Summit Elevation (m): 2608
Elevation Gain (m): 650
Round Trip Time (hr): 4
Total Trip Distance (km): 7
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Some route finding and easy scrambling.
Technical Rating: OT4; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
After traversing Parker Ridge earlier in the day, I found myself with plenty of time and a gorgeous spring day still ahead of me on Friday May 10, 2013. Since my snowshoes had done a great job of keeping me on top of the punchy spring snow pack, I decided to try one more ridge ascent before heading home. I didn’t know exactly where “Crystal Ridge” was, but I remembered something about the Crowfoot lookout parking lot from one of Marko’s trip reports so I drove to the lookout and parked there. From the lookout area there was a ridge, just barely visible through the trees, that would be between hwy 93 and the Helen Lake, Cirque Peak area. The trail to Helen Lake curves around this ridge. I thought the ridge looked prominent enough to give it a shot and geared up before heading to the Helen Lake trailhead across the highway.
The snow was getting very unsupportive as I struggled up the west side of the ridge, working my way north to the lower and less steep end of it. “Struggled” is the key word here. Every 10th step I would plunge up to waist deep in isothermal snow. I probably should have turned back but that’s not really the way I’m built… It wasn’t dangerous to keep going, just exhausting and unwise. 🙂 Eventually I found the north end of the ridge and started working my way up. I had to take the ‘shoes off for a few rocky sections and the snow continued to get weaker and less supportive.
Finally, after 1.5 hours of sweating more than I have in a long time I was looking at the final ridge. I had two choices for summits. I could go up and left to a rocky high point or traverse a longer ridge to my right (south). I choose the longer ridge but the first option would have worked too – they’re both the same height. The views of Cirque, Helen lake, Dolomite and the Bow Lake area were all sublime from the summit and I was serenaded by the sounds of avalanches crashing down the east face of Crowfoot Mountain while I ate lunch under a burning sun. I still wasn’t sure at this point that I was on “Crystal Ridge” but I didn’t really care either. It was a lovely day.
The descent was a bit of a nightmare. The snowpack was done. I crashed through the layers up to waist deep and swam through other bits. My round trip time of 4 hours isn’t bad, but I lost about 4 pounds of sweat in the process!! When I got home I was delighted to confirm that I replicated Bob’s Route (I even got the parking spot correct) and could claim the summit. Not quite the day I had originally planned, but that’s why you always need a few peaks in the “back pocket” in case of plan B’s. A great, short day out – I highly recommend this ridge for skiing or ‘shoeing when other areas are out of condition.