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[TR] Crystal Lake Tower - SW Rib 07/03/2022


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Trip: Crystal Lake Tower - SW Rib

Trip Date: 07/03/2022

Trip Report:

We two Seattle climbers made a pleasant 3-day outing to Crystal Lake Tower. Having climbed Whitehorse Mtn. with Kellie McBee the previous week, I imagined we'd be in shape for this. After gleaning details of the route from trip reports here, and, of course, Fred's Cascade Alpine Guide, we carried out the trip without any trouble. A leisurely hike up Ingalls Creek for 7.7 miles brought us to Crystal Creek. A ribbon on a log marks a spot to turn uphill. Blowdowns made the boot-track hard to follow at first, but we soon picked it up. It goes into big boulders on the way into the tarn basin, where I somehow had my camera out for this shot:

Camp was found in some trees near the tarn, where we could see the objective of tomorrow's climb:


Under clear dawn skies we made our way around the left side of the tarn to the left side of the route's toe. I have long been enchanted by the Nightmare Needles, having climbed Little Snowpatch with Mark Landreville in 1989, so I took some shots along the way:


Easy simul-climbing starts the route, and here is Kellie coming up:

Little Annapurna is just across the creek:

We knew to aim for a large-looking white headwall and pass it on its left side. My partner expertly scoped it out:

Wonderful, improbable ramps curve around the final block of stone to the summit. The obligatory summits shots were made:

The Enchantment Lakes were still snowy in a mellow late-season way. Crystal Lake is bottom left:

I once climbed McClellan Peak while trying for Argonaut in a whiteout, by myself, so I enjoyed the view of where I once stood:

It was with relief I walked the easy descent along goat tracks to the area of Enchantment Pass. The snow was soft and giving, with no need for crampons, though we had brought axes for balance in case of ice. I had stashed my big pack at the base of the route, so I had to hike back up for retrieval while Kellie waited. Exhausted, camping was a relief until it began to rain. I had just finished boiling water for dinner and dashed into the tent with it while Kellie cooked hers. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled in the night, rain came and went in alternation with perfectly clear, starry sky.

Next morning we abolished breakfast time and got out of there fast. It rained hard for a bit, we soaked up the water in the bush, slipped on lichened rock, tumbled over logs, slipped on roots and ferns, fell backward and forward, and 
hit the Ingalls Creek trail with gratitude. An easy seven miles to the car, hooray!

Gear Notes:
Single rack to 3", one 60m rope, ice axes

Approach Notes:
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That list must be a million miles long by now, huh?

Thanks Otto for agreeing to this objective at the last minute and for a great trip; rarely have I had an alpine trip go so smoothly.  Also solitude on the Fourth of July weekend is a precious commodity.  Note we did actually see another party near Crystal Lake who had come up through Crystal Creek Basin; that was a bit of a surprise but only two other people on a holiday weekend in the Enchantments is near miraculous.

Here's to more of the same in the future!



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Awesome trip! We were bouldering in the Crystal Talus that day and I believe I spotted your bivy. What a spot!! I can't wait to go back and hopefully spend a few days up there scrambling and climbing a few of the peaks around. Crystal tower may be the first that I look to climb. 

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Up into Crystal Creek basin is an impressive amount of distance to carry bouldering pads!  (Though I could have used one when I stepped on that one rocker and pitched into a hole in the talus.)

Were you one of the guys chilling out under the tarp camped along Ingalls Creek trail that we passed by on the hike out?  

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Stuart, your TR was what initially turned me on to the idea, though I didn't see it until years after you posted it!

Oly: I actually love them.  They were on clearance so they cost the same as La Sportivas not on sale, and more to the point they happen to fit my feet perfectly.  First time out of the box was to approach and descend Guye Peak, seond time was this trip.  No hot spots or blisters or discomfort and no pain from my normal sesamoiditis issues.  I'm a fan.

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