East Ridge of Father-Dyer, Crystal and Pacific Peak: (2+, 3 YDS) July 16, 2020

Preface/rating System

Quick disclaimer: I like to highlight and markup some of my pictures for route clarification. Black lines= general directions, landmarks and/or class 1 route. Blue Lines=Class 2 or 2+ sections. Red= Class 3 sections. Purple = 4th class section. Orange = Class 5. The class system is based on the YDS rating scale.


After a marvelous day on the TenMile Traverse, I was itching to get back amongst it. Luckily, my good friend Ethan was in the Colorado high country for a couple of weeks dirtbaggin around and slamming some peaks, so I thought we could combine forces for a day. The targets ended up being a nice trifecta of peaks just south of Breckenridge, with some easy class 3 scrambling. Two of the peaks were also centennials, (members of the hundred highest in the state) adding to the appeal.

We met up at the Spruce Creek trailhead a little before six. It’s about two miles south of the main drag in Breckenridge, take a right on a road from another road and then, like, drive, you’ll get there. If you have a beefy truck or SUV you can head up a bit farther from the lower trailhead, for detailed directions click here. (I do not own the content on Summitpost but they are a GREAT resource for directions and mountain profiles.)

Breckenridge and the area where we hiked are magnets for wildlife, which is interesting because Breck has been “discovered” and a ton of new houses have gone up in the past couple decades. If you parooze youtube, I’m sure you’ll find many videos of moose crossing ski slopes at Breckenridge Ski Resort, it’s an almost yearly occurrence. On that note, it wasn’t particularly surprising to see a 400+ pound Black Bear cross the dirt road right in front of my car. He scurried off, but seeing wild animals that size is always a cool thing. No pics, sorry, was driving.

Up Father-Dyer Peak

The trail begins as a wide jeep road that splits into two forks a few minutes from the lower trailhead. Choose the steeper righthand option to get up to Lower Crystal Lake. This section is also a pretty well-worn jeep trail, which means you can make quick work of the first few miles until you reach the lake. It took us a little less than an hour to get to the view in the picture below.

Showing the East Ridge of Father-Dyer and class 3 scrambling up to the false peak (true summit behind)

At this point, the jeep trail took a sharp left (south) turn and trundled up towards the flanks of Mt. Helen. Once it takes another turn left (now east) break from the jeep trail and head up and over the large talus mounds in front of you. The goal is the grassy slope to your right, which you can attain via a quick down and up off the talus mounds, or a more circuitous route that follows the talus in a graceful arc to meet the slope a little higher up.

Dealers choice on specifics, but the ultimate goal is the grass slope where the highest arrow points.

Once you attain the ridge crest, the scrambling begins in earnest, first as a grab-bag of 2 and 2+, eventually thinning to a section of 3 that can be avoided by staying below the ridge crest to the south (left side).

A look back at the approach and easy ridge strolling before the scramble begins
Ethan modeling some scramble moves

As the ride tightens, you can stay on the crest for as long as you feel comfortable, while never exceeding 3. The rock is good for the most part but looser than the Tenmile traverse. Be cautious, go slow, and test foot and handholds before dropping your full weight onto them.

One of a few mini “knife edge” sections

You can always find bail out options for anything that is too exposed, which makes this approach (East Ridge) to Father-Dyer a logical pick for new scramblers. For the seasoned, the East Ridge is a great training route with plenty of options for fun. The exposure does increase in a few spots so be prepared and go at your own pace. Once you’re on the ridge proper, it’s pretty hard to get lost unless you drop off of it. Keep on climbing.

Good perspective on the ridge direct scrambling

If you do decide to stay on the ridge proper, when navigating some of the ridge crest areas, keep an eye on sharp vertical rocks, they can slap your no-no square if you’re not careful.

The rest of the scrambling sections

The ridge continues up in fairly obvious fashion over a few bumps and towards the false summit. As you near the false summit, the difficulties relent and you can hop up to the top with ease. As a general rule, the left side of the ridge has the best bail out options, but on occasion, the right side offers respite as well. Use your eyeballs and take a moment to find the best route for you.

The “Horn”

Once you clamber up to the false summit, passing the “horn” en route, you’ll see that the actual summit is still a little bit west of you. The remaining bit to the top is kept at class 2.

Last push to the summit

On the summit is a plaque dedicated to Father-Dyer, a local reverend who lived from 1812-1901. To be honest, the most remarkable thing about that is how long ole Father-Dyer lived! Life was not very kind to most in the 1800s and here’s Rev. Dyer churning it out til 89. He lived two centuries ago and still made it past the average life expectancy of a modern American, righteous my dude.

Ethan on top of Father-Dyer, with Pacific Pk in full view

Crystal Peak and Pacific Peak

From Father-Dyer, the ridge run over to Crystal is easy and enjoyable. As with all talus hopping, the risk for strains and sprains is fairly constant. Pay attention to where you are stepping! This section seemed to go by really quickly as I listened to Ethan recount stories of the multiple times he’s done the El Camino walk across the neck of the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. It sounded great and is rapidly ascending my (endless) list of things to do in life.

Made it within half an hour, moving at a quick clip

Crystal Peak is usually busier than the almost always empty Father-Dyer because of its inclusion in the Colorado hundred highest list. However, seeing as we climbed on a Thursday, there just wasn’t anyone around. Summit #2 complete!

Route preview from Crystal Pk summit

The descent off of Crystal was also fairly straightforward with a snow patch or two to navigate for added flavor. We reached the saddle between Crystal and Pacific with little difficulty, but had now spent a couple of hours above tree-line and the dramatic rise up to Pacific Peak looked a little daunting.

Getting closer

Pacific Peak is one of those mountains that I’d always been interested in climbing because of its visibility from the highway. In fact, if you are traveling west on I-70 and nearing the Copper Mountain exit, look straight down the valley, Pacific’s notched summit is hard to miss. It’s also visible if you are traveling East right after you descend off of vail pass. Having stared at it for years, I wanted to be able to climb it in a way that utilized the notch. This combo was a great way of doing that.

Looking back from the flanks of Pacific Peak. Already spent a descent amount of time above the trees

The hike up Pacific, at least until the notch, is a smattering of different sized boulders and a variety of herd paths. The slopes are looser so, again (and again and again) watch your footing. The most obvious lines of travel are on the ridge proper and down 15 or so feet from it to the right. This mountain is appropriately rated as a 2+ but at the notch, you do have some sneaky options to push it to a brief 3 (or harder?).

Viewing the summit block from across the Notch

The easiest way to attack the summit is to veer right, down-climb into the notch, and scoot right around the block until finding a suitable ascent route (blue in the above picture). However, if you’re feeling a little crazy, I found a few class 3 variations (red), one of which led to a small class 4 wall (purple). For the truly unafraid, there are class 5 overhanging options for climbing the summit block (following the orange line in the picture above), though these would require you to descend below the notch to attain the line, which looked quite loose. Choose your adventure, they all lead to the same place. I ended up climbing the furthest red line to the right.

On top, Ethan and I were greeted by a friendly Pika who hung around us, venturing to within a few feet of our…well, feet.

Model Pika

At 13,950 feet, Pacific Peak is a large, demanding, and fantastic peak. We had the summit to ourselves and (while not very visible in the pic below) could see the dozens upon dozens of people on neighboring Quandary Peak. Quandary is probably the easiest 14er to climb, and certainly, one of two most popular based on CFI’s people counter.

The View South from the summit of Pacific

Fun fact: Pacific Tarn (between us and Quandary in the picture above) is the highest named lake in the US and sits at 13,400 feet above sea level. Isn’t that fun?

After a nice break on the summit of Pacific Peak, we descended past the tarn and began looking for a way down into the Mohawk Lakes valley. Most of the descent to the bench with the tarn was light class two on talus.

Our descent route off of Pacific Pk (taken from Father-Dyer)

Descending off the bench and down to the valley proved to be the most cumbersome part. It was 2+ down-climbing and traversing over loose gullies and flaky rock ribs. While not as difficult as some other scrambles, this kind of hiking is slow and tedious. It took us a long time to finally navigate down to the upper valley floor.

The upper part of the valley

Descending off the bench and down to the valley proved to be the most cumbersome part. It was 2+ down-climbing and traversing over loose gullies and flaky rock ribs. While not as difficult as some other scrambles, this kind of hiking is slow and tedious. It took us a long time to finally navigate down to the upper valley floor.

Once we made it down to the Mohawk Lake jeep trail, we took that back to where it intersected with our ascent route and then walked the last couple points of a mile back to the lower Spruce Creek trailhead.

Warnings and Stats

Look, I’m not a hiking purist, but there are some areas that you don’t go for a wilderness experience. I would consider 95% of the hike Ethan and I did to be fantastic and absolutely worth repeating. However, I wouldn’t choose to come down Mohawk Lakes again. There are a few reasons for this…

  • Below the lower Mohawk Lake, the “trail” is a bad joke. The veg has been ripped to shreds and there are at least five separate braids heading in all manner of strange directions which is disorienting and accelerates erosion.
  • The people on this part of the trail were clearly visiting Breckenridge from out of town and were pretty clueless about leave no trace principles. I saw a younger lad with a handful of alpine flowers he had picked, including a Columbine (Colorado’s state flower). Alpine flowers are rare, less than 1% of the total area of Earth supports an alpine environment. Alpine flowers don’t belong in your hand, they belong on the mountain. There’s so little to begin with, don’t pick what’s left.
  • There were many instances of trash and toilet paper strewn about the underbrush on the lower parts of the trail, which is just nasty. Pack it out people.
  • The valley is beautiful by itself but the class of people I saw was underwhelming. I know I probably sound like a snob but hiking and scrambling are a huge part of my identity. The mountains are a special place, when I go out into them, I try to respect the land by bringing out more than I brought in. At least one piece of someone else’s trash every hike is my unwritten rule, I just want to leave the place better than I found it. Mohawk Lakes is one of those popular vacation-hiker areas where you don’t feel like those efforts will ever make much of a difference. Some people don’t care about their impact on the outdoors and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. Do your part, the land belongs to all of us.


  • 3 summits (2 centennials) Father-Dyer, Crystal, Pacific Peak
  • ~12.5 Miles
  • Total elevation gain/loss: ~3900 feet.
The edge of Breckenridge Ski Resort is outlined in a faded red color. “Suggested” ie. does not follow path exactly, general overview of route.

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