| Father. Son. Fifty.
Father. Son. Fifty: Sharing a milestone with my strongest climbing partner
Peak: Mount of the Holy Cross
Climbers: Dad, Rob (RJansen77)
Date: 7/20/12 - 7/21/12
Acclimatization Dad has had on any of his Cascade, Sierra Nevada, or Colorado Rockies 14ers: None
Climbing partners. Since moving to Colorado 14 months ago, I've been lucky to meet many, and through numerous journeys in the hills I've come to call lots of them not just partners, but friends. It seems as though almost every weekend for the past year, it's been a different goal with the fine folks of 14ers.com. I owe a lot to the people on this site, and don't see how I can ever repay you all for what you've given me in my first year in Colorado. It's been an incredible ride so far, and I hope it continues for many years.
While I've been fortunate enough to meet many special people on this website, my first and most long-term climbing partner is not a member here. Despite that, I've shared 14er summits in the Cascades, Sierra Nevada and Colorado Rockies with him. Heck, I've even shared a small 2450' summit in Quebec with him over two dozen times. It may be my favorite peak of all.
Mount Washington, NH, at age 8. From Rainier to Whitney, Shasta to North Maroon, the man who took this photo has always been there.
The two of us atop Mount Elbert, June 2010.
The annual trip to Colorado had once again rolled around, though with me now living in Denver it is that much easier for my Dad to sneak away for a long weekend to try and tackle another peak without acclimatization. Last year, we completed North Maroon Peak on a perfect bluebird day. This year, Dad insisted he wanted to hit another peak that I hadn't done before. With my 14er count at 49 heading into the weekend, choices were limited, and Holy Cross was agreed upon as my potential 50th 14er.
He landed at DIA at 3:40pm on Thursday afternoon. After a short day at the office Friday and some last minute packing, we darted up I-70 bound for Minturn. With a 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms forecast for the next 48 hours, we figured the approach to East Cross Creek and our campsite may be a little wet. Like clockwork, Mother Nature sounded the fireworks the second we turned off the car at the trailhead. Not to be deterred, we shouldered our packs and started up toward Halfmoon Pass.
The elevation gain melted away quickly, and before long we were descending towards the creek. Once again, Dad was climbing a 14er less than 24 hours after leaving sea level.
Dad just over the pass, with Holy Cross beckoning. I guess you could say I take after him, as he is wearing the same clothes that saw the summit of North Maroon last year. For those who know me, I wear a bathing suit that has been up 46 of my 50 Colorado 14ers.
Descending towards the camping area on the great trail.
We kept a steady pass up and down the pass, as I knew that tomorrow would be much more demanding on the lungs than the approach. Passing groups of overnight climbers as well as dayhikers who were on their way out, we caught word of a black bear roaming the camping areas around the creek. Food storage and management would have to be perfect.
We made it to our camping area around 4:45pm, and in one hour had erected the tent, cooked, eaten, cleaned, and rigged the bear hang. Catching up on life back east, the hours passed and a small storm blew through around 7:30pm. We retired to the tent in order to ready gear for a 3:45am wakeup call. With the forecast at 60% chance of showers and storms, an early start to not only get off the mountain, but also over Halfmoon Pass, would be necessary.
After a few bear-free middle of the night bathroom breaks, the alarm blared. Upon seeing stars, The Grateful Dead blasted from my phone, and we readied our gear.
We rolled out of camp around 4:25am, and followed the trail as it switchbacked its way through the trees and towards the ridge. Upon nearing treeline, first light appeared on the eastern horizon, and extra life came over us.
First light appears over the Gores
Keeping the breathing under control at 12,000'.
First light on Holy Cross. It stares you down for much of the ridge. A gorgeous climb overall.
Sunrise over the Gores.
Dad's finger, Notch Mountain, and me, looking goofy as always.
"This is amazing!! Oh yeah baby!!!!!!"
The audience of surrounding peaks was stellar.
The summit of Holy Cross consistently grew closer, providing motivation as the air grew thinner. Despite the panting and a bit of pain in the legs, I had seen it many times before. Dad was cranking right up to 14,000' fresh off the 20' altitude of our house in Connecticut.
Many people told me Holy Cross is the prettiest Sawatch 14er. I still have Mount Columbia to go, but based on the less-than-stellar things I've heard about that one, I think they're right.
What a beautiful peak.
Above the gentle portion of the ridge.
The sunrise to the east was gorgeous, and Mother Nature appeared to be granting us a generous weather window.
"Yeahhh, bring on the pain!" The final pitch of talus was no match for the man who climbed Mount Shasta in a day immediately from sea level. His textbook sea level to 14k transition was once again unfolding.
Myself along the ridge, around 13,000'
Remembering why we do this.
The final switchbacks to the summit melted away slowly, and we reached the summit around 7:15, with a bluebird sky and not a puff of wind. It was an incredible morning.
Of course, we called the Mom from 14k.
Holy Cross Ridge, Massive, Elbert and company. So pretty.
My best Elks zoom. There was a group on the summit who thought Snowmass and Capitol were blanketed in snow...
I'll never forget it.
Dad chills with a view. Can you see Connecticut from here?
One of those moments where I could literally hear Eddie Vedder singing.
Hard to believe Carl and company skied this last July
Taking it all in.
After 1:20 or so on the summit, we began our descent. We passed many groups on their way up, and were glad to have taken such an early start. It was no Bierstadt, but Holy Cross saw some crowds this weekend.
While we were still hours from the car, the stokage ensued.
A few folks on the summit.
Bowl of Tears, looking beautiful.
Myself on the descent.
The descent was relaxed, as we admired the surrounding peaks, took photos, and just enjoyed the incredible beauty of this area. Realizing this would be another treasured memory, we did our best to soak it all in. Eventually tree line came, and after talking with dozens of other climbers, we strolled back to the campsite to break down gear and pack up.
It was great to see these guys up there. Thanks for all of your hard work!
I was just waiting for the plunge, but it didn't happen.
We dropped the bear bag and tent, loaded up the overnight packs, and were back on the trail after roughly 30 minutes in camp. Normally we like to ease off the pace on the hike out from camp, but Holy Cross has one more little punch to throw, in the form of 970' that must be re-gained on the hike out. It's all on a good trail, and passes quickly, making it a nice spot to really hammer the quads and grind out some final gain. Plus, there's the added incentive of afternoon storms, as the trail traverses the pass right around tree line. A quick descent would be possible, but being up high in a storm is never the most fun thing.
We took in the views of our work as the pass drew closer, and before long we were descending gentle trail back to the car.
Just a beautiful peak. I'll be back.
We reached the trailhead around 2pm, another father - son climb in the books.
"So, Dad, any thoughts on a finisher?"
Of course, no climb would be complete without the best beer ever made.
After an overnight stay in Breckenridge and a blue cheese and bacon burger at Fatty's we strolled up Bierstadt on Sunday before winding our way back to Denver.
It was another installment in what has become a summer tradition. Beginning in the hills of New England with many Mount Washington ascents before finally heading west to Whitney, Shasta and Colorado, these climbs are days that I'll always remember. There's something special about showing the people you love a good time in the mountains, and this was no exception. I hope it continues for years to come.
Thanks for reading!
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