9.11.2004

Return To Summer

Our weather has been very warm and sunny this past week, in fact according to the "local forecast", it was 81 here this afternoon! And last week there was 6 inches of snow in some places in the higher peaks, crazy. Well all of that snow from last week melted, at least from the local peaks, so I decided to take advantage. I finally have climbed the closest 14er to me, and highest point in the county, Mt of The Holy Cross. It barely makes it at 14,005 feet, but even though it is smaller in altitude, it is no small feat. Mt of the Holy Cross is sort of remote, the easiest route to climb it is almost 6 miles one way, and gains over 4,600 feet of total altitude, that is almost a mile up! The main reason is because the peak is buried in the wilderness area that carries its name, and wilderness areas mean no motorized uses or bikes. If you want in, you have to hoof it. This shy peak cannot be seen from any paved roads, and even from dirt ones, the view is distant. The closest view of the mountain without having to hike is from the top of the Gondola at Vail. The hike starts out with a climb almost 1,500 feet to reach Halfmoon Pass, then you drop almost 1,000 feet before you climb the peak itself. You cannot even see the peak until the pass. As if this climb isn't work enough, there is a way to make it touger, its called the Halo Ridge, which of course I had to go for. From the summit you continue around the basin below instead of backtracking. This adds about 3 miles to the return, but luckily you do not have to climb back up to Halfmoon Pass, as you go around it instead. I chose this route for that reason, but also because you cannot see the famous Cross Couloir from the standard route. As an added bonus, Point 13,831 on Holy Cross Ridge counts as another peak, the 91st tallest in the state, so I got a bonus of a centennial thirteener for my efforts as well. This ridge tour was worth it, the views of the Bowl of Tears Lake below, which is so blue it looks like its filled with paint, not water, and the Cross Couloir are magnificent. The Cross Couloir, for those who have never heard of the peak, is a deep sort of slit right down the middle of the mountain's entire west face. About 3/4 of the way up, there is a shelf. In winter these two fill with snow and, voila, it looks like an enormous cross, almost 3/4 of mile tall. It was first photographed in 1873 and has been accorded religious significance ever since. It is quite beautiful even without snow in it, and you can see where religious minded folks are inspired by it. Of course if they want to see it, they would have to climb Notch Mountain to see it. Notch is the mountain directly between Holy Cross, and the nearest paved road, and totally blocks the view for all but those with sturdy legs. Of course after a 15 mile ridge tour, mine are not as sturdy as they were at 6am when I started...