| Mt. of the Holy Cross - Half Moon Pass
Mt. of the Holy Cross, 14005'
7th and final TR of "Colorado 2013"
I had come to Colorado this summer hoping to reach the summits of Holy Cross, Evans and Massive, which would leave me with mountains much farther south and west to complete the 14ers. After some challenges, I had to scratch Massive off completely...2014 perhaps. I also wanted to finish my mini-Tahosa Valley Project...got Meeker and South Twin Sister, but I also left this year without an attempt on Mt. Lady Washington and Storm Peak, another effort for 2014 perhaps.
Holy Cross, it is known, is a serious day in the mountains. With over a mile of gain and loss, including the mental challenge of reclimbing Half Moon Pass on the way out, Holy Cross was going to be my final serious effort in 2013.
I arrived at the Tigiwon Road trailhead at 3 am, a little later than I wanted to. I was surprised to see about 6 cars already parked here, but some folks had apparently hiked in to camp the night before, or used the Halo Ridge route. I was alone hiking up and over Half Moon Pass in the dark and relieved to be going downhill. I was across East Cross Creek in the dim light with the sun dawning over Mt. Jackson as I gained elevation toward timberline on the Holy Cross massif. Some smaller groups caught me in the early morning. By now, the legs had grown worn from a week of hiking and I was taking my time up to timberline. I had a great view of the Gore Range and its many mini-peaks at sunrise.
The pika greeted me as I pressed forward. This year, my iPhone has come in handy to share photos with folks back home, sometimes in real time, also to check my elevation, or location. While it is a handy device, I did my best not to let it interrupt my experience, but to enhance it. Besides, I need to keep the power on the cellphone in case it is needed in an emergency.
I was surprised to see I was "only" at 13190' when I felt that the summit was close at hand, so clearly, an altimeter is a handy tool to have, even if it just keeps optimism at bay. I was able to send a photo from this location back home in real time.
I munched on Gu and Powerbars, some Twizzlers and M & M's, along with the water-and-Gatorade mix. Better acclimated after 10 days, I felt confident going up the hill, but with worn legs.
Past the couloirs and then the hard left where the trail ends and a bunch of Class 2 talus is all that is in between me and the summit. I had stayed within shouting range of the groups that had passed me, although one stronger group was attempting Holy Cross Ridge. I had had ideas of reaching Holy Cross Ridge, but there were clouds in the sky again, and there was some doubt about a dry traverse. I opted just to try for Holy Cross, and after the required scrambling, the summit was mine, uh, actually ours. I shared the summit with about 6 other hikers, including a friendly dog, who shared my summit pic with me.
Holy Cross became my 30th Fourteener.
I tried to make a call, but had bad reception. I took a photo of the benchmark, took photos around and had my summit pic taken with the smiling dog.
This is a wonderfully remote area; a large and unspoiled landscape. The stars at night were stunning. The views by daylight just as rewarding.
The clouds were coming in and, in some locations, spotty rain could be seen. I noticed on Doppler radar that there was a probable storm to hit the area around 2 pm, as weather was coming in from Gunnison and Grand Junction. I decided to head down with some expedience. I warned folks coming up to keep an eye to the sky, as the skies were mostly cloudy now.
There was a brief sprinkle near timberline, otherwise I was granted a dry passage back to Tigiwon Road, the hotel, and eventually Maryland.
As I grunted up the hill from East Cross Creek toward Half Moon Pass, I simply reminded myself that this hill is just a little higher and longer than my old favorite at home, South Mountain. If I can get over South Mountain, I can get over this. I do and I did.
While this is a very demanding day, I am usually slower and tire much faster on loose rock. Most of this route is on solid rock, not tippy at all. This helped me as I worked over the 12 miles and 5600' of elevation gain and loss.
I met the CFI crew near Half Moon Pass and thanked them for their work. As an Appalachian Trail maintainer, I hold a high regard for those who work the trails as I do back east. CFI does magnificent work and their work continued on this route on August 2.
I still had two miles downhill to go. Also, this is the time where I start to slow down a bit, recognizing that my week of hiking the high peaks is over. I do not want it to end. It was then that I met Brad, from Illinois. It may have taken 60-odd miles to meet Brad, but our conversation made the final hike back to the trailhead a breeze. Brad had just started his quest to reach the 14ers and as a kindred flatlander, with flatlander issues, I had a chance to mentor him a bit. We exchanged information at the trailhead.
Epilogue. My agenda for August 2 was flexible. It was a lovely morning but I had to check out of the hotel and also prepare the perfect day-pack if I were hiking again on this getaway day. I had to be at the Denver airport by 4 pm.
At the last minute, I opted out of another hike, and instead, drove to familiar haunts and entirely new scenery in Middle and North Parks, and through Poudre Canyon.
"Colorado 2013" included 26,796' of gain, a new record for one of my tours. Because I bailed at Summit Lake, I only had about 23,500' of loss. 68 miles of hiking.
I expect to return in 2014 for more adventures. Mt. Lady Washington, Storm Peak and Mt. Massive are already penciled in.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):