Peak(s):  Helen, Mt  -  13,164 feet
Father Dyer Pk  -  13,615 feet
Date Posted:  06/26/2016
Modified:  07/24/2016
Date Climbed:   06/25/2016
Author:  Hoot
 Helen - Father Dyer Ridge Scramble  

Mt Helen to Father Dyer Ridge Traverse
Date: 25 Jun 16
Climbers: Hoot and Dave
Trailhead: Spruce Creek Road at Wheeler Trail Crossing (4WD)
Route: Up Mt Helen's East Face and down Father Dyer's East Ridge
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 7 hours, 45 minutes

I've been wanting to scramble the Helen-FD traverse ever since seeing it when I climbed Father Dyer's East Ridge in 2012. It turned out to be a very fun scramble which can be kept at third class but easily made more challenging if desired.

After driving up from the Springs, Dave and I started hiking from the intersection of Spruce Creek Road and the Wheeler Trail at 11,120' at 7:42 am. Following the aqueduct road, we somehow missed the Wheeler Trail turnoff and hiked further than we needed to before heading through the trees to Helen's east slope. I think the best place to start up Helen is just beyond the gate across the aqueduct road and before the Wheeler Trail turnoff. After bushwhacking a bit through the trees up a moderately steep slope, we enjoyed Helen's easy-to-climb grassy east slope. We saw some cairns along the way, but the route is obvious - go up. Including our off-route start, it took us about 90 minutes to reach the summit of Mount Helen.

The traverse from Helen to FD gets progressively more challenging with few difficulties prior to the low point along the ridge. Early along the ridge we passed two guys headed down. They warned us about an aggressive goat with a young kid nearby further up the ridge. They told us that the goat had charged them! We were approached by two goats at different points along the ridge and detoured a bit off the ridge to avoid them. But neither of the goats gave us any problems. After crossing a neat catwalk, we came to the first of three towers (really just high points) that provided the most interesting climbing along the ridge. Climbing the first tower was fun, moderately exposed third class scrambling on solid rock. Down climbing the first tower was difficult class 3. Climbing the second tower required a few moderately exposed forth class moves, but getting off that tower on the ridge would have required a very exposed low fifth class down climb. I backtracked a bit and traversed around that tower to the third tower. Climbing the third tower also required a few moderately exposed forth class moves. But continuing along the ridge was not a problem from the top of this last tower. While I was playing around on these two towers, Dave managed to find an easy bypass about 100 feet below the ridge crest on the south side. In general, most, but not all, difficult sections on the ridge can be bypassed on the south side. After the third tower we came to little knife edge section on the ridge (minimal exposure) and then a short forth class down climb on white rock along the ridge. Beyond this down climb, it was easy class 2 along the ridge to the summit of Father Dyer. It took Dave and me 2 hours and 37 minutes to traverse from Helen to Father Dyer.

We debated descent routes. I was able to convince Dave that down climbing FD's East Ridge would be about as fast as descending from the FD-Crystal saddle - and I may have been right. After some loose rock near the top of FD's East Ridge, the going was pretty easy getting down. While there is some third class scrambling along this ridge, it's much easier than the sustained third class along the Helen-FD ridge. Near the bottom of the ridge we crossed a few short snow fields before reaching the 4WD road at Lower Crystal Lake. From there we hiked down the 4WD road to the Wheeler trail. Along the road, we took off our boots and waded through the VERY cold Crystal Creek crossing. Then we had to cross Crystal Creek again on the Wheeler Trail. After trying out several options for crossing, we finally found a log from which we could jump to the other side downstream from the trail. Aside from the lack of a bridge across Crystal Creek, the Wheeler Trail is a really nice way to get back to Spruce Creek Road. After scouting out a better start up Mount Helen, we got back to our car at 3:05 pm for a 7 hour and 45 minute round trip. While the clouds had been building up, we were lucky to have great weather for the hike. We got dumped on drive home!

Here's my take on the four ridge scrambles I've done in the area from north to south.

Father Dyer's East Ridge is relatively short with a few third class sections and very little exposure. It's primarily a climb up Father Dyer and the easiest and shortest of the four.

The Helen-Father Dyer Ridge is longer and really fun with sustained and harder third class climbing with moderate exposure. It's easy to up the fun to fourth class and significant exposure along the ridge.

Pacific's East Ridge is the longest of the four with fun third class scrambling and an option or two for some forth class climbing. It can make for a long day if you climb all the way to Pacific's summit.

The North Star-Wheeler Ridge is long and it takes a while to get to the scrambling west of North Star's summit, but that scrambling is very fun mostly Class 3 with some exposure. I encountered one seemingly mandatory but easy forth class section along that ridge.

So my recommendation is to traverse all four ridges, but definitely the Helen-FD and North Star-Wheeler ridges!

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

That second goat looks ominous!
06/26/2016 14:48
Great report and glad the goats didn't attack you. That traverse looks fun and I'll definitely have to go back again to do it.

Great Job
07/21/2016 14:42
Thank you so much for the info. I have done the climb before, but it has been a while, we called it exploratory last time around. Thanks for making my job of planning so much easier.

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