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Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Post Date:  07/24/2006
Modified:  08/15/2006
Date Climbed:   07/24/2006
Posted By:  SherpaVT


 Mt. of the Holy Cross - Angelica Couloir   

Left Boulder on Saturday the 22nd, quick 2h drive on I-70 to Miniturn, found Tigiwon road without any problems. The road was in OK condition. I got my subaru wagon up without any problem. Mostly just pot holes and rocky areas. It is about 9 miles to the trailhead and depending on your ride it may take 30-60 minutes to reach the trailhead after leaving the paved road. Some of the areas are very narrow and a car coming down the other way had to back up at one point until we could pass.

Started hiking around 3:30 with 3 other people in my group. Plan was to hike over Halfmoon pass and camp at East Cross Creek for the night. The trail up over Halfmoon is fairly moderate dirt path, mostly through trees. Once you break through treeline the pass is straight ahead.

My intent was to climb Cross Couloir if it was still in good shape, but I met some people on top of the pass who said that they looked at it and thought it was unpassable, so I made the decision to do Angelica instead.

We made it down over the pass in short time, looked in despair at how far down the campground was from the pass (mostly thinking about how tough it would be hiking out the next day).

Made camp at East Cross Creek and had a good night's sleep for the next day. Woke up around 5:30, started hiking around 6:30.

Per Roach's directions, the turnoff for going up to the lakes in front of Holy Cross is literally 50 ft beyond the stone crossing of East Cross Creek. Turned left at a pile of rocks onto a well defined trail. It looked like it was going through some peopled campsites, but we just kept hiking straight along a defined path, until we reached a small stream. The path here was a bit undefined, but we went straight across the stream and picked up a faint trail 20 ft to our left. We followed this lightly cairned trail up through the woods, along some rocks, and up some steep sections. We could hear the East Cross Creek falls on our left but did not pass directly by them. Gaining more elevation we followed the trail as it veered right, up until we reached the top of the first major elevation gain in the valley.

Here the trail ended in a small rockfield in front of a small cliff face. We went up the cliff easily via a small crack that sloped down the side.

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Up top we failed to find the trail again and went easily through the trees directly south up the valley as we knew where we were going. We passed a few small ponds on our right, but we were far west of Lake Patricia and never passed by it.

There were some campers coming down the other way and they showed us the trail again, which led us right to the turn off for Angelica. The turn off was on the right, as soon as we entered a clearing in front of a large boulderfield. The trail to Bowl of Tears continued to our left.

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The Angelica trail went up a small gulley next to the large boulder field. Once on the boulderfield, I followed it to the base of Holy Cross, where I climbed up a steep slope that was still vegetated. To the left there was alot of loose scree so I stayed on the vegetation until I reached the relatively flat rockfield where Angelica runs out.

I walked up the rockfield to the snow and put on my ice ax, crampons, and helmet. The snow was soft as it was facing east, and I had to kick in my steps securely as I got up steeper but it was fairly straight forward.

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I reached the junction where I could continue straight up or turn left onto Angelica Couloir proper. I could not see all the way to the top but from my pictures coming in I decided to chance Angelica, so I went to the left. The snow was still sturdy, but the steepness increased greatly and I was using crampons, iceax, and my other hand to go up. I reached a small ledge on my left ~20 ft into the couloir where I took a break, ate some food and snapped some pictures.

The final bit was ok, but about halfway up the snow turned into harder ice, and it was very difficult to get a purchase with the crampons. I quickly got above the first ice band onto more snow, but the snow did not last more than 20 ft until it was very narrow, icy, and steep. I went to my left where I could put my left foot on some loose rocks and pulled myself up the side of the ice with my other crampon. It was diffucult going and not very sturdy. The couloir narrowed some more and the rocks on my left turned into the base of a cliff. I kicked my feet into the crack between the ice and the cliff and got above the narrow section. The last 60 ft or so was completly snow free, but very loose rock. I sent many a rock tumbling down the couloir, but I knew there was no one behind me. I quickly scrambled up the loose rock to the ridge where I promptly collapsed and ate a cliff bar. A woman hiking up the ridge seemed confused as to where I had come from.

Caught my breath and scrambled up the class 2+ boulderfield to the top to share it with 4-5 other people. The rest of my crew were already up here, having taken the ridge up. Summit time was about 10:15 AM. Ate some food and started back down.

Going down took longer than I anticipated. If you're not prepared I'd say going down that rockfield will be harder than going up. It's also easy to lose the trail. I stayed along the ridge as much as possible and followed a series of very large cairns which led me down fine, into the woods where there was a well worn trail that led straight back to the campsite.

Back at the campsite at 1 PM or so, we ate lunch and took a much needed nap. Around 3 we packed up and prepared for the arduous trek back over halfmoon pass. It wasn't too bad actually. Just a couple steep switchbacks, gaining elevation rather quickly, and then a rather moderate uphill for the last halfmile or so to the pass. Then 1.7 miles down to the car around 5 PM or so and out!

All in all a beautiful hike on a beautiful day with good friends. However I would NOT reccommend Angelica Couloir to anyone else this summer. Too dicey at the top for my tastes. I see another group later in the day (thanks to their trip report) went right instead of left up the couloir, and that appeared much safer in my opinion as well.

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