| Mt. of the Holy Cross and Grays Moonlight hike
Hey everyone, this is my first trip report so we'll see how this goes. My roommate (realhillboarding) and I were just planning on doing Mt. of the Holy Cross this weekend but decided to join the Grays moonlight climb as well. We drove out to the Grays TH on Friday night and set up camp along with a few other tents there. We hiked Grays and Torreys on July 4th (with the BBQ and watermelon) and the road has gotten much worse since then.
On Saturday we woke up at 1:15 to get our things together and start up Grays with the rest of the 14ers group. We got a group photo and were on the trail at about 1:45 AM. We met a guy in the parking lot who was told he could never walk again and he was attempting the hike (never got his name). I've never really compared myself to other hikers but we took an early lead (sorry, youth is on our side) on the group and stopped a few times to get pictures of the stars.
We made the summit at 3:50 AM and there was another guy already on the summit who came up independent of 14ers.com. We were way early and it was cold, so we crawled into our bivys and made some hot chocolate. As twilight broke I reluctantly got out of the bivy and picked up my camera. We spent some time on the summit watching sunrise, talked to some folks up there and started down.
We passed many people that we started on the walk down, including the guy who was told he wouldn't be able to walk again. He was still going strong at 13,200'. There was a family of 3 mountain goats but two of them ran off due to the flatlanders running up and down the trail, "LOOK, LOOK, IT'S A MOUNTAIN GOAT!!!" By the time I got my camera out there was still one hanging around that I was able to snap a few shots of.
We passed the typical weekend conga line of people making their way up Grays, packed up our overnight packs, and drove out to Silverthorn for a quick stop involving new boot laces and a big breakfast. We continued on to Tigiwon Rd. to the MHC trailhead.
It was hot and sunny which kept the mosquitoes away while we were under treeline, but they would have their revenge the next day. We hiked up the Fall Creek Trail, and found ChicagoTransplant's route description to be very accurate in its descriptions. The Fall Creek Trail is very mellow uphill with many undulations in it. We took the right at the Notch Mountain Trail and the trail gets a little steeper but is still quite mellow. This took us into the meadow, which words and photos can't really describe so I won't try, but it is beautiful. We stopped at the creek which was listed as the last place to get water and filled up a 1 gallon jug to take to the top.
From the stream, we counted 36 long, tedious switchbacks up to the Notch Mountain Shelter. After hiking Grays in the morning and 5.5 miles up Notch Mtn. we were happy to see the shelter at about 4:30 PM.
There was another guy in the shelter, Eric, who was happy to share with us. We also found that carrying the jug of water up from the meadow is unnecessary at this time as there is a snowfield right next to the shelter (I wouldn't count on this for much longer, though). We had plenty of fuel and drops so with the runoff from the snow and melting snow we had a good water supply. The views of the cross from here are epic and well worth the hike. The cross was in great condition. Look out for the marmots; we had a group of three just waiting for us to leave the door open so they could go terrorize our belongings.
After making dinner we took a rest and I photographed the sunset. After 11.5 miles and only 2 hours of sleep we were ready to pass out as soon as the sun was down.
Another photographer joined us at the shelter. He lugged an 8x10 camera all the way up there! After yesterday's long day I didn't want to get out of bed, and Adam's alarm didn't go off so when I opened my eyes I noticed it was twilight. I jumped out of my sleeping bag and ran out of the shelter just in time to get my camera set up for sunrise. Sunrise is awesome from this location, and I highly recommend it.
We started the hike around Halo ridge at about 7:30 AM after the sun was high enough to hit the cross. The route description says that the summit is just over 2 miles away, however it is much further. I don't have a GPS but by the map I figure about 3.5 which is what it felt like. It was mostly boulder hopping all the way to MHC, and the second peak, PT 13373, is definitely the crux of the route. We stopped briefly on each peak and met Eric on the third one. The mountain spiders really aren't that bad. I really tried to avoid their webs since they did a very good job of catching the obnoxious mosquitoes; about 25% of the spiders were having a little snack when we passed.
When we gained the summit of the Holy Cross there was a decent crowd up there but they cleared out pretty fast and we actually had the summit of a typically busy peak to ourselves for a few minutes. It was kind of hazy but since I hauled up a telephoto f/2.8 lens I did get a shot of the Maroon Bells from the summit.
The guy with the 8x10 arrived at the summit as we were getting ready to leave (I never got his name). He hiked back with the two of us to the shelter. Looking at the topo we had, it appeared that we could traverse around the right side of PT 13831. We ended up in mostly class 3 traversing with an occasional class 4 move and some snow to cross, plus the added distance. I highly recommend re-summiting 13831.
Clouds looked threatening for most of the way but nothing ever materialized. We stopped at the shelter to boil some new water to have on the way down. I also drank the Coors Light I had carried up since it was also my 22nd birthday! The tedious switchbacks on the way up were appreciated on the way down as it kept the trail pretty easy and stable descending. Once below timberline the mosquitoes get progressively worse as you approach the trailhead. We kept a fast (>3 mph) pace and I was still killing three at a time in some cases. We reached the trailhead at about 6 PM and were able to avoid any storms all day. This was my 7th 14er peak and 9th 14er summit since moving here in May! For Adam, it was his 17th peak.
For more images from the trip go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/JoePetrowski/20080720GraysMtOfTheHolyCross
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):