The climb consists of an initial technical buttress followed by a long, 3rd-class ridge and a final, tricky headwall.
Climb the beautiful, clean buttress staying close to the ridge for three or four moderate pitches, following knobs and crack systems. The easiest route may venture to the east or west side for brief periods but always returns to the ridge. Most of the climbing is 5.4 or easier. The 5.5-5.6 crux is near the top of the fourth pitch, just before topping out on the initial buttress. At the crux are three crack systems, two to the east and one to the west of the ridge. The easiest climbing follows the leftmost of the three crack systems.
After topping out on the initial buttress, scramble up to the base of an upper white-and-pink slab crossed by a darker diagonal band. Enjoy hundreds of feet of scenic 3rd-class scrambling as you approach an upper headwall. Bypass the headwall on the left by a shadowy, exposed ramp. There were small patches of ice in this area during our late-June ascent. The climbing is only 4th class, but use caution as a slip here could launch you into the abyss.
Above the headwall, several hundred feet of talus take you to the summit.
Throughout the climb, the rock is solid and featured with cracks and knobs. The pink- and grey-colored granite is bombproof, and the white granite is good but slightly friable in places. For a rarely visited Alpine climb, it is amazingly clean.
The position is classic. To the left is Pagoda's south cirque and beautiful Keplinger Lake. To the right is Mount Meeker and, once above the initial buttress, unparalleled views of the south face of Long's and the Palisades.
Why this climb is not in any guidebook is a mystery. It compares favorably with the other moderate classics in the Park, including the North Ridge of Spearhead and the Northeast Ridge of Sharkstooth, though it is slightly easier and shorter than either of those climbs.
Crescent Ridge extends southeast then due south from the summit of Pagoda Mountain. From the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead, hike 4.5 miles to Sandbeach Lake, then bushwhack another 2 miles northwest, staying north of Mount Orton. Before long you will begin to see glimpses of the obvious Crescent Ridge through the trees. At least one creek crossing is involved in this approach and your feet are likely to get wet. Once you are near treeline, take a left and scramble up to the ridge south of a large, rocky dome. Scramble over the dome and down into a broad, U-shaped notch, then up to the base of the initial buttress.
Descent: From the summit of Pagoda Mountain, descend northeast to the Long's-Pagoda saddle, then follow talus and snow back into the basin east of the Crescent Ridge and return to Sandbeach Lake. You may want an ice axe and possibly crampons for the descent, depending on snow conditions. Sandbeach Lake can be difficult to find when descending; consider taking a waypoint reading on the north shore of the lake as you approach.
Standard Alpine rack up to #2 Camalot with an emphasis on smaller pieces.
The east side of the initial buttress as seen on t...
Bill Wright starting up the first pitch. Photo by...
High on the buttress. Photo by Mark Oveson.
Alan passing another gendarme on the ridge.
At the crux. Photo by Bill Wright.
The initial buttress.
BETA PHOTO: The complete initial buttress from just below the ...
The profile of the first buttress and Keplinger La...
The Crescent Ridge and Pagoda Mt.
Bring your ice axe for an easy descent. We glissa...
Above the initial buttress with Pagoda summit in b...
On the upper slab, with Longs Peak and Palisades i...
The initial section of Crescent Ridge.
On the upper slab, looking down at Keplinger Lake....
Looking down Crescent Ridge. Keplinger Lake is to ...
Bypassing the headwall via an exposed ramp. Photo...
Looking down the ridge at Alan Ream, from the top ...
The headwall ramp with upper Crescent Ridge in the...
Looking down the middle portion of the route. The...
Snowy descent. Photo by Mark Oveson.
From the headwall bypass ramp, you can see almost ...
Looking down the Crescent Ridge/Scythe from the su...
View of the first buttress of the climb.
|By Bernard Gillett|
Jun 30, 2009
I've heard this route referred to as The Scythe (Bill Briggs gave it that name when he did it several years ago; he had already done the technical lower portion of the route a number of years before that, though I'm not certain whether that was its first ascent).
|By Mark Oveson|
From: Louisville, Colorado
Jul 13, 2009
Bill Briggs provided the inspiration for Bill Wright and I to do this route. He has climbed the route several times, including a solo ascent described here:
Briggs is sure someone else must have climbed it before he did, but he doesn't know who did the FA, so he thinks it best that we leave it Unknown. We did not see any piton scars or other signs of passage.
|By Bill Duncan|
From: Jamestown, CO
Aug 24, 2009
I too was amazed to find no record of this ridge anywhere. I've been eyeing it for years. Thanks for posting the info! It's now firmly on the hit list.
|By Keen Butterworth|
Aug 13, 2010
This thing was fun - one of the best ridge routes I've done in the park. Although there are only a couple hundred feet of 5th class climbing, the ridge is long, scenic, has quality rock, a lot of character, a great summit, and a rugged approach.
|By Bill Duncan|
From: Jamestown, CO
Jul 15, 2011
Keen describes it well. This ridge is worth the approach and certainly ranks among the fine ridges in the Park, especially for its grade.