Kyes Peak - South Ridge, August 2002
Kyes Peak (at left) as seen from West Face of Sloan Peak.

It was time to explore the Monte Cristo Group again. I tossed around the idea of either climbing Columbia or Kyes Peak, and eventually settled on Kyes Peak via the South Ridge as it involved an approach that I haven't already done. Kyes Peak also happens to be the highest summit of the Monte Cristo Group and therefore would probably offer the best views of the surrounding area. (Photos: SV)

Click thumbnails below to enlarge...
Kyes from South Ridge
Kyes Peak as seen from the South Ridge approach (true summit is obscured by clouds).

I started up the trail around 7:00am and made good time hiking through lush forest to subalpine meadows. The trail then dropped a bit to the tiny Virgin Lake (frothy scum floating on surface) and eventually drops all the way down to Blanca Lake. If planning on climbing Kyes via the South Ridge, I recommend seeking out the faint climbers trail at the north end of Virgin Lake and following it as it winds up and down the ridge crest.
Blanka Lake
I screwed up and descended all the way down to the southern end of Blanca Lake but was compensated by the majestic views of Columbia Peak (at left).
Looking across Blanka Lake
To the right stood the false summit of Kyes Peak. Between Kyes and Columbia Peaks lies the Columbia Glacier.
Hammer
I skirted the left edge of the lake and followed a trail that headed off from the north end of the lake. En route, I passed by this hammer resting on a rock. I wondered how long it had been here and thought of taking it with me but frowned at the prospect of carrying any extra weight. I left the hammer where it was. The trail soon disappeared in a large swath of avalanche debris and I began to wonder how I would go about gaining the ridge.
Blanka Lake from South Ridge
I scouted the far edge of the avalanche debris to see if I could locate the trail again. No such luck. I then retraced my steps back to the northern edge of the lake and followed the shoreline towards the base of the cliffs below the South Ridge. From below, I noticed an obvious weakness in the cliffs and scrambled up talus and bushwhacked my way through brush until I reached the drainage below a large, partially snow-filled gully. The gully appeared to provide access to the upper ridge and so I began the steep ascent. Soon I reached the ridge crest and located the ridge-top climber's trail. A sense of relief came over me as I took in the view of Blanca Lake now far below me. Troublesome Mountain (5,430') is the peak in mid-ground.
Glacier Peak
I followed the ridge trail as it followed the crest and dipped left of the crest to avoid cliffy terrain. Eventually the trail ended at a large scree field with snow patches. I made a rising traverse on the snow patches (passing cliffs to my right) and headed up on steep loose gravel towards a saddle on the ridge to my right. I passed over the saddle and continued traversing over more loose ground (some exposure) on the north side of the ridge. Shortly thereafter I reached a large snowfield and had grand views of Glacier Peak to the northwest.
View down South Ridge
Looking back down the South Ridge. I had ascended snow and gravel on the right side of the spire. I crossed over to the north side of the ridge via the saddle seen in the bottom right of the photo.
Below summit
I could now see the summit before me and traveled on snow (drops off steeply to the right) towards rock ledges below and right of the summit. I then scambled up mostly 3rd class terrain until reaching a knife edge and a decision making point. I could either traverse thin and exposed heather ledges above cliffs and the Pride Glacier far below (north side of summit), or work my way up what appeared to be a short fifth-class chimney. I chose the chimney.
Columbia Glacier
Looking down on upper-Columbia Glacier.
Gaper on summit
Solitude on the summit. Weather was building to the west and clouds were approaching rapidly. I signed the summit register and headed back the way I came. Rather than re-tracing my steps back down to Blanca Lake, I followed the ridge trail as it alternated on both sides of the ridge (losing it on several occasions when cliff bands were encountered) all the way back to Virgin Lake. I finally reached the trailhead at 6:00pm. A satisfying day in the Monte Cristo Group!
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