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Crystal Crag

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Crystal Crag

Postby Mradford » Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:23 pm

Has anyone summitted this before? Thinking of doing it when were in mammoth in a few weeks but can't find a ton of info on it other than what is posted on Supertopo: http://www.summitpost.org/west-couloirs/156714

It seems pretty straight forward, but just wondering if anyone has any experience on it?
Thanks!
-Mike



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Re: Crystal Crag

Postby Mradford » Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:31 pm

btw, i didn't mention that I wouldn't be climbing, but doing it as a day hike.
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Re: Crystal Crag

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:57 pm

Crystal Crag is a very nice looking mountain and once you've seen it from Mammoth it's hard not to want to climb it. When I did it, I did it as an "add on" dayhike after coming out from an overnighter to Bright Dot Lake that resulted in climbing Morrison and Baldwin.

I climbed Crystal Crag in 1972, by what you might call the eastern side of the south ridge (out of view in the photo). The peak is (or was) rated class 2, by the south ridge, but try as I might going up or down I couldn't find a class 2 route. There are broken, steep, class 2 slopes that form a steeply-slanted "bench" if you will below the crest line of the south ridge and above the lower cliffs on the east side. This was the band of easier stuff I tried to climb, but there were cliff bands or slots that I found unavoidable. I recall something like 50-100 feet of high class 3 or perhaps class 4 (the rest being steep class 2) on good rock. I was 13 at the time I did this and I asked my dad for a belay (and received one, of course) on the high 3rd/4th part. Even then I was usually good about finding a better route down to avoid the difficulties, but I don't seem to recall that I succeeded in doing so. I would presume I didn't follow the crest of the south ridge itself because it looked worse than class 3. I did not consider the west couloir at the time, probably because I didn't see it (I walked around from the TJ side as I recall). Other than getting sketched out at that one spot and asking for the belay, the other memory I have of this climb is of great views--very aerial, I recall.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Crystal Crag

Postby Mradford » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:21 pm

So I ended up climbing the Western Couloir on Friday. I have to say, the couloir itself feels a little harder than third class. There were some serious moves (mantling and stemming) to get over some of the ledges with serious exposure. Also, the couloir has a lot of loose talus and scree. The route from the top of the chute to the summit was easy class 2-3 though. You were right about it being "aerial." We decided to come down via the south side through a scree shoot that was pretty loose. Lots of scree and loose rock. Not at all a good way to climb up, but an easy down climb, err, slide. Once at the bottom, we headed cross country over some talus and through the woods until we reached TJ Lake where we decided that naked cliff jumping was in order. Ended the day with some pizza at the village. Overall it was a fun day with an epic summit view.

Image
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Re: Crystal Crag

Postby longri » Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:03 pm

Congratulations. It is a peak that sort of stands out, in its own little way.

I've only climbed it one time, via the North Arete. The climbing was just so-so and the real reason I went there was because of all the quartz. The "crystal pitch", climbing on all quartz, was quite something, albeit loose. And the tons and tons of milky quartz littering the base was also impressive. I took a piece home (it probably weighs 15 or 20 lbs) and put it on the mantel.

I really like the description of the N. Arete in Peter Croft's guidebook to the Sierra:

"This is a tiny mountain climb, one of [the] smallest in the whole of the Sierra. But it is a very good route, especially when one considers the ease of access, the scenic location and the weirdly enjoyable crystal pitch on the summit ridge. If you and your partner have been getting that teary eyed - trembly chin look when actually faced with other peaks then this may well be the climb for you."
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Re: Crystal Crag

Postby Sewellymon » Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:48 pm

Can you clarify what you did on the West Couloir?

Took my new wife up the West Couloir recently and could not find the easy 3rd class route to summit. We did fine on the various lower 3rd class sections until the couloir tops out onto what felt like 4th class summit ridge. I know there is an easier way (I scrambled, rock climbed and free solo'd all around Crystal Crag in the 70's and 80's...).

Is there a chute that arcs left just prior to the main chute hitting the ridge?

Age and lack of memory is ****...

EDIT- just checked Summit Post Photo. I think we were several chutes north on the West Face of the standard 3rd class route? Doh..
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Re: Crystal Crag

Postby Mradford » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:11 am

Sewellymon wrote:Can you clarify what you did on the West Couloir?

Took my new wife up the West Couloir recently and could not find the easy 3rd class route to summit. We did fine on the various lower 3rd class sections until the couloir tops out onto what felt like 4th class summit ridge. I know there is an easier way (I scrambled, rock climbed and free solo'd all around Crystal Crag in the 70's and 80's...).

Is there a chute that arcs left just prior to the main chute hitting the ridge?

Age and lack of memory is ****...

EDIT- just checked Summit Post Photo. I think we were several chutes north on the West Face of the standard 3rd class route? Doh..


So we headed up the Western Couloir proper. I know there are two or three other chutes, one they call One Tree, and another one. Our route seemed really easy third class until mid way up the chute when suddenly we had a series of three or four 4th class moves. I think that sometime in the recent past, some big peices of talus broke free and have clogged the chute making it more difficult.

Once we reached the the ridge, we dropped down about 20 feet on the south side of the ridge and it was pretty smooth sailing from there. This part of the route definitely requires solid route finding. If you get off course, it can easily become really exposed and possibly 4th class. Our route did a few zigzags and finally we reached the bottom of the actual summit and the route was pretty clear from there.
All in all, the route is kid of tricky. If you did the One Tree Couloir, which it sounds like you may have, they say that the chute to the ridge is easier than the western couloir, but that the ridge to the summit requires more routefinding and can easiliy become 4th and 5th class if you get out of position.

Check out these two links, they really helped us.

http://www.summitpost.org/west-couloirs/156714
http://www.summitpost.org/crystal-crag- ... 0/c-156712
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