So close, yet so far...
Tried summiting Holy Cross Ridge from French Creek trailhead on 7/28. Left Denver with Tango and Lexie late Friday afternoon to camp out near the trailhead, in order to get an early start on Saturday. Tango and Lexie:
It was raining on Friday, so all I could do when I arrived at the campsite--by the way, I found an excellent campsite for French Creek trailhead--was set up the tent. I was unable to prep anything for the next day. The whole point of camping out the night before is to get an early start, but I must've been tired, because I ended waking up at 6:30am, and after prepping meals, it ended up being a 7am start.
It was a great start; there is a small pathway from the campsite straight to the Holy Cross City Jeep Road, which is an easy path that allows for a speedy ascent. Okay, I have to say here, I own a jeep, but if I showed my jeep pictures of this road, its transmission would shrink. This is an easier part of the road:
Okay, so here's mistake number one: It had been raining all night, and it made for quite a moist morning. Apparently, Holy Cross City Jeep Road decided to help French Creek drain, and the road looked like a river, so I veered right (north) of the road. I saw the tree trunk that would allow me to cross French Creek, but it looked really wet, my shoes were wet, and I was afraid Tango and/or Lexie may have trouble crossing. I looked at the map, and thought I could just follow French Creek and cross at another time. At first, it looked promising, as this is the meadow you come into by not crossing French Creek:
This picture also has the most blue skies I was to have all day. It is an enticing meadow, but it quickly turns into bushwacking--very wet bushwacking. However, due to my stubborness, I pressed on. Here's Tango and Lexie on the meadow...
I had to turn around and backtrack around several areas on this "route." I actually cliffed out twice. Between the rain and the morning dew that didn't evaporate because the sun hardly ever shone, I was pretty wet at the this point. (Not as wet as Tango; the whole meadow had a "wet dog smell" quality...) This is how easy French Creek became to cross (sigh...I never did cross it):
I finally arrived at this lake, which I (correctly) deemed to be one of the Seven Sisters Lakes, specifically the one at 11,828. I was very glad to see this lake, because I knew that Fall Creek Trail ran just south of this lake, so I must indeed be pretty close. Indeed I was! Within a minute, I was happily going north on the trail, although it was already 9am, and I feel I could've been here at 8am.
As I happily trodged up Fall Creek Trail, I couldn't help but noticing that as overgrown this trail is, it is obviously not used very much. The bushwacking I had to *on* the trail soaked me more thoroughly than the errant path I had already taken to get to it.
I was supposed to follow the trail until 12,200 feet, where I would take a line towards Point 13,768. Problem here is that my altimeter is based on barometric pressure, so 12,200 has a wide range of error. Once I saw this lake, I knew I had gone too far:
This lake is at 12,300. No worries, I figured I could cut towards Point 13,768 from here. I finally reached this lake at 12,750:
However, I reached it way too far on the north side of the east shore. Here's mistake number two: I figured that if I looked hard enough, I could find a route around the north side of the lake, although the correct route was explicitly around the south side. In retrospect, there was a gully I could have easily followed, but Tango and Lexie couldn't. (When did dogs lose thumb functionality?) I ended up circumventing this lake around the south side...sigh... Here's another picture taken from the slopes north of the lake:
I must say, this is inarguably the most beautiful lake of all the Seven Sisters Lakes. So! I was finally on a slope to a peak! It's a fairly easy climb, but not with dogs on wet rock. It's started to rain, it was already noon, and I was within 50 feet of the summit of point 13,768. What to do? Even if I summitted this peak, I still had a mile to go to Holy Cross Ridge. Even if it was on an easy ridge, it was going to be a wet ridge, and it was going to take at least 1-2 hours to get back to this point. I decided to turn around. Sigh... Here a shot east from our high point:
West from our high point:
Now we had to descend 1000 feet of wet rock, which we did, although somehow I'm the only one that ended up with some new bruises and scratches. (Why am I concerned about their lack of thumbs?)
Once again--although this mistake was inconsequential towards the initial goal--I thought I could cleverly cut time back to the trail by bearing more south than southeast from the base of the lake at 12750. I finally made it back to the trail, and then not only was it quite a speedy descent, but we actually got to see Hunky Dory Lake:
Shortly after Hunky Dory Lake, we reached the Holy Cross City Jeep Road, where I was astonished to see a jeep club of about 20 jeeps trying to reach Holy Cross City:
Here's a shot of the same two jeeps after crossing the log (that I should've crossed that morning):
Here's another shot of the road they had passed to get to where they were:
Personally, although I'm sure it's a fun activity, I don't think it's for me. (I could smell the gas for quite a distance...) Getting stuck on this road and needing a tow will cost a minimum of $500.
Anyhow, we finally made it back to camp; it was 4pm.
Lessons Learned-When the route is over 11 miles long, 7am is not as early of a start as you'd think. We must've been tired if Tango and Lexie didn't wake me up earlier. In the future, i will rely on an actual alarm clock. Dogs tend to be not as reliable as you'd think for certain things.
-Knowing what the right thing is to do, and deciding against it because you're concerned for the safety of your dogs will likely add 2-3 hours to any trip.
-My boots are no longer waterproof.
-The suggested route is the suggested route for a reason. Trying to second-guess published and experienced mountaineers when I myself am a rookie wasn't a good idea.
Random Thoughts-Despite the failed summit attempt and the crappy weather, it was a beautiful hike. This wilderness area is well worth visiting.
-Tango and Lexie are very good climbers! (Although not perfect...the benefit of being four-legged is tempered with the lack of opposable thumbs...)
-I can now lead this route. If I count this as a "route-scouting" hike instead of a summit attempt, then it was a smashing success.
-Saturday may have been a crappy day weather-wise, but Sunday I kayaked from Grizzly Creek to Glenwood Springs in what was a glorious Colorado day! (I wish I could've alternated activities; I don't think I'd mind getting a little bit of rain on me while kayaking...)
-There's a Starbucks in Avon.
-There are two Starbucks in Glenwood Springs; oddly enough, they're 200 yards apart.
-I'm coming back to this attempt soon!