Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  07/24/2006
Date Climbed:   07/23/2006
Author:  CDecker40

 Holy Cross - Angelica Couloir  

I think the road info and up and over Halfmoon pass trip report has been pretty well covered, so I won‘t go into all that.

We stayed Saturday night at a sweet spot just West of East Cross Creek, woke up late (does anyone know how to change the battery in a Suunto Vector?) and got on the trail about 6AM. By the way, don‘t forget bug repellant in you‘re heading out there.

Roach‘s book was pretty much all we had to guide us, and it was pretty vague information at times. "Locate a climbers trail in the forest" was the first objective from camp. We knew we could use the creek as a handlebar all the way south to Lake Patricia, but as many of you know, staying close to the creek can be tricky due to the rock outcrops through which it has carved. The forest can get a bit dense around there too.

We followed some pink tape west of the creek and South for a bit, then realized that trail cut over to the East side of the creek. Accoriding to Roach‘s topo, we needed to stay west of the creek, and weren't ready to throw out our major handlebar so early, so we backtracked to our camp, and found another trail cutting through the forest over two of the creek‘s small tributaries. This trail seemed promising for some time. There were sparse cairns along the way. However, in the forest somewhere along the way, we found our last cairn and could not locate any trail thereafter.

We could see our objective at times and knew where we ultimately needed to be, so faced with either turning back and calling it quits or bushwhacking, we pushed on to the boulderfield above timberline at the base of the approach to the couloir. After scrambing up and over and through the boulders, we scrambled up a steep slope of scree and shards and finally looked back on Lake Patricia at our originally intended route. Our best guess on our mistake was that we were traveling too far west of the creek and never got to the lake.

After a bit more walking and dealing with talus, scree, and shards, we finally got to the fun. We crampon-ed up and got on the snow. The snow was slushy at spots but overall fun. We started out on a slightly rising traverse to stay off the rocks, then headed up the steeper slope to where the couloir splits, the left couloir being Angelica proper, the right couloir being the one Roach advises against because of the dangerous cornice above.

From below, we could see that the cornice was no longer threatening the right-hand couloir, and that the snow extended much higher up this route than the other, so we opted to traverse right a bit and head up to the right. After more great climbing, we were out of snow about 200 feet from the top of the couloir.

Once the snow petered out, it‘s a very not-fun scramble up more scree and shards to get to the col/saddle at the top of the couloir, but once you‘re there, you‘re on the standard trail to the summit.

When we topped out the couloir, it was already 12PM due to our route finding difficulties and scree scrambling. However, the weather was holding nicely, so we decided to dump our packs and make a mad-dash for the summit. After about 25 minutes we were on the precipice.

On the way down, we got a good look at the left-hand couloir of Angelica proper, and were glad we didn‘t take that route option. The snow is much more melted out into muddy slush about 500 feet from the col at the top of the couloir, leaving some intense, steep scree up the center, or 5th class climbing on either side wall of the couloir.

We descended the standard route, packed up camp, and were back up and over Halfmoon by about 7PM, lucky that the weather held.

Overall, this was a great adventure, but I‘d advise against any more trips up this route this season due to the rate at which the snow is melting out. Crampons and ice axes are obviously a must.

If anyone has any advice as to where we got off-track on our route to Lake Patricia, I welcome an email. At some point I‘ll need to take a shot at the Cross Couloir, and will need some beta.


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