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Crystal Range Traverse

October 2020

The weekend started off on a debaucherous foot. My buddy Eric is known to host a huge birthday party every year at various destinations. This one was to be at Incline Village. I had planned to pop by his party for a few hours on Friday night and then take off for South Lake where I’d be meeting John, Anthony, Adam, and Ari to scramble the Crystal Range Traverse early Saturday morning.


When I showed up to Eric’s place, there appeared to be no easy way to avoid partying, especially after I told everyone my plan to take off and they all resolved to getting me as hammered as possible so I’d stick around for the weekend. In a hazy stupor, I shuffled to the van around 2 a.m., got a couple hours of sleep and then rallied to South Lake. Upon arrival, I texted the crew to wake me up when they were ready, and curled up in the back of the van for a few minutes of shut eye, already nursing my increasingly prominent hangover.


About fifteen minutes later, my car was being pounded on by the crew. I stumbled out of bed and hauled my body into John’s truck. Everyone fired up for the day and had loads of energy, which was more than enough to offset my lack of it. The Crystal Range Traverse covers a beautiful stretch of peaks in the Desolation wilderness, overlooking Lake Aloha basin. It goes at class three to four depending on your navigation, and the steep cliffy drops of the ridge into the basin makes it all the more striking.


Ascending Pyramid Peak


Pyramid Peak and Peak 9686 behind us

We started hiking before sun up, and summited Pyramid Peak a bit after sunrise. The air was crisp and windy, keeping us cool the whole day regardless of exertion. After that, it was on to Peak 9686, which required us navigating the “class four step” somewhere along the ridge. It wasn’t so bad, and I was too hung over to really mind the exposure. All I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other and keeping from vomiting.


Next was Mount Agassiz, not to be confused with the Mount Agassiz in the Palisade cluster. The beauty of these ridge traverses is that one stays high the whole time, so there is never a bad or obscured view in ant direction. The final peak on the ridge was Mount Price, which we all happily tagged. At each summit, I lay down and took a nap until I was roused to crack on. Those micro-naps were key in recharging my batteries. I was operating on an hour or two of sleep and fueled by a dozen or so beers and little else.


Looking ahead to Agassiz and Price


Cliffy traverse

The hike out was relatively uneventful, but we saw more and more traffic as we neared the trailhead and bumped into a few, as Anthony calls them, gawkers. We made it back to the road a bit after sunset, and had a couple of miles to get back to the car. Ari and I, ready for the day to be done, decided to run the last leg, which was surprisingly fun. We ended up back at John’s place for the night, and slept well after a day well spent.


Motley crew

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