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Alpine Scramble - Chinook & Crystal Peaks

One-way traverse of Chinook and Crystal Peaks starting at Cayuse Pass and ending at Crystal Lakes trailhead.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Chinook Pass was closed so we started at Cayuse Pass. Road was not fully cleared at the hairpin turn so it was easy to find a ramp to get up the snowbank. Tipsoo Lake area has mini stream gorges radiating from it but we were able to find a snow bridge on it's northwest side. PCT trail north was a continuous mass of slides that would have meant almost 2 miles of slow, precarious side-hilling so the road made more sense.  The top of the basin west of Chinook did have several cornices but none on the low point. Snow was soft due to the warm weather. Did use snow shoes in spots but enough of the route was on slopes we had to make do without them.

Walked the road from Cayuse Pass to the first hairpin turn then up the hill to Tipsoo Lake. Crossed the lake's edge and over the hill to Chinook Pass parking area, which was under several feet of snow. Tried to follow the PCT toward Sheep Lake but the side-hilling became too precarious so we dropped down to the road and walked 410 East for about a mile until we were directly south of Sheep Lake. Found a spot we could scramble up from the road back up to the basin west of Sheep Lake. Followed the basin up and around to the right and ascended to a cornice-free low point on the ridge, then turned east and ascended the ridge to Chinook. Dropped back down about 400 feet then traversed north toward Crystal Peak, bypassing the subpeaks in-between, staying around 6400', until reaching Crystal Peak. Backtracked a little from the peak then descended the open snow slope on its west face until around 5400' until we used our GPS devices to locate the trail. It was mostly snow covered but had enough bare patches to follow out.

 

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