Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  08/21/2006
Date Climbed:   08/20/2006
Author:  aubrey
 Holy Cross - Halfmoon  

In keeping with our Alps trip training - as well as our 14er-climbing addiction - Jen and I decided to add Mt. of the Holy Cross to our already-packed weekend. Our friend Ryan decided to join us, even though we slow him up a bit. After our tough day on Castle/Conundrum, I was hoping for a better day on the Cross.

Our adventure started late Saturday night ... well, technically it was early Sunday morning, but it felt like Saturday night. The road to the trailhead was long, dark and riddled with potholes. By the way, with a little care, most cars should be able to make it up there, except the low-profile, fast & furious types. Just look out for the deep potholes. A couple deep ones came on me unexpectedly and we bounced around quite a bit. If it hadn't been for my seatbelt, I would've been picking sunroof glass out of my skull.

Jen and I pulled into the parking lot shortly after 3 a.m. and woke up Ryan, who was sleeping in his 'roo. After signing the register we started up the trail at 3:20 a.m. I remember looking up into the clear sky and being blown away by all the stars. The Milky Way looked like a white cloud streaking across the sky.

As we hiked up the dark trail, my stiff legs slowly and reluctantly began to wake up.

An hour into the climb, at 4:20, we made our way across the creek. Passed a few tents and wondered if anyone was wakin' & bakin' in there.

From the creek, it was really just a whole lotta up. For the most part the trail was easy to follow, but we did have to pay attention, being in the dark and all. The headlamps only lit up so much of the ground, and in some areas the terrain around the trail looked just like the trail.

The air was cold, and the thought really hit me that the summer 14er climbing season was almost over.

Shortly after tree line we were able to turn off the lamps. Just kept climbing up the long, talus-filled ridge. Most of the boulders were pretty solid, although we teeter-tottered on a few. Made it to the high point, where it kind of leveled off a bit, and enjoyed a snack with the rising sun in our faces. Jen made fun of Ryan and I because we seemed to be color coordinated. I swear, it wasn't planned.


As we continued up to the final pitch, Ryan peered over the edge and made the short, poignant comment, "Death to the left." He couldn't have been closer to the truth, as there are some seriously wicked drop-offs on Holy Cross.


After slogging up the final talus-strewn pitch, we made it to the summit at 7:20 a.m., exactly 4 hours from when we started.


Enjoyed some seriously wonderful weather up there (sunny, mild breeze, cool temps), and had the summit all to ourselves. Super-steep cliffs. If you were a base jumper, it wouldn't get any better than this.


Here's a pic of Jen on a rock outcropping:


Started back down at 7:45 a.m. The good thing about starting early, before the sun, was that everything was new to us on the way back. Spectacular views ... and some really beautiful wildflowers.

At one point I think we startled a huge marmot on the trail because he tore up the hillside and kicked this mega mushroom at us.


That last 1,000 feet of vert on the return was pretty painful. But at least we had some great views to enjoy.


Made it back to the parking lot at 10:45 a.m. Rather long hike, but it was worth it. Holy Cross is a striking mountain.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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