| Cross Couloir ‘02
It was a cloudy Memorial weekend, but the Tigiwon road was still gated. I was starting to get irritated by the White River National Forest District policy. Phase one of alpine brutality began at 8,100. I rode my bike for 8 miles and 2,000 ft to the TH 10,600. A 3rd wheel would have been nice for my pack and board. I stashed the bike, with my flat kit and shoes, and spent the rest of sunday afternoon hiking over Halfmoon Pass to East Cross Creek. The weather cleared slightly at the 11,600 pass, but the trail was overtaken by snow. I feared losing the trail this late in the day. I trended left to intercept the trail again, and got soaked from postholing. I had brought a standard board instead of a splitboard to save some weight. The switchbacks to the creek used up the last of the light, so I found a dry patch on a low knoll to camp.
The next morning the snow did not freeze very well. The narrow trail to the ridge was covered by soft wet snow. I stuck to the creek, fighting the brush instead, and hoped the snow would freeze better tonight for tomorrow. I escaped the willows up large talus and boulders, to icy mature snow. Then carefully proceeded through the notch in the cliff to get to Lake Patricia. I passed along the west shore on snow and rock slabs into the next beautiful basin. I followed more solid snow through the willows to a gully below the north face. I was relieved to see the Cross Couloir in condition after my effort to get to the Bowl of Tears, but spent the rest of the day in anticipation from my bivy.
A full moon waned behind the Halo Ridge as predawn tints of blue erased the stars. At 5:30 I filled water through a small opening in the creek, and climbed up to the entrance of the Cross, linking a few decent snow patches. I met the sunhit at the entrance as planned. The exposure at the bottom was spooky at first, but the chute was not as steep or confined as it looked from camp. The snow was mature and frozen. I entered and kept a good pace to the peak at 7:30. A very quiet morning without wind.
This peak felt far away from everything. Interesting views of the Independence Pass area, Aspen, and the back-lit Gore. Snow reached all the way up to the summit marker, so I was able to ride off the top into the entrance. At 8:00 the snow was excellent, and I enjoyed the suspended views of the basin as I rode, feeling comfortable, but also very focused. My old Never Summer was still much more precise than a splitboard. I exited to the right, and let the blood back into my feet.
I managed a few more turns down snow patches to the right, having to walk a few paces to link them to the lake. I decided to climb up to "Coffin Rock" under the Cross, to check the cliffout. It looked like an easy rappel, but that's just more gear to carry. I was achieving the same ends here albeit a less alpine style. The runout apron was fairly steep, and worth the extra effort.
I returned to camp again up in the Bowl of Tears for brunch. The completion of the route began at 11:00 am. I rode an awesome gully down to the next basin, and walked out from there, past Lake Patricia, and into the soggy forest. I passed my first camp spot, crossed the spindly log bridge, and trudged up the switchbacks, taking a few detours to avoid snow over the pass. Descending again, I was glad my bike was waiting for me down there. It only took about a half hour to get down to the truck, and that was taking it slow. It would be easy to cook the break pads and rims on that road with all the extra weight!
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