Monday, August 13, 2012
Quick Mayflower Pilgrimage: Crystal Peak and Mayflower Hill
Crystal Peak (13852')
Mayflower Hill (12416')
After Brandon's Saturday night Leadville Run, and another great day of weather in the mountains, Nick and I, along with Andy Gisler, decided to take advantage of another mellow running/hiking opportunity before wrapping up the weekend.
First, though, we watched a replay of the women's Olympic Marathon race, drank some coffee, and hung out a bit, before finally ambling out to the mountains just before noon. But what a leisurely Sunday!
On tap was a ridge run Centennial 13er combo of Atlantic and Pacific ("Coast-to-Coast") combined with Crystal Peak. In just over 8.5 miles, we'd have a short run/hike into the lovely Mayflower Gulch, and then a straightforward Class 2 hike up to the Crystal-Atlantic saddle, before hitting C-P-A. I've enjoyed visiting the gulch previously in winter. The weather was cooperating, and we were all game for jogging and power hiking after the previous day's near-40 miles at elevation.
At least, I thought I was.
After just over 10 minutes on the trail, we bushwhacked across the creek, finding relatively easy passage through the willows and into the trees, onto the shoulder of Mayflower Hill. Skirting below it, we continued onto larger talus fields and then sidehilled below Pacific's summit, eventually getting below the Pacific-Crystal saddle. We headed up the saddle, which had one false summit lump and some impressive notchy views from the top:
And then headed up to the Crystal summit.
Somewhere along the way, though, the previous day..2 days...week's training caught up with me. Standing with both feet on a large rock, I felt it wobble, only to look down and see that it was completely stationary. My legs were not too achey, but were shaking on the rocks, and my head was swimming a bit. Not sure if one was causing the other. I ate some extra food, not feeling hungry or otherwise low on calories, but it didn't make it better. I could still move fine, just slowly. By the time I caught up at the Crystal summit, I told the guys that I was going to head down while they continued. I hated having to bail -- especially on a particular route I was excited to do -- and watched enviously as they headed up towards the cool looking notch on the top of Pacific Peak. But I knew I reached my limit for the week. If I were solo, I could have gone slower and/or taken a nap, but with group dynamics I had crossed the line from being slow to being a potential liability if I pushed anything harder (since I knew the route down was easy and would only get easier).
After a bit, though, it was actually kind of cool to watch 2 red dots proceed upward on the mountain, and track their progress. I took my time heading down off of Crystal as I kept watching their progress to Pacific. Soon enough, they disappeared around the other side.
I headed down deliberately off of Crystal, and a bit lower off of the talus and onto the tundra. Some wildflowers were still showing, and I began to feel better, enough to jog along the tundra towards the rockier saddle of Mayflower Hill. I got closer to another group that had descended off of Pacific, but I was below them near the Mayflower Saddle, so I headed up towards them. In hindsight, the quickest way is to stay low along the Pacific Creek drainage and only really climb below the Mayflower-Pacific saddle and Pacific-Crystal saddle -- essentially what Roach suggests in the 13er book.
Taking my time along the tundra and boulder fields, I was able to appreciate small details that I normally don't, such as some of the striped and smoother rocks along the creek, impressive larger pieces of quartz, and some igneous rocks as well. Along the boulders, I had to be careful, especially at face level(!), for spiders that cast a single tripwire between rocks; once the line was disturbed, the bulbous spiders dropped quickly to the ground and scurried away.
I was feeling better by the time I re-climbed the Mayflower Saddle, and I had a clear view of Atlantic. Scanning the ridge, I finally made out 2 dots just coming off of the summit, with another pair just about off of the ridge. I was happy to know of their success and being able to estimate their arrival time, so to make lemonade out of my otherwise single-summit, I made the extra effort to head up to the summit of Mayflower Hill. And, man, the 13ers are getting crowded too -- why not enjoy an uncrowded 12er?
The Hill has a faint trail on top, and a few candidate cairns vying for true summit status. I enjoyed the views from the top, knowing that I could either retreat the way I came, or ride the ridge as long as possible towards the highway. I chose the latter, and had a nice easy jog across tundra. Before dropping to treeline, I stayed high on some balder patches of grass, wanting to drop into the forest as late as possible. I feared a bit of a slog in the last 3/4 mile or so, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise of occasionaly game trails, logging road, well-spaced trees, and otherwise clean forest floor that was relatively free of detritus. That is, it was possible to zig-zag and jog down through the trees, headed toward the highway and parking lot. I wouldn't be able to retrace these steps on an ascent, but I'd definitely recommend considering it for a return route.
I was still early enough to chat with a guy in the parking lot about various hikes, and get some beers ready for the other guys. In short order, everyone was back. I need to return for some Coast-to-Coast action another time, but was happy to have enjoyed the views from Crystal and Mayflower.