The PlanMt of The Holy Cross (14,005‘)
Appx 12 miles RT, 5625‘ elevation gain
Steep Snow (45 degrees +/-)
Now that the Tigiwon Road is open for the season Tracy and I decided that an ascent of the Cross Couloir on Holy Cross was in order. Our plan was to head down on Saturday and camp at Halfmoon Pass, get up and leave camp at 3 and be at the base of the couloir by sunrise. This didn‘t happen. Based on reports from someone at the trailhead, we had heard that the base of the Cross was melting out, and we started to form a back up plan. Originally we thought we would check out the cross and if it was bad we would continue on to Teardrop. When waking up at 3 proved difficult, we reset the alarm for 4 and decided maybe we would try Angelica instead.
The ApproachAfter a couple of "snoozes" and some breakfast we hit the trail at dawn. We got some great views of Holy Cross and Mt Jackson in the morning alpenglow as we descend from Halfmoon Pass to East Cross Creek. Despite having daylight, the climbers trail to Lake Patricia proved difficult to follow and we ended up losing it near the waterfall and climbing up a steep loose class 3 gully to the left (east) of where we should have been. No worries, as we topped out and had a clear view of Angelica and after a few confusing creek crossings we were at Lake Patricia and back on the trail. View of Lake Patricia from the trail:
The trail still kept fizzling out on us, but we knew the right general direction and made our way to the base of the couloir. The snow came down to probably about 12,200' in the basin. The approach took longer than we expected, but even at 9.30am the couloir conditions were good for a climb, although softening up. This is an image of the base of the couloir:
The CouloirWe donned our crampons and started ascending kick steps from a party that was near the top of the couloir. This timing proved perfect, as the party above was significantly out of range for pelting us with rocks by the time we entered the couloir. The lower snowfield slowly steepened at around 12,500' or so. Here the couloir is wide and probably around 40 degrees at the most. This initial slope heads directly to the north ridge where a large cornice guards easy passage. The Angelica Couloir turns left below this point, probably around 12,900', and climbs for another 700-800 feet or so. Tracy at the split:
This section is much narrower, and also a bit steeper. I guess that the couloir maxes out in the upper 40s, maybe 47/48 degrees or so. Its hard to tell, the soft snow made it not seem that steep but the view on descent made it seem a lot steeper. The crux of the route was right below the top, where the snow rolled gently until stopping a good 40 feet or so below the top of the couloir. Me just finishing the crux pitch:
From here we climbed loose scree and dirt to the 13,700‘ notch where it meets the trail. All total there was over 1000' of continuous snow for us to enjoy. Wear a helmet on this route, between the loose stuff at the top and the fact that the main trail passes right above you, there is a potential for rockfall in the couloir.
ConclusionAt the notch we ditched our packs and traveled light for the final 305‘ to the summit. On the summit we met two rangers who had come up the Cross, they said at least 3 other people had climbed that route as well, and seeing as we had the Angelica to ourselves, we were happy that we had a "change of faith" as to what route we should choose. The Cross will have to wait another year, but we both thoroughly enjoyed our climb up Angelica. We descended the north ridge route, taking time to admire our accomplishment along the way, before breaking camp and heading home. Here are a couple of views of the couloir from the descent.
Looking down into the Angelica from the trail above:
View of the couloir from the North Ridge trail: