| Father & Son‘s 1st
My son (Steven) & I originally planned to take 2 days out of our family vacation in Vail to do the Halo circuit. But after considering the late summer afternoon weather pattern of thunderstorms and hail, coupled with the idea of spending 12 – 15 hours with full packs, most of that exposed above tree line, and the fact that this was Steven's first trip above 6000', we opted for new objectives: Camaraderie, Safety & FUN!
So we two good ol' hillbillies from NC took off on the good ol' North Ridge standard route(1 & 2):
Day 1: Hike up over Half Moon and down to camp at Cross Creek then do some leisure exploration of the area.
Day 2: Early morning ascent to tag summit, then return to camp and hike back up and out to Tigiwon by early afternoon – leaving time to unite with the family for dinner at Chilly Willy's in Mintern.
Good thing we opted for the standard route. Had we gone for Halo, we'd have been really 'up the crik' due to the early morning cold winds and the severe early afternoon lightening storm.
Like most of the other posts here, our story features similar accolades for the route and the mountain. The upper 2/3's of the ridge route REQUIRE attention and RESPECT (Talus scrambling maybe relatively easy but it is also very risky; holes and loose boulders are just looking for ankles to break! Lucky for us, our hillbilly history in Pisgah and Linville Gorge has us used to rugged terrain)
Day 1 was just what we expected. We had a modest approach up and over Half Moon Pass featuring spectacular scenery. The range views and wild flowers were absolutely stunning! (3,4,5,6,7,8) A particular highlight was seeing Steven's reaction to the view just before you descend the switchbacks – seeing the entire North Ridge line and the crest of Holy Cross with the Cross Creek (falls?) and basin area below, he was hit with the immensity and grandeur of our adventure. Wish I had a picture so I could share what it looks like to see someone's jaw drop at the same time their grin is going from temple to temple!(9)
We hung our hammocks just above and beside the lake at Cross Creek.(10) There were plenty of camp sites and surprisingly very few mosquitos. Then we rambled back up Cross Creek with intent of getting to Lake Patricia. Unfortunately, there really is no easy to follow trail up Cross Creek; you have to find the path of least resistance beside and across the creek, around and over the boulders(11), and up and through the rock formations. It was great! However, we ran up against the clock and had to turn back just a couple hundred feet from the ledge – remembering our objectives (Safety & FUN!) we snapped a photo (12)and meandered our way back to camp for an early dinner and some rest in preparation for THE day.(13)
Day 2 was not quite what we expected, but was something we were glad we were prepared for. To get ahead of the 'probable' afternoon storms, we awoke at 5 am and after a quick breakfast of cold cereal, we packed our food, water, multiple layers and headed up trail. We had to stop not far up the trail to put on an outer layer – then wind had really kicked up and the temperature had turned down. We were passed by 3 lovely ladies and their German Shepard. We decided to wait a few minutes to assure that we wouldn't overtake then and that both our parties had some privacy. (Boy! Did we get a hillbilly 'larnin'! Them gals flat put it on us. By the time we cleared treeline them thar gals was plum up the first section of talus and almost on the cornice! Now, being a macho, super fit DAD trying to leverage this trip to impress upon my Son that I'm still 'Da Man' – I couldn't admit in front of him that these GIRLS had wailed on us. So I chalked it up to us taking several 'picture' stops. (But for the record, to the 3: "You GO Girls! Way to ROCK! )
The wind picked up several notches and the temperature dropped several more degrees. The skyline to the west was ominous with threatening black thunderheads amassing. We put on another layer and gloves and picked up our scramble pace, took advantage of walking on the cornice(16) to gain a bit more time (and see my son's face do another fantastic contortion: grinning ear to ear while also grinding teeth in fear = beautiful!) The views down to Lake Patricia (17)and over Bowl of Tears (18) to Notch were awesome! As we ascended the last pitch, the UBBER-Gals passed below. Bits of sleet began pelting our outer shells just as we crested.(19 & 20)
With the weather pending, we really didn't want to spend too much time on top – just enough to take some pictures and get a few calories in us. After sharing what is sure to be one of the most memorable father-son moments of my life, we turned tail and got the hell of the hill! Once we got below the cornice, we came across a few parties making their way up: a single guy with full pack (if he was going Halo: GO MAN GO! Hope you made it!) a pair of couples (Hope the gal found her sunglasses), a foursome of dudes, and a couple of older foreign gentlemen (hope you guys had extra clothing in your packs!), another couple of fit & prepared older guys, and an obviously ill-prepared Dad & daughter (I "pray" that they had some gear in the one hip pack the Father was carrying or they were apt to have the kind of memorable Father-Daughter memory you DON'T want!)
We made camp well before noon. Packed up, ate a couple of PB&J's and headed back up to Half Moon. We'd liked to have taken a longer rest, but the skyline was becoming worse. The few patches of sunlight that did make it through afforded some unique visuals: spots of sunlight chasing rainbows up the East Creek Canyon (21) below to the left. By the time we hit the crest of Half Moon pass, thunder was rumbling behind us. After only a few minutes the thunder was matched with it's accompanying rain and lightening. The hits were way too close for my comfort and I know way too dangerous for the parties behind us. Steven & I put a double time pace on the descent and made the parking lot just before 2pm.
Dry clothes. Warm car. Smiles so big they hurt. Legs and backs so tired they did hurt. A call to our family to allay their fears. An unspoken line of communication between father and son for which there simply were no words necessary.
Objectives met indeed!
(or as we hillbillies say: "at wuz a nice 'un!")(22)
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):