The valley of Crystal Peak October 28, 2008Posted by Jenny in Colorado Rockies, hiking, nature.
Tags: Colorado Rockies, Crystal Peak, hiking
Hike distance: 10 miles/ Elevation gain: 3475 feet
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.