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The valley of Crystal Peak October 28, 2008

Posted by Jenny in Colorado Rockies, hiking, nature.
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Hike distance: 10 miles/ Elevation gain: 3475 feet

Crystal Peak in the Tenmile-Mosquito Range

Crystal Peak in the Tenmile-Mosquito Range

This beautiful place of high silent lakes rimmed by wildflowers represents unfinished business for me.  From our base in Breckenridge, Colorado, Bob and I had climbed Mt. Democrat (14,148′) and Peak 10 (13,633′) on two successive days.  On the third day, Bob went fishing with his friend Lars, and I decided to climb Crystal Peak (13,852′).  We had been very close to it the day before—but this time I would go up by way of the next valley to the south, past the Mohawk Lakes.

The valley presents itself as a series of unfoldings.  In giant stair steps, you climb steeply past a high waterfall, and a large lake unfolds before you.  Climb past a second waterfall, and second lake appears.  Keep going.  More lakes emerge before you in the high meadows as you get up into the harsher, starker end of the valley, a place ruled by wind and cold, surrounded by steep talus slopes.

I knew as I climbed past the first waterfall that something was wrong and that I probably wouldn’t get to the top of the mountain.  I was actually exhausted from the hiking of the two previous days, and I had a rather unpleasant feeling that I can best describe as “nausea of the lungs.”  The altitude hadn’t stopped me the previous two days, but now I was hitting the wall.  The hike distance and elevation gain at the top of the post represent the total for the climb to the summit.  I made it to about 13,000 feet, a climb of 2,600 feet from the trailhead, and sat down beside one of the lakes.  This was a magical place.  The wildflowers seemed to clamor to present their colors: “You think you’ve seen blue before?  Take a look at this!  Yellow over here, the best you’ll ever see! Pink this way—don’t miss it!”

I’ll be back.

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Comments»

1. Gary Howell - October 28, 2008

very pretty pictures .. wish I’d been on the hike (well one of the three and fish the second day would have been more like it).

I did get to do an AT overnight from Max Patch down to I-40 last weekend. I think I had not done a hiking overnight since 30 some years ago in the Shenandoah. Which was also where my wife and I went for a honeymoon. The trail culture this time was sharing the shelter with 4 guys from Kentucky, a big fire, the bourbon came out after a while.

2. streamsandforests - October 28, 2008

Max Patch! A Smoky Mountains Hiking Club favorite! Shelters are always a throw of the dice. One time you get the Kentucky guys with the bourbon, the next you get 15 kids in a school group! (That happened to me and Bob one time, and we ended up moving a bit down the trail and pitching the tent.) In the Smokies, you also get the occasional bear peering inside to see what you have for dinner.


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