak 10's NW ridge

Peak 10's NW ridge is the crux of this traverse

The clouds had magically cleared off the peak as I started up a faint trail that weaved up the boulders on Peak 10's northwest face. I'm no stranger to steep climbs or to loose scree slopes but I knew the combination was not to be trifled with. As it turned out, this ridge's bark was worse than its bite.

Talus filled slope up Peak 10

Which is not to say that the rocks were always stable. There were at least a couple of occasions where fairly large boulders shifted under my foot, and one where I caused a mini rock slide. Good thing then that there was no one behind me; clearly the folks that line up on Quandary's east ridge every summer weekend have either never heard of these peaks or couldn't be bothered by their lack of altitude significance. FYI for those "metric"ally challenged - Crystal peak, just as an example, has an elevation of 4,222m above sea level, while the equally arbitrary 4,267.2m level is the so-called 14,000 foot mark. Maybe this will just be our own little secret...

Looking down to the saddle

False summits have the effect of lighting a fire under my derriere and so it was when this one loomed large in front of me.

Final pitch to Peak 10's summit

That pitch to Peak 10's summit took me about thirty minutes - there was nothing remotely technical and the scree was not brutal by any means but the terrain required attention the whole time.

My second summit of the day offered a great view of the other numbered but otherwise nameless peaks of the linear Tenmile range.

Peaks 9, 8, 7...

To the south, the ridgeline follows the better known high 13ers of the range.

High Tenmile 13ers

It was time to continue as I still had my sights on Crystal Peak. The winds had oddly quieted down but the dark clouds were still hovering and I knew I wouldn't have any bail out option from Crystal other than to retrace my path. More or less...

Ridge to Crystal

The descent to the saddle was long winded to say the least, the 380 foot drop stretched over a yawning half mile. Crystal Peak may have a higher elevation than Peak 10 but its rise over the saddle with its neighbor is neither as impressively steep nor as high as Peak 10's over its saddle with Peak 9.

At the broad saddle

Rocky spurs adorned the ridge but posed no challenges whatsoever.

Crystal's NE ridge

Easy rock pileup

The final push to the summit was even easier making for a somewhat anticlimactic finish to my third and highest summit of the day.

Then it gets even easier...

The next shot looks back at the traverse of the day. A couple of ubiquitous 14ers adorn the background.

Sizing up the traverse so far

I looked at Pacific's impressive northeast face and the ridge to its summit, but that would have to wait for another occasion.

Pacific's rugged north face

I had already decided that I would make a loop rather than ascend Peak 10 on my return. One option was to skirt Peak 10's south slopes and traverse around to join the 4WD road connecting to Peak 10's east ridge. As I scoured the south face of Peak 10, I spotted a distinct trail doing exactly that.

Spotting the trail from the saddle

It would not dawn on me until much later that this trail headed down to Crystal lakes and eventually to Spruce Creek trailhead and would put me well outside of easy access back to the ski area. I made it down to the saddle in a jiffy and started following the well cairned trail.

Looking back at my descent

About half a mile past the saddle on this lovely trail to nowhere (that I cared to go), I realized my folly. At this point I had the option of climbing the 600 vertical feet up Peak 10's southeast face or continuing farther down the trail and make an ascending traverse to get around the lower east slopes.

Still on the trail

I chose the latter and as evidenced by my tracks this would've worked well but the execution was somewhat flawed. Well past a mile from the saddle the trail makes a switch back and here I chose the abandon it and make a bid around the hillside.

Time to bandon the trail

Sidehilling around tundra was no problem; scree was another story.

Sidehilling aroung the slope

I slip-slid around the loose stuff losing my footing a few times and eventually made it back to grassy terrain. Time had come to pay the piper; I knew I'd have to climb close to 500 vertical feet at some point so I aimed for a point up the grassy slope and went for it.

Climbing up the grassy slope

More climbing was required to reach the top of the grassy knoll...

Ad then some...

Followed by a mad dash up the next hill...

One more hillock to go

From this vantage point, the remaining route was fairly obvious even though there was some more elevation to be gained before I'd rejoin the trail. It was also clear that I could've reached this grassy mound by directly climbing the hill earlier as shown by the route in blue.

Eyeing the remaining route

But that would only have shortened my time in these mountains. Now, we couldn't have that could we?

Yours truly

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

08/18/2014 01:26
Always love your TR's

Brian Thomas

FYI for those "metric"ally challenged
08/18/2014 17:49
I've always wondered why the 4,267m and higher peaks were so popular

Cool TR, you've been putting up some nice loop routes recently, thanks for posting.

Very nice
08/19/2014 16:49
Looking at this loop plus F. Dyer and Helen for this fall. This is a nice little prompt!

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