Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  06/09/2012
Date Climbed:   06/09/2012
Author:  SasquatchJr
 Human Powered Holy Cross- Memorial Climb  

This is my big fat first trip report so I'll try and do it justice. I always have partners that are far more active on 14ers so I just slack and enjoy the fruits of their labor. This was a big day for me so I'll try to be informative but you are subject to some philosophizing as well.

No ski descent of the cross couloir this year :/ but it was a mighty fine day in the northern Sawatch.

I managed to summit today, and began and ended from my doorstep in Avon (thus the title). I had stared at my local 14er long enough even if I wasn't going to ski it, it was worth the adventure. It was actually my first CO 14er ever that I didn't have my skis with me. That being the case, I reckoned that the first one I just hike should be an adventure. At a 48 mile day (biking and hiking), it was an adventure.

The very sad part of this TR is why I chose to do this climb on the 9th of June. Two years ago today, my little sister's high school sweetheart chose to end his life. My darling sibling has had to carry that grief and sadness every day since then. It deeply affected my whole family. I thought this kid was going to be my brother in law and raise darling little children with my sister. Sadly this was the third friend in my life that has made the most selfish of decisions, but I learned that I did not truly know grief until we lost dear Bobby.

Bobby and little sister Amy

Not to be a Debby Downer, BUT my parents recently divorced and incidentally today was the day we sold the farm they raised all us kids on. Big day.

All that out of the way, I wanted an epic to memorialize my lost friend and generate some space to collect my thoughts.

Here begins the real trip report for the north ridge of Holy Cross

I started riding my mountain bike at 3am from my apartment in Avon. I learned that you get ready much more slowly in your own house than in a tent. I had hoped to start a little earlier because the forecast called for 25-35mph winds with gusts up to 45. Because of the forecast, I was climbing with a 80-90% chance that I would not summit. Since the whole objective of the day was to have fun and be alone (this was a solo climb), I didn't place too much stock on standing on top. I was going to be stoked to just make it to treeline on the north ridge.

I had read some trip reports about some mutilated shins from the talus on this peak as well as multiple TRs involving helicopter rescues. My objectives then became:
a)don't add any additional scars to my shins
b)no sprains or breaks
c)no helicopter extracts

I envisioned myself belly crawling over talus in 45mph gusts just to bag a summit and decided that was going to be a bad time. I brought my axe but no snow travel gear so I was ready to turn around if I found too much snow, even though I have extensive postholing experience on Mt. Lindsey with joelmpaula.

All this in mind, I left my place after some brown sugar/peanut butter oatmeal and coffee strong enough to revive a lame horse. I reckoned the 3am ride was going to be the most dangerous part of the trip, since everyone on the road is either tired or drunk and tired. I threw on the blinky lights and rode the 10 miles without incident. There was quite a nice half moon, with threw good light and was fitting considering my destination.

I turned off onto Tigiwon and reached the gate at 4am. I tried to pedal slowly from Avon to Minturn because I didn't want to go to hard at the beginning of a big day. Climbing in the dark on Tigiwon was easier than I anticipated. I work for a non-profit so my gear is bargain-basement. I had a triple-A bike light and one that runs on watch batteries. For all of the forest service roads out there, this one is pretty conducive to night riding. I made the climb in two hours exactly, and with my overloaded pack (safety first) it made for a gooch-crushing good time. I was awfully concerned about colliding with a big black bear sow before the big exploding ball of gas made its presence known over the Gore Range. There was no snow on Tigiwon, a few small trees that 1-2 people could move, and some ruts that would give a loaded 2wd car some trouble (especially if it was wet).

I was at half moon trailhead at 6, stashed the bike and started climbing. Half moon pass came quickly. I had some leg cramping from my ride, and fought it all the way up. I have some multisport racing experience and I've cramped there, but never climbing mountains. I'm just gonna bring some rock salt and eat it like m&ms. Image
I thought this was hilarious. Huge mountain lion scat and part of a ski boot buckle. You figured that it would've eaten the last morsel!

Crossed cross creek at the creek crossing. The only snow I encountered that required routefinding was near treeline on the north ridge. Very straightforward, however. This trail will be primed and ready when the road opens on the 20th (don't quote me on that date). Like I said, I didn't have snow travel gear but that was the right call because it is utterly unnecessary.

I began gaining the ridge and found the trail in great condition with cairns and the flouro trail markers that get stuck in the ground. I was wondering when the wind would hit. It was out of the south, so the ridge blocked it a bit from where the trail climbs. Turn around points were still in the forefront of my mind. But, wouldn't you know, I just kept climbing. Like Dylan said, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. I never got hit with winds much higher than 25mph (if that). Without the wind, the skies were clear, and I just scampered right on up to the top.

Here's the sappy part. I did this hike to think about Bobby. I knew I would be sad and grieve over the course of the day. When I saw the summit block, I just lost it. I wept and wept; basically crawled to the leeward side of the block and called my sister. I tried to be the good big brother but soon I had us both crying. She's working today. If someone I dated for 5 years took their own life, I wouldn't want to work on the anniversary of their death. She is an incredible person and I still ponder how she carries this burden.

