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 really 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.
[I'm finally out of the trees and on the interesting rock of the ridge. Bow Lake far below and Thompson and Jimmy Simpson rising above in the distance.]
[The rocky areas were fun.]
[Bow Peak on the left and Crowfoot Mountain on the right with Crowfoot Pass between them.]
[A pano as I break tree line, looking west. ++]
[Interesting view of Mount Thompson!]
[More cool rock and snow scenery.]
[Looking up at the final ridge to the summit of Crystal Ridge.]
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.
[Bow Lake with Mount Thompson rising above, Portal Peak to the left.]
[The summit ridge.]
[Mount Hector (r), Little Hector and Andromache (l) from the summit.]
[Unnamed and Crowfoot Mountain to the right with Crowfoot Glacier between.]
[Pano looking east at Helen Lake, Cirque Peak and Dolomite Peak and south down Hwy 93 at the Hector region, Bow Peak and Crowfoot Mountain on the right. ++]
[Pano looking west includes the Bow Lake area. ++]
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.
[More cool rock scenery on descent - too bad I was sinking up to my waist in these spots. That was great fun. :(]
[Avalanches were thundering down peaks in the area all afternoon. Look closely at the east side of Crowfoot Mountain.]
[This is why it's called "Crystal" ridge I guess... ;) This was about the size of a football.]
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.