Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  09/16/2006
Date Climbed:   08/28/2006
Author:  scottrappold
 never did a trip report before...  

OK so this is my first trip report. I‘m a relatively newbie to Colorado (moved here from Pa. two years ago and never looked back), and me and a buddie tackled Holy Cross on Aug. 28, which was to be my 16th 14er, and, I expect, the final one of the season, work commitments and weather being what they are. So here goes:

Ever since I started tackling the Colorado mountains, I‘d been intrigued by Holy Cross. So close to Vail and I-70, so apparently crowded, yet so remote at the same time (45 minutes on a rough narrow dirt road just to get to the trailhead.)
We camped the night before at Halfmoon campground, and got a 5:20 a.m. start. The climb up to Halfmoon Pass, I knew, would just be the warm up.
The view of the mountain crossing over Notch was breathtaking. Just wondering, is this mountain visible from any roads? I sure hope not, because it felt like a very private view:

While descending the pass, I had the same feeling you get when you take out a loan: You know you‘re gonna have to repay sometime. But I put it out of my mind.
Passed some beautiful campsites along the creek that made me wish we had climbed the pass the day before and camped there. But hey, it would‘ve meant leaving the beer!
A pleasant walk through rolling terrain soon became an uphill slog on Holy Cross‘s north flank, and at the urging of my friend, who was doing his second 14er, I plunged ahead, stopping from time to time to make sure he was still coming.
It became apparent, after bursting above treeline, the weather had its own plans, and by only 8:30 a.m. the horizon was dark and grey to the west, and the summit was solidly socked in:

Clouds usually make me worry, but hey, it was late August and early morning, so on I scrambled, as the trail disappeared in the rocks. A very well-marked system of cairns the size of boulders kept me on track.
My ears keenly tuned for any thunder, I kept going, not seeing a soul except the form of Perry gingerely picking his way among the rocks below. And things weren‘t improving up top. By the time I reached the gentle ridge, I could see little of the valleys below and the summit was a dark behemoth reminiscent of Mordor:
Still, it was clear just to the west, so on I went, firm in my faith that it would never thunderstorm in late August at 9:30 a.m.:
The final stretch to the summit was a hazardous scramble up rocks slick with frost, while snowflakes steadily fell and the world below disappeared in the haze. I quickly lost sight of the cairns, and focused my entire effort on just making the next scramble without breaking my neck.
Finally reached the top at around 10 a.m., the first person of the day up there. I‘ve included no pictures because you couldn‘t see more than 20 feet in any one direction. Not quite the scenic reward I was used to, but I didn‘t know when I‘d make it up there again. I stayed up just long enough to decide the clouds weren‘t going anywhere and very carefully descended down the slippery rocks.
With visibility still less than 50 feet, I became disoriented and had a moment of panic: which way had i come? I could see no cairns, and the temptation to just dart any direction was strong.
But, with the memory of many other lost-persons cases on this mountain strong in my mind, I got a grip on myself, walked a few feet, and recognized the northwest ridge. I passed a couple who‘d been camping at the same campground, and as far as I know they were the only others to summit that cold day.
I found Perry on the saddle below the summit. Much to my chagrin, it was clearing up-top:
He decided he‘d had enough and could live with himself if he didn‘t summit, so down we went. Of course, the further we got, the nicer the day got. The sun came out. The temperatures warmed. The walk back down to the valley was marred by the trepidation I felt at the impending climb back up to Halfmoon Pass.
I wont‘ go into details about the climb, suffice to say my legs have seldom felt more rubbery. Every step was like climbing through heavy snow. My muscles screamed in protest. It was a very slow walk.
And, of course, by the time we reached the pass, it was a beautiful day over Holy Cross:
Oh well.
The walk back down the pass was pleasant, comparitively, as I marveled over how much effort I‘d expended for so little reward.
Well, the view isn‘t everything. Why do I do this, I asked myself? Why get up before dawn, fight hypoxia and the cold, to scale this heap of rocks that so many have climbed before?
Because it‘s there. The challenge is the journey. And I had no regrets.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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