Mount of the Holy Cross
From Half Moon TH
Monday July 3, 2006
Sunday night I drove to the very end of Tigiwon Rd (Tigwon?) to find many, many cars packed into the trailhead parking and all along both sides of the road. I arrived about 6:30PM and continued just left of the parking area where the road descends a bit and to my surprise a campground with many vacancies. I paid the $10 fee to camp and setup at the site closest to the trailhead.
I had a nice relaxing dinner and enjoyed a fire in the fire pit before retiring for the night in the back of the “Hotel GMC Sonoma” the only 4 star accommodations present within a 20 mile radius. The campground was sparsely occupied by two other camp groups and a small creek rushed nearby from all the rains earlier in the day, the creek made for a most pleasant background sound as I dosed-off shortly after nightfall.
My watch alarm sounded at 3:00AM and I awoke to a rather moist, very dark morning as yet another rain shower had woken me earlier at 2:00AM. The clouds blocked-out most of the stars as I made a short breakfast and some coffee by lamplight as I got ready to hit the trail. I pulled my truck up to an open spot at the trailhead where there were still plenty of cars yet nobody around; I donned my headlamp and started up the trail at 4:00AM sharp.
I followed an excellent trail through the black forest as it climbed up to where I could now see car headlights coming in on Tigiwon Rd towards the trailhead. I was glad to be wearing Gore-Tex boots as the trail was quite muddy in several areas and I skirted around many puddles along the way with the headlamp making a weird reflection off the puddles that shined up into the trees, a bit eerie. As I made my way higher I could see the day breaking in the east through scattered clouds and the weather was holding with no rain as I neared the top of Half Moon Pass.
I turned off my headlamp and stored it away and continued over the pass where the trail curves around to the left as it breaks out of the forest into a clearing and this is where I first saw Mt of the Holy Cross. I paused and looked up in awe as the clouds were obscuring the very top of the peak and the snow covered ridge had a major cornice of snow hanging high above from prevailing western winds, quite a sight.
The trail now descends back down into the valley between the pass and the approaches to Holy Cross. I felt like I was “giving back” all the elevation I had gain as I certainly was with every step I took. Back down into a wet forest along a series of switchbacks with the sound