Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  09/03/2018
Date Climbed:   09/02/2018
Author:  Aramis
 The annual season opener retreat report   

I'm not sure whether this qualifies as Type 2 or Type 3 fun, but in the spirit of failing to summit Massive at the start of my 2017 season, here's some notes.

Last year I started a new career in a field I knew almost nothing about, except that I was tired of making money using my body. I was basically a month from leaving Colorado when an opportunity came through, so I immediately set to work learning so many things and building a transferable skill set. Relevant to climbing and hiking, this has been distinctly disastrous for my fitness level and capabilities. Nonetheless, I've been wanting to attempt Holy Cross all summer long. This week was particularly "fun" in the office, so I decided to go for it late Friday night.

ISSUE 1 - Gear organization and planning is always a clusterfuck first time out for a season

I had already researched the Halo Ridge route, and as with Torrey's, I knew that I was more intrigued by alternatives than the standard route. First thing I decided was that I wanted to sleep at the shelter on Notch Mountain since newer reports had indicated that it was once again longer locked after the trip report noting a padlock.

I spent a good chunk of Saturday preparing. I found Greg Jagielski's GPX on Peakbagger and got it combined with map data to be available offline on my phone. I studied various offline gps-based mapping options (no, Gaia, I am not paying $19/yr for what should be a one-time app purchase). I picked out food and assessed a water loadout for Halo Ridge, and so on. Because I was starting so clearly behind the 8-ball, this trip got the most planing of anything since Pikes, where I prepped over three months while waiting for snow to melt off.

ISSUE 2 - Bad rest management

Eventually I got my ducks in order and reached the trailhead parking lot around 1:30am. I was sooo well rested when two people started talking at 4am as they prepared for their day. And would not shut up. For nearly half an hour. Given that this was a long weekend, and that I never seem to get enough rest during the workweek, I probably should have slept in and then driven out the next day instead.

I knew to be looking for signage indicating for the Notch Mountain trail. When I didn't see any after hiking for a while, I suspected something was amiss. You guessed it -- at 5:30am or so, I had taken the wrong trailhead. While reading this sign, I had been more interested in the fire ban demarcation than which trailhead I was reading markers for.

As it turns out, I had understood 100% completely correctly that the Notch Mountain trail branches off from a parent trail, but I was on the standard route, not the Fall Creek trail. All that planning for nothing. The extra food and water weight was now just training weight.

Oh well. At least the weather looked great and the area was beautiful beyond compare.


ISSUE 3 - Bad nutrition management

Honestly, as I've gotten older, and partly due to my last couple of jobs, my lunchtimes have gotten more erratic. I typically take lunch after 12:30 because I'm just not hungry before that, and I've gotten used to later lunches or no lunch at all on all too many days. I definitely did not start ingesting calories soon enough --I didn't even eat my first bar until I was a bit past tree line. Next time I plan to eat a lot sooner, even if I have to force calories down. I didn't even think about it, as I was more engrossed in the beauty around me.


ISSUE 4 - Not knowing when to adapt/take implicit advice

This trip is the trip I learned the lesson that if a clearly more experienced peak bagger stops you to ask, "Are you ok? Are you sure about this weather? ", the answer should be "no".

As I turned the corner after crossing Half Moon Pass, things looked like this around Holy Cross.

After passing tree line, here's what it looked like.

I watched warily and continued climbing as patches of blue passed directly over Holy Cross, but to either side there was consistently those wispy rain clouds we can all recognize. Now imagine those wisps are not miles away but directly in the valley with Holy Cross as one side of it... pellet snow deployment #1.

I probably should have called it much, much earlier. I probably should have called it during the pellet snow. I probably should have called it when the third person said "Are you going for it... Climb safe!" I definitely should have called it, hiked down a bit with the cute girl who was amenable to pleasant conversation, maybe exchanged numbers -- after all, she was clearly more physically prepared (blew past me on the way up), watched the first snow fall of the day before assessing whether to continue, and then called it at 13000 because she could see a lot more of the cloud banks and wasn't interested in more storm risk. Basically, a lot of evidence I was an idiot not to take advantage of.

Nope, I was a stubborn idiot and didn't call it for another 500 vertical feet. Way, way too late to get the girl's number. Also way, way too late to match my energy reserves and fitness level. Which put me above tree line when more pellet snow fell and forced me to reach Half Moon Pass and reach my truck mostly in the dark. Last time I felt this way after a hike was Quandary, my first (and at the time, avowedly my only)14er. I was definitely classing this at "questioning so many life choices" for that last mile.

So of course this morning I've already decided to track the weather and decided to actually do Halo Ridge next time - after all, it only requires you to traverse Half Moon Pass once.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6

Comments or Questions

   Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.