The peaks above Crow Pass (click for map) are perfect hikes for the shorter and cooler days of late summer. Fall colors, berries and zero bushwhacking make these fun mellow day trips. They’re perfect easy sneaker hikes before the snow flies – and fun scrambles after snow coats the slick sharp rocks along the ridge. Below are some notes and photos from 3 early fall days of scrambling around these peaks.
Delgga and Paradise are to the Northeast of Paradise Pass. Access them by first detouring into the hanging valley east Steamroller Pass, but instead of continuing up valley drop down to Clear Creek and cross just above the canyon. Then start side-hilling north across the east flanks of Grey Jay. Climb as you side hill and around 3000′ you’ll find a wonderful flat wide sheep trail that will take you to Paradise Valley. As for the peaks – the best route is to traverse Delgga and Paradise and then descend Paradise via the South face. To do so first climb to the top of Paradise Pass taking the first obvious gully to the ridge (don’t go all the way to the glaciated col). Once on the ridge, work your way up the Southwest ridge of Delgga to the summit via 3rd class ledges and ramps. At times the ridge gets exposed but if you drop to the south you can usually find an easier route. From the summit descend via the east ridge. About half way down the East Ridge gets exposed but you can drop off the south side into a scree gully to avoid all exposure. Once around the steep band of choss work your way back to the ridge. Once at the col between Delgga and Paradise the ridge becomes a mellow grass trail and you can easily walk to the summit of Paradise. To descend just drop down the south face via scree gullies and you’ll be back in the valley in about 15 minutes.
Totals: Distance: 17 miles round-trip; Elevation: 6800′ gain/loss; Time: 8ish hours.
|Rocks at Paradise Pass. These will slice and dice your hands and ankles if you’re not paying attention.||Todd at the start of the SW ridge.||SW ridge of Delgga. Exposed but easy. If you find yourself rock climbing just traverse left or right and you’ll find easier terrain.|
|Todd on top of Paradise Peak.||Another view of Rook Mountain. Note the tarns at the base of the west ridge and the spring bottom center.||Zoom view of the spring that bursts out the west face of Rook below the hanging glacier and tarns.|
Camp Robber and Grey Jay lie above Steamroller Pass and make for a wonderful day trip. Hike up and over Crow Pass and detour into the hanging valley West of the trail via a feint trail just as the Crow Pass trail starts losing elevation rapidly (around 2500′). Tromp up valley and aim for the lowest pass that is NW of the Clear Glacier. Note that you want to hike almost to the glacier toe before turning west and scrambling up steep scree. Steamroller Pass is a destination in and of itself – and well worth the trek if you don’t feel like continuing onto the peaks. Once at the pass both peaks are a short 500′ hike. Climb Camp Robber via the North ridge. It’s easy hiking except for a 20′ of exposed ridge (drop S / climbers left to find an exposed sidewalk to avoid some rock climbing) just before the summit. The South ridge of Grey Jay is a mellow hike.
Totals: Distance: 16 miles round-trip; Elevation: 6300′ gain/loss; Time: 7ish hours.
|Looking at the N ridge of Camp Robber from the top of Gray Jay. Summit is the furthest right bump.||The 20′ of exposure just before the summit. Mentioned because a lister friend took his dog up there and had to bail mere feet from the summit.|
The easiest route up Crow is via the South Ridge. Hike up Crow Pass to the hut and then pick your way up through tundra and moraine to the base of the Crow Glacier (on the SW side of the peak). Once at the toe climb up moraine, mud and ice on the far (climbers) right side of the glacier to the pass between Crow and Magpie. Then turn right (N) and pick your way up the ridge. The ridge is 3rd class in places but as you get higher you can detour around the steeper sections by traversing out and right into the scree on the SW side of the peak. When we climbed it we had a foot+ of snow and ice covered rocks which made the route seem steeper than it really is – however we didn’t have any issues with the dagger-like rocks that coat the ridge. People who climb it in summer conditions have reported sharp rocks the entire way that slow progress and tear ankles. Of all the peaks described on this page this is the most exposed. It’s never difficult – but there are a couple places where you need to watch your footing.
Totals: Distance: 11 miles round-trip; Elevation: 4800′ gain/loss; Time: 6ish hours.
|Eric on the lower part of the S Ridge.||On a perch about half way up the S ridge.||Looking down at the gaping crevasses on Crow Glacier.|
Edit September 29, 2015: I feel like I should add a note about the rock quality on these peaks. As I stated before – these peaks in this area of the park have really sharp rocks on the ridges that will slice and dice you if you’re not paying attention. Two stories stand out that I want to share.
The first story come from Eric Parsons who did a solo trip to the Bird Peaks area (just W of these peaks) earlier this summer. Eric climbed a number of peaks and on one of the scrambles he chopped his foot open on a sharp rock. He ignored the cut and continued on his way – but several days later he woke up to find his ankle red and swollen. He went to urgent care where the doc immediately put him on antibiotics for a severely infected cut. Apparently the rock had pierced his skin much deeper than he thought and the resulting infection came on hard and fast. After a dose of antibiotics he recovered just fine – but he went out and bought a pair of boots so he could protect his ankles.
The second story comes Gerrit Verbeek who climbed Delgga in 2016. Gerrit found a bit of snow on the peak and instead of taking the ridge opted to kick steps right up the south face to the summit. On the way back he decided to glissade. So he took off – and must have been going pretty fast because he suddenly hit a patch of soft shallow snow and sunk into the the rocks below. He tore up his pants and chopped open his hand pretty badly. His hand was bleeding profusely (apparently the artery was cut in his pinky) and his pants shredded and he was back there solo. He managed to hike to the Crow Pass hut where some campers stabilized him / stopped the bleeding and then helped him back to the trailhead so he could get to a doctor.
There you have it. Two extreme cases of what could go wrong on some seemingly innocuous hikes. Be safe – and leave the dogs at home so they don’t shred their paws.
Edit – May 19, 2017: A couple years after posting this article Gerrit did an interview with ADN and Vicky Ho wrote a great article: Cold, wet, bleeding – and thankful for the kindness of strangers.