Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  09/16/2013
Date Climbed:   06/21/2013
Author:  moneymike
 Finding money on Holy Cross   

Hi, my name is Moneymike, and I would like to tell you the tale of my semi-religious pilgrimage to Mt. of the Holy Cross. The story begins early in the 2013 spring ski season. After a pretty mediocre season (snow wise) for the Sawatch range, and most of Colorado, God finally decided to stop being such a cranky old miser, and he blessed the Sawatch with a very reasonable amount of the holy white stuff (by "holy white stuff," I mean snow...I hope that was clear).

I caught my first glimpse of the blessedly white Sawatch range in April, as I drove passed it on my way to the San Jaun's. "Jesus Christ, God damn, that's a lot of snow," I said to myself! It was then that I decided 2013 would be the year I would make my holy pilgrimage to Mt. of the Holy Cross!

For those of you who don't know, Mt. of the Holy Cross is located at the northern end of the Sawatch range. It is the most dangerous and, by far, the highest mountain within, at least, a hundred foot radius of its summit. The mountain was named after Mr. Holycross, who became the first man to summit it in 1879.

Aside from its reputation of being the highest, most dangerous, and northernmost mountain in its immediate vicinity, Mt of the Holy Cross holds very special significance to a certain group of people. A deep couloir bisects the east face, and a perpendicular snow field two thirds of the way up creates the illusion of a cross. It is this cross shaped image that evokes an almost religious fervour amongst this group of people. I am speaking, of course, about mathematicians. Every year, dozens of mathematicians, like myself, make a pilgrimage to the mountain they know affectionately as "Mt. of the Holy Plus Sign."

Mt. of the Holy Plus Sign (seen from Torrey's)

Being the lazy fat-ass that I am, I decided to wait until the Tigiwon road opened in late June to do my pilgrimage. By this time of year, most of the fourteeners had melted out, however the northern Sawatch still held a good amount of snow. On June 20th, the pearly gates opened and I made my way up the Tigiwon road to the camp ground...and proceeded to get drunk.

Around sunrise, the next day, I began my holy mathematical journey to the summit of Mt. of the Holy Plus Sign. The trail head is a quick stroll from the campground and the trail eventually takes you deep into the heart of the beautiful Holy Cross Wilderness (which was named after Mr. Holy Cross and his hiking partner Mr. Derness, (I believe his first name was Will)).

I took a leisurely pace, stopping to enjoy the flowers, the views, some snacks, and a really nice poo (away from the trail, summit, and streams, of course).

Poo with a view




I hiked the entire trail (North ridge) in my trail runners and made the summit in about five hours.



Notch Mountain (presumably named after Mr. Notch)

Mr. Notch's house

I was greeted, on the summit, by a friendly little marmot named Bernoulli.


He seemed to like having his picture taken. He did his very best to sneak into all of my summit shots.




He asked me to take a few shots of him and post them on for all of his marmot friends to see. I agreed to do this for him as long as he promised not to chew on any of my gear when I wasn't looking.

Me and Bernoulli (I'm the one with the skis)

Just as I was about to start hiking back down the trail, Bernoulli informed me that taking the plus sign couloir would be the path of quickest descent. Since I happened to have my skis with, me I decided to take his advice.





The snow was exactly as I expected on an east face, this time of year...dirty and runnely. The entire ski down consisted of jump turn, slide, stop, repeat. It was pretty much just survival skiing, but challenging and fun nonetheless.





I didn't know, before hand, how obvious the exit would be, so I carefully calibrated my altimeter and expected to find it at 12,740' as Dawson reported it to be. It turns out that the couloir exit is blatantly is the only place in the couloir that you can just walk out of, and it is easy to see that one should not attempt to ski any lower. However, I measured the exit to be 13 000 on my altimeter (Taylorzs reports the same measurement in his tr).

Looking at couloir from the exit

Looking down at the Bowl of Tears lake from the couloir exit

I climbed down and across the mountain 300 vertical feet before coming to the next snow patch, which I was able to ski patch-to-patch continuously down to the Bowl of Tears Lake. Below the lake, the snow was melted out, so I put the skis on my back and began the hike out.

There's a very very faint trail leading down through the East Cross Creek drainage. I followed it for a while and when I lost it, I veered towards the west end of the creek. This was a mistake! I soon found myself deep within a boulder field with boulders the size of houses. With careful route finding skills through the boulders, I was able to keep the hiking to under V4. Needless to say, this was not an expedient route out of this drainage. I eventually lost patience with the bouldering and decided to hike back up the North ridge, just so that I could regain the trail and avoid all of the b.s. in the East Cross Creek. I came across a few creepy looking make-shift shelters and fire pits on the ridge, on my way back to the trail.

The East Cross Creek is a very very unholy hike out. It took me an hour longer to go from the summit to the trail head via East Cross Creek, than it took me to go from the trail head to the summit via the north ridge (never trust the word of a marmot).

By the time I got back to the trailhead, the parking lot and campground were nearly full! I had complete solitude the entire day, and apparently just got back in the nick of time before the hordes hit the trail. I would have liked to have stayed and enjoyed the party (I had a few beers left), but I was heading to Boulder to meet up with my friend Austin. He wanted me to ski a line on Longs Peak with him...which, I assume, was named after a Dutch man named Mr. Flying.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

09/17/2013 15:02
...marmot's quite the poser! Well done skiing the ”Plus Sign” couloir under icy conditions.


Mount of the Holy Plus Sign
09/18/2013 03:35
I shit myself when I read that...hilarious

And I would never trust the word of Bernoulli unless of course you wanted to solve some differential equations in the form of y'+p(x)y= q(x)y^n.


Thanks rajz06 and goingup
09/21/2013 22:07
I sometimes feel a bit foolish writing such silly jokes, but I tell myself that if I can make just one woman shit her pants, it'll all be worth it.


09/22/2013 21:20
Glad to see you posted a tr. The Holy Plus sign is an excellent line!


Most Excellent Report !
12/30/2013 00:28
Enjoyed UR Humor, it is a very thin ledge we walk between Crazy & Brave !

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