The bro and I got out last weekend with what was to date the smoothest ski trip ever. I wanted this trip to be special in that it would be my 40th 14er ski and the last 14ers in the Sawatch. Normally when my brother and I ski together, we tend to be somewhat epic prone, nothing ever goes as planned, and 10 hour trips easily turn into 16 hour slogs as a series of small, but nonetheless derailing situations arise. Not this time, this trip turned out to be pretty much perfect from beginning to end.
Friday night we ate dinner at Magustos in Minturn and spent the night at the trailhead. We had a few beers, listened to some music, and fell asleep with the sound of the creek and the wind rustling through the leaves.
Next morning, we were in no rush, after some coffee we started packing up the gear. We'd never done the bike approach for a ski and I was curious as to exactly how it would all work out. For the first day we planned on biking up the road as far as we could, then hiking over half moon pass and camping in cross creek. It would be around 10,5 miles and 3,500 vertical so I was figuring it would take us a while. First thing first, we have to get the gear organized.
Prepping the bags and the bikes.
No bike shorts plus 45 pound pack equals groin discomfort.
Holding steady up the hill, bag looks good, nothing falling off, no major disasters. This works out pretty well.
I biked most of the road but walked up some of the steeper sections which actually wasn't too bad either, after 6 miles we reached the end of the road and started to prepare for the hiking. I'm less than pleased at my backpack at this point.
We made our way to half moon pass after about 6 hours on the go, sweet views from up here, eh brah?
The descent down from half moon pass was interesting, some snow, some rocks, some rocks with snow, some snow covered with rocks.
8 hours after leaving the car we found a fairly dry campsite about 200 feet from the river crossing. We hung the skins to dry, ate 3 dinners, and enjoyed some cytomax margaritas.
Up the next morning around 4am, we started skinning through the trees that wind their way up the north ridge of holy cross. We found a nice track going through the trees and followed it for quite a while until we broke through tree line around first light.
The early morning sun poured it's light through the valley below.
The summit coming into view.
The upper part of the ridge before the flats were a rocky, jumbled mess.
After about 5 and a half hours we found ourselves on the summit, it was a cold day with a cold wind, cold weather gear was in order.
The cross couloir was filled with new snow, so I entered it with caution and made a couple of ski cuts and got a 25 foot width release to go with the new layer of snow. A slightly frozen groomer was left in it's wake, not ideal conditions but not bad either as it skied pretty well.
Once we exited the couloir the skiing down the slopes to Bowl of Tears lake was sublime, with even more sublime surroundings.
At that point both the batteries on our camera died so no more pics, but the ski back down to the creek was amazing. Perfect corn snow through with mind bending vistas, we found a nice way down through the lake patricia mess by just staying high and skiers left during the descent. We only had to climb up a small 80 foot slope to get back into the correct gully, it's easy to see how people get confused here because you basically have to leave the main stream gully to get into the correct slope left of the mound above Lake Patricia.
We made our way down to the creek at 12:30pm, only a few feet from the log bridge that was oh so close to our camp. We spent an hour packing up and then began the slog back up half moon pass. From the top of half moon pass we were able to ski about 1000 vertical feet and from there we walked back to our bikes at mile marker 6. On the bikes now, riding, can this be, can it be this great, surely something will go wrong, a crash, a flat but nothing did. The ride back to the car was perfect.
We were back to the car at 6pm. In the car, turn the key, nothing, dead battery, ok now the debacle begins. No phone, getting dark soon, april in the mountains, no one around, we'll probably be the first people to be rescued from a trailhead by S&R. Mike decided he was going to bike into town and see if he could get help, 15 minutes later a lady appeared in a truck. "I ran into your brother, he said you need a jump." Smooth as it gets.