Summit. I tried to stop sniffling enough to take a picture.

I am an atheist. Death means the end of a person and the end of their consciousness. I can't wrap myself in the security blanket of the idea of an afterlife, and I can't try to explain bad things away through ideology and "master plans". I simply try and marvel at the fact the we are a spec on a spec on a spec and my jaw still drops in amazement at what goes on every single second in our natural environment. The lifestyle choices I make are to maximize the fleeting instant that is my chance at life on this planet. I kayak, ski, and climb in places where I take calculated risks and receive unprecedented rewards. You only life once. Live it up.

Once I stopped bawling enough to walk around I did go take peak in the cross couloir. From what I saw, there was snow almost from the summit all the way out of sight. WITH the exception of a choke about 300 vertical down. You might be able to ski it, but it might be a downclimb. The snow was suncupped, and the runnel looked pretty manageable. If you are considering skiing it this season, I would a)climb it so you know what's there or b)send a scout over to notch first to report on conditions. I do not know the bottom elevation of the snow or if there is cover to the exit. The angelica couloir had snow from the north facing snow field up to ~130 vertical below the ridge. There were tracks from where someone had climbed that line recently.

For anyone interested in angelica.

I summited at 9:40 (3:40 climbing time from half moon) and spent 30 minutes on top. Since the winds were a no-show, I climbed down like a grandma. The unexpected grieving session left me drained and dazed. I didn't want to take chances on the descent so I just took my sweet time. Between 13k and 12.5k I met a group of 5 kids a little younger than me (I'm only 24) that had hiked up cross creek. They were spread out and approaching their turn around time. I gave them the best beta I could and reminded them there are worst things than turning around on a peak. It was so clear and the winds mild enough that fatigue was their biggest limiting factor. I considered waiting for them since I had the rest of the day to get home but they seemed to know enough to stay out of trouble. It was surprising to see other people and it helped me "wake up" a bit. I still descended pretty slowly but just felt better about life. I've descended plenty of peaks doing the mountaineer shuffle with skis and boots on my back just trying to get back to the car. I was so full of hellfire and tobasco sauce trying to beat the wind on the way up I tried to walk purposefully down.

It took an hour from cross creek back up to halfmoon pass, and my total descent time was about 5 hours. I stopped and talked to momma about how selling the farm went (auction) and she was bummed about it and Bobby too. It is such a scenic hike I was glad to spend the extra time.

Once I made it back to the bike, it was less than 30 minutes back to highway 24. Wahoo. A nice consolation for not skiing the cross. I promise bombing down Tigiwon on a bike with 30 lbs on your back is more exciting than driving it. A mandatory stop at Kirby Cosmo's BBQ in Minturn was in order. My friend owns that place so if you are in the area go support an independent business owner just trying to raise his family. I recommend the cowboy cup. It's a BBQ platter in a big bowl. It all goes to the same place anyway.

Wildlife seen:
dark-eyed junco, ptarmigan, clark's nutcracker, brown-capped rosy finch, red fox, marmot, pika, golden mantled ground squirrel, chickaree, rainbow trout, mountain chickadee, chipping sparrow, and the ubiquitous american robin

Headed home.

In summary:
-I started at 3am, got home at 6pm
-20 miles of pavement, 16 miles of dirt on the mtn bike
-at least 9,000 ft of climbing (I live at 7,400 and half moon pass is in the mix)
-trail is going to be dry as a bone once Tigiwon opens
-you only live once so get out and raise the gnar bar

I always think of Bobby if I need motivation. Miss you buddy.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

06/10/2012 02:50
My brother committed suicide on January 19, 2011.
And it was about a year ago around this time that we put his cremains in the ground. However, I brought some of him with me to the top of Holy Cross this past March and spread him up there.
I understand your pain & loss.
I never looked at his suicide as selfish though. I looked at as a dark side within him that he could not seem to share or tell anyone about.

Anyway, I'm sorry for your loss.
Thanks for sharing.

Craig Cook

Thank you...
06/10/2012 05:25
...for sharing not only your trip report with us, but the story surrounding it. I, too, had a friend commit suicide, and it's a very tough thing to go through. I hope this adventure brought you some peace. Have you thought about taking your sister on a similar trip?


Wow - I can't even imagine.
06/11/2012 01:27
Well done my friend. . . .well done


Class Act
06/11/2012 01:51
That looks like one heckuva a journey and I'm sure Bobby would have been proud of you. I'm going to take your advice and start raising that gnar bar. Great report


Thanks for sharing...
06/11/2012 17:24
That's a heck of a human-powered day, even if you didn't have a million things weighing on your mind. A great way to honor Bobby. Way to go buddy.


06/26/2012 02:45
Wonderful message, inner and outer strength. Well done and inspirational!

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