The radar and weather looked like it would co-operate and I could make the time, so everything came together to take a trip to Mt. Holy Cross and try out the North Ridge Route( Class 2+, 12 miles, 5600 ft. gain). Being solo and on my first trip to Holy Cross I thought I would stick with the typical route.
This ended up being yet another plan to leave Boulder at 5pm, drive to the trailhead, and hike in to camp in the dark, to be able to wake up early in a good spot to start out from. I packed all my gear (or so I had thought…) the night before and was excited all day to have the adventure planned.
I took I-70 west from Golden to exit 171 (the exit is just a few miles west of Vail) and headed south on U.S. 24 a couple of miles to the town of Minturn, light was fading fast so I continued on 3 miles till I saw on the right side of the road Tigiwon Road (FS 707). Tigiwon Road is rough but my jeep ate it up. Six miles up the road you’ll pass the Tigiwon Campground, with a handful of sites. 8.5 miles up the road will bring you to the Halfmoon Campground and the trailheads, where I parked.
Getting my gear together at the Jeep I noticed I forgot to pack a key piece of gear. My North Face outer shell! Whoops! I was certain the night before I had in my winter bag but, well, what to do? I looked over my gear and took a lightweight rain shell and my down. As long as it didn’t pour down the rain or the weather didn’t bring ice/rain mix I figured Id be ok.
One of the best aspects of this trip was the evening hike was illuminated by a low bright Half Moon, very appropriate! It was a good 1,000’ elevation gain to the pass, which also provided great moonlit views of the ultimate goal. Descending down 2.5 miles to East Cross Creek, I found great camping. Tooling around later I found even more alpine camping spots above Patricia Lake toward the Bowl of Tears. I need to figure out night photography with my Olympus stylus 1030sw, everything came out too dark. I didn’t see anyone else down by the Cross Creek, and after hiking up and over Halfmoon pass you really feel like you are in the wilderness, no traffic, machines, or people noise other than the occasional airliner overhead. My 1.5 person shelter was perfect and I woke up as usual before the alarm went off at 5am. It was cloudy but not raining, good enough to start out for sure. Going very light I didn’t even take a pack, the heaviest thing being the1.5 liters of water. Down on the outside I hoped for no rain so I could keep the down on and not have to trade it out for the rain jacket. About where tree line ended the clouds broke up some but I faced an uncertain future when it came to the weather. As so often is the case in Colorado in approaching 14ers from the East, the approaching weather, which comes from the West 99% of the time, is hidden from view. You don’t get a long-range view and have to keep making new assessments. It started snowing about half way up, but not heavy enough to make me reconsider, plus it was still early. I really enjoy following a track where there are no footprints in front of you. The trail becomes a bouldering-scramble made very slippery with the fresh snow-on-lichen combination. This route crosses the top of where Angelica couloir exits and it looked great, maybe I would descend that way. After a brief stop at the top it was time to head back down. Snow was coming on and more wind, enough change to make me wary of going down the couloir without an axe. The way up was covered with new snow and I got off route once I hit tree line. My native route finding abilities failed me and I had to break out my Garmin GPS to find where I had made camp. While marching around the Cross Creek Wilderness looking for my camp I found a half-eaten porcupine. Something got a hold of this large porcupine, turned it over, and ate it from the side that doesn’t have the nasty quills. Whatever that was, I was glad I didn’t run into it, I cant read tracks very well but I figured it was either a Bear or a Cougar. Definitely a hard place to leave, a special wilderness it is. Ran into a few folks on the trail as I was going out and I was jealous of the experience they had in front of them. All in all a great trip to an incredible place!