Climbing MOUNT OF THE HOLY CROSS, Minturn, Colorado
Elevation: 14,005'  Rank: 51st  Class 2  12M RT Elevation Gain: 7000'

Scrolling Photos
July 20, 2015 - No two mountains are alike, just as no two women are alike.  Each will
attempt to seduce you with its expansive views and the flowers that adorn its trails,
leaving you breathless and exhilarated.  Each is special, again like women, deserving
of admiration and respect.  Make a mistake and you can pay dearly.  I never take any
thing for granted with either mountains or women.  One's safety and enjoyment are 
only by their good graces; neither is conquered; we are passing, their beauty is forever.

I had been to the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross three years ago with my buddies
Meanor and Monyak, approaching from the remains of the old ghost town of Holy Cross
City.  It had been an arduous endeavor in which we chose to bushwhack off trail to
reach the summit and then do the same to return to camp before dark.  The effort was
extremely exhausting, one none of us is likely to forget soon because of the work we
had to do and the dangers involved.  But the mountain, then as now, was an absolutely
fantastic challenge to meet and overcome.

For most of the twenty years I called Vail home, I became very familiar looking upon the
striking countenance of this sacred named peak.  Every time I would run to the top of
Vail Mountain I never failed to look over at Holy Cross. Even during yesterday's half
marathon in Vail, which finished at Eagle's Nest, I caught myself taking my eyes off the
trail to look for this splendored peak.  But alas, it was occluded by heavy cloud cover.
The approach road to get to the main trailhead is up Tigiwon Road.  Many times I have
driven its length with members of my family, have scouted both the Half Moon Pass Trail
and the Fall Creek Trail, but have never attempted a summit from this direction.  I've even
run up to and down the eight miles to get to the trailheads, and even cross-country skied
here many times.

So, I had been looking forward to again climbing to the summit over the standard route
up the North Ridge and return via Halo Ridge.  While my body was fatigued from so 
much climbing and racing the previous week I set out about 0600 to run as much of it
as I could in my Salomon running shoes rather than hiking boots.  It would be a good
test of my running shoes on the talus and boulders that make up these mountain trails.
The first 1.5 miles switches back and forth to Half Moon Pass before a steeper drop in
the following mile to a crossing of East Cross Creek.  At this point half of the climb is
over, but the steeper half up the North Ridge would follow.  It took me an hour to reach
the creek and two hours and fifteen more to reach the top.  The weather was perfect
with a starting temperature of 39 that warmed nicely in the early hours of the day.

The rain of the night before was still frozen to the rocks in the shadow of the mountain
when I reached the upper slopes.  This verglace made for some treacherous conditions.
taking additional time to secure footing before shifting weight while climbing.  Wet and
icy rocks are the bain of any climber.  Once on top I socialized with several people that
had started earlier and had already summited.  Off to the west a weather front quickly
made its presence known.  The forecast was for thunder and rain to move in by one
o'clock, so everyone was making haste to get down.

I wanted to take the longer route back to the trailhead over Halo Ridge, which involved
climbing three additional no-name thirteeners as the ridge wrapped back on itself to the
north.  The trail was two miles longer, but I had not anticipated being so weary or that
the climbs would be so long and challenging.  The rocks were still a bit wet, so I had
to exercise extra caution in descending to avoid disaster.  Climbing alone always forces
one to take extra caution.  Even a minor accident can lead to death when there is no
one to retrieve help.

The climbs were tough and took longer going down that I had imagined.  I kept a 
watchful eye on the looming dark clouds as they built from the west.  Time marched on
but I was not making as much progress as I would have thought.  After summiting the
second thirteener, half way to the third, I pulled the plug and decided to bail out 
straight down the mountain.  I didn't want to be on the ridge when an electrical storm
and its incipient rain began.  While I was relieved to be off the ridge, just in case, it
took forever to reach the meadows with their tangle of willows, and finally the treeline.  

For a spell, the sun came out, but then like clockwork it began to thunder and rain right
before one o'clock.  I made the right decision.  The downclimb was quite steep, forcing
me to divert around some cliffed out areas, holding onto fir limbs to keep from tumbling
down the precipitous slopes.  I knew the Fall Creek Trail was somewhere at the bottom,
so I just continued to bushwhack through the thick undergrowth until I found it.

For awhile it rained in earnest, then let up.  I had three miles to hike the undulating 
Fall Creek Trail back to my car at the trailhead.  Frankly, I was fragged.  The hike down
took five hours. The day beat me up and I had to eat everything I brought with me to 
muster enough juice to get back to the car.  It has been an engaging week and my body
is richly deserving of a day off before I hit it again in Aspen later this week.  Some day
I need to come back to climb the Cross Couloir with crampons when it is filled with snow!
                                      on top of Mount of the Holy Cross 
                                             with Aspen and the Elk Mountains behind, each of which I have climbed
Looking back at what stands out the most are often things you overlook when you first
narrate your memories.  Just before crossing East Cross Creek I came upon the remnants
of an old miner's cabin.  It brought to mind the time I spent a night in one of these (with
a roof) to get out of a snow storm in Alberta.  I've looked in many an old cabin; they don't
decay in this dry climate.  What always struck me as fascinating was how short the miner's
were, as evidenced by their short beds.  Folks a hundred and fifty years ago were just 
plain shorter than people today.

During my downclimb I came face to face with a furry little brown ferret with big eyes.  It
seemed to size me up for a moment before deciding I was too big for dinner and probably
too slow to be threatening before slipping out of sight between some rocks.  I may have 
been the first human it ever laid eyes on, thus showing more curiosity than fear.

On the eight-mile drive back down Tigiwon Road I spotted eight mule deer bucks, some
with fairly sizable racks, usually in pairs.  Since the Forest Service clear cut a lot of the
spruce and fir trees along the road's right-of-way it was easier spotting animals.  The 
buck seem to hang together during the warmer summer at the higher elevations.  Down
lower I spotted only does and young muley's.  The bucks likely stay high until the rut, 
when they come down in search of does.

Cross Couloir filled with snow