Mt. of the Holy Cross - 14,005 feet
Mt. of the Holy Cross - 14,005 feet
|Holy Cross with the family|
As our kids grow up and move out, it gets harder and harder to get the whole family together for activities. Our two kids (Teresa and Greg) have been out of the house pretty much full-time since Greg followed his sister off to college last year, so this weekend's family campout and hike of Holy Cross was kind of special, in addition to being fun. You just never know when it's going to be the last time...sniff, sniff... (sorry)
We've done a lot of hiking with the kids over the years. Our first family 14er was Grays Peak 12 years ago, and we've done at least 40 other high-mountain days together over the years, including memorable backpacks to Chicago Basin and Como Lake, an epic 13-hour day doing the Harvard-Columbia Traverse, and lots of day-hikes. In the intervening years the kids have grown into a pair of fine young adults, and we're very proud of them.
Carol and I swept through Golden on Friday afternoon, picking up both kids, and headed out on I-70 with the holiday weekend rush crowd about 4 pm. After a stop in Frisco for dinner, we found a campsite on Tigiwon Road just in time to set up camp as the light was fading. Two friendly grey jays kept us company; I'm afraid we disappointed them by not providing any food, but they still hung around and came back the next morning.
A few years ago we'd tried this hike on a less-than-perfect weather day. On that occasion, it rained all the way to Halfmoon Pass, and the clouds had that settled-in look to them, so we turned back at 8 am, probably the earliest I've ever given up on a 14er hike. So we had kind of a score to settle, and this day's weather forecast looked much, much better.
As we left the trailhead a little after 7 am, the skies were clear and the ground was dry, everything was looking perfect. We reached the pass in 45 minutes or so. The views at the top opened up remarkably.
As we descended the gentle slope on the far side of the pass, the objective finally came into view for the first time, still a long way away.
We bottomed out our descent, crossed the creek on the log-and-rock bridge, traversed the maze of trails through the camping area, and started the switchbacks up the ridge. Somebody has clearly put a lot of work into this trail (Carol and the kids are experienced trail maintenance workers, and know a good trail when they see one). We arrived at timberline after about 2.5 hours, and from the view it was clear we still had quite a ways to go.
Past timberline the trail faded, replaced with talus and scattered cairns. The climbing was fun on the (mostly) solidly-placed boulders.
At one point I was pretty sure I'd found that stolen "Scream" painting by Edvard Munch.
Sometime before the four-hour mark we reached the turn in the ridge and headed up the final 600-foot slope to the summit. The weather was still looking good, although the clouds were beginning to build some.
The views to the southwest especially kept getting better and better at this point. What a spectacular area!
We finally reached the summit right at five hours after leaving the trailhead. Whew! It felt really great to get here with the whole family, especially after our previous attempt ended so quickly. We got a friendly stranger to take the obligatory hero shot on the summit.
(sniff...they grow up so fast...sorry....)
My favorite part of this summit is that you're right on top of the Cross Couloir. We scrambled around the far side a bit and gawked at the drop-off.
After a half-hour hanging around, eating lunch, etc., we decided that we'd pushed our luck enough with the weather and headed down. Teresa's knee tends to get sore on rocky descents, but she managed to get down OK with a little ibuprofen and an Ace bandage. A few more hours brought us to the creek crossing again. All made it across without any dunkings.
A light rain started just as we began to climb up the pass, which was ideal since it cooled things down. The hike back up went pretty well, as the trail is rarely very steep. Cresting the pass the second time was a relief; Teresa celebrated by showing a little leg. ;)
The hike down from the pass went comfortably and quickly, and we arrived back at the car at about 9.5 hours after we'd left. It was truly a great day out with Carol and the kids, and hopefully not the last time we'll get to do a 14er as a family!
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