Labor Day 2017: Father Dyer (13,612'), Crystal Peak (13,852'), and Mt Helen (13,164')
Owen and Emily joined me in Colorado for a long Labor Day weekend trip. They were interested in alpine scrambling, so we gave them a good introduction on some 13,000' peaks above Breckenridge.
On Sunday, 9/4, we got an early start and drove our Jeep up the 4 wheel drive road to Lower Crystal Lake, around 12,000'. We climbed up the East Ridge of Father Dyer (13,612') which goes at easy class 3, with some mild exposure. Then Owen, Dad, and Paul continued on to Crystal Peak (13,852'), a short jaunt along a class 2/2+ ridge, and we all traversed over to Mt Helen (13,164') along a class 3 ridge with some solid exposure.
From the summit of Father Dyer, it's about 0.6 miles across class 2 or 2+ ridge to get to Crystal Peak. Owen and Paul and Dad decided to head over to bag Crystal Peak, while Emily and I hung out on the summit of Father Dyer. We found some shelter out of the wind, and it was surprisingly pleasant, sitting in the sun.
Once they returned from Crystal Peak, we began the meat of our scrambling adventure. The traverse from Father Dyer to Mt Helen is a little more exposed and a little more difficult than the climb up the East Ridge, but not so sustained or difficult to make it a bad outing. There is one continuous section of exposed scrambling that requires careful routefinding, then an easy and slightly exposed hike to reach the actual summit of Mt Helen.
After summiting Mt Helen, we were feeling the altitude. It was only our 2nd day at elevation, after all. We had two options to descend. First, we could hike down the gentle but long East Slopes route on Mt Helen, to Paul's truck which we stashed at the base on our way in. The other option we scoped from the ridge: there appeared to be a short but steep and loose talus gully we could descend which would drop us nearly on top of our jeep. We opted for the talus gully, which turned out to be not as bad as it seemed. Owen and Emily had another introduction to a (less fun) aspect of CO mountaineering, and we cut a lot of distance and hiking off of our round trip.
With fantastic weather and good company, this was an ideal trip. We got to introduce Owen and Emily to alpine scrambling, and we managed to cram an awful lot of fun terrain into not a lot of time. I think the East Ridge of Father Dyer to Mt Helen trip is a great trip for anyone who's looking for more scrambling in Summit County. Even on a Labor Day weekend with great weather, we encountered fewer than 10 other people the entire day in the mountains. Overall, another fantastic trip.