| Here comes my 5th 14er - Mt. of Holy Cross on a beauitful weather day
Here comes my 5th 14-er - Mt. of Holy Cross. I was so much hoping to have 10 x 50, but it is going to be only 5 x 50 for me at the end of this year. I hope to catch up with the number in coming years if kids help! ;)
I've thought La Plata summit last year was a difficult one for me, but I was very big mistaken. Before, with my kids I used to summit the easy ones, then we graduated to the next level with La Plata. And now comes Mt. of Holy Cross! Even though it is a one of the lowest 14ers, the hike is a kicker if you do it in one day! But the memories after are amazing after looking back at the pictures of the peak from Half Moon Pass side!
We stayed a night in Eagle, and on Saturday drove to the trail head to check out the Tigiwon Road, since we knew the next day we will be driving still in the dark, so at least we would be prepared to what to expect on the road and also to time the driving to the trail head - and it served quite right. Tigiwon Road is a very narrow road for 1 and a half car to fit in, with switchbacks. Driving 8 miles on it took us almost 45 minutes. At least in the morning there were no cars moving in the opposite direction to stop for. On Sunday we got up at 4am and were at the trail head around 6:15am. When we arrived to the trail head finally, the sky was already lighted up, and when we started walking on the trail, eventually sun showed up highlighting the slopes with trees and meadows with rosy tones. Alas, no pictures were taken during our ascent (with one exception) - the goal was to reach the summit and still have time to get back around 4pm. On the way back taking pictures was allowed for me, but for extremely short stops. So there is no too many good quality photos, but still the ones we got are still good enough to trigger the memories of the hike at any time later on!
Here we were back again on another 14er's summit trail - Katya leading us, and Shyam closing up, all the way till the talus near the summit, where they switched.
When we were on the trail, walking down from the Half Moon Pass, the amazing picture revealed in front of our eyes unexpectedly right after one of the switchback turns! The entire peak with snow patches, with waterfalls and with the views down the East Cross Creek valley opened up suddenly and it was an astonishing view! The peak itself is highlighted by the sun while everything else still stays in darker shadows. That was a good boost of energy to see where you are heading up, but to me it was still hard to believe, looking at the north face of the peak, that one can be there! The peak looks so unapproachable - but it is a false alarm as it turns out later - the trail to the very summit is hidden from here, but the view of the entire trail over the ridge is quite well visible!
As we knew from the 14ers web site and now learned by own experience, the hard part of the Half Moon Trail route is that it is the longest one and with a lot of elevation gain - over 5600ft - because one has to first walk up over the pass down to East Cross Creek in order to start the actual ascent to the summit.
From down the East Cross Creek valley, up to the boulder field it is somewhat easy - almost like walking stairs made of rocks, which are getting bigger and bigger the higher one hikes, and with 23% grade, as my kids pointed out later. Then, the field is where you actually start exerting yourself. As my kids said, this time I disqualified myself to be called "mountain goat" any longer after the field walk - unable to jump over the rocks (as if I could before, could I?!!!) Kids were making fun of me saying - "Mom, mountains are made of rocks!!!" But also encouraging me as well - "trust yourself and your shoes" I think I spoiled myself with winter hike on (Quandary Peak) last year in the beginning of March. When rocks are covered with 4-6 feet of snow and you slide over them in snowshoes. The only exertion is the grade of the ascent and biting cold and beating winds which can drain strength as well as walking rocks!
Anyway, boulder field walk was tiresome, but on a very well, extremely well maintained trail. The entire trail almost up to the talus is so good and so well marked - many-many thanks to the people providing trail maintenance! - and we even met the maintenance crew on the boulder field, so we were able to thank them for their hard work personally.
After having a short break on a relatively easy trail segment over the ridge, coming after boulder field, here comes the talus! That's where the off-trail rock hiking starts. And again thanks to people who put the cairns to mark the trail so you won't stray too far away from the summit. It is a very short segment, but it is a very steep 300 vertical feet to the summit over huge rocks. And finally, as always, when you do not expect it, and just climb and climb, here it comes - the summit! Shyam was leading us over the talus rocks with his encouraging words, and then with his final cry - Here we are! The summit! - we felt a relief! ... For a while ... Got some rest, stocked up on calories, enjoyed the views from the top, enjoyed a little 4-month old Yellow Labrador puppy-girl called Tava, and a handsome-looking doodle, exchanged impressions with other hikers and started descent.
Having fun at the summit:
Here finally come some photos of Angelica Couloir on descent:
... looking up at the talus:
... boulder field on descent:
... looking at the peak from boulder field:
... a painting engraved in the rock:
... walking rocky stairs below boulder field:
The entire album can be seen here on Picasa.
We thought that other hikers might have been camping at the creek - we didn't see many people passing us by on our descent, just a few of them. And we were really slow - though our Garmin watch says we maintained an average speed of 3.8mi/h for the entire hike. I guess we were pretty fast on ascent then.
To me descending is always the hardest part - that's when the knees start getting weak even when using poles. As I said before, boulder field and talus took a lot of effort and the most of muscle strength. Shyam and I got some light headache on the way back - strangely enough on descent! - but I think we didn't hydrate ourselves well as Katya did - her camel bag was empty when we started climbing to the Half Moon Pass and she used ours where we still had a plenty of water. Again a good lesson to learn and keep an eye on hydrating oneself much better next time.
We were so lucky with the weather - the morning sky was clear blue and it kept that way all day long! No any significant cloud - just a couple of small puffs!
We met nice people on ascent and descent - and many of them in their 50s-60s - exchanged jokes like - you forgot to turn off the headlights of your car at the trail head parking - when we were already down from the pass. Still we maintained a good pace - were passed by people, then closer to summit passed them ourselves. Shyam led us over the talus and other hikers followed us as well. I was amazed by a brave woman who was probably just a little older than myself - she was hiking by herself, already ascending, when we were approaching the summit - and she frankly told us that she is a little bit scared of descent but she can do it if not looking down over the edge. I told my guys - that's what I will be doing on my way down. We finally passed her on our descent on the boulder field and kept walking and walking to the creek valley. And then ... the other part of the fun starts - once you reached the valley - tired, exhausted, but relieved being on the flat ground at the creek - you have to hike up to the pass for another 3 miles and another 1000 feet of elevation. So then, on the way back to the trail it was like - are we there yet? No, not yet - still a few hundred vertical feet down. Are we there yet? No, a little bit more left. And more, and a little bit more, and it was becoming almost endless till finally the trail head showed up!!!! We did it again, kids!!! Deadly tired, but with feeling of achievement!
So, instead if being at the trail head back around 4pm, we were there around 5pm - still not bad! So it was 11 hours for 11.6 miles and 5600 feet of elevation gain! And then finally going back home - back to Tigiwon Road again for another 45 minutes of descent to get to Rt. 24. On the road met a family of elks with one youngster, the same marmot who we saw on our road-scouting on Saturday near community house - there is a nice old log house in the middle of the Tigiwon Road which serves as a shelter for those caught up by weather.
Now, after a day of rest, when muscle aches start fading out a little bit - Katya and I have to get back to out running training routine - Glenwood Springs half-marathon (for her) and 10K (for me) run is only 2 weeks away. So we decided to consider this hike to be an endurance test, which is a part of the training anyway, right?
Kids, thank you so much for summiting with me again and for letting me stay and feel younger with you! Love you, Mom.
Well, after this I was told that I should be limited now to one per year summit hike strenuous like this one. There are still less strenuous ones.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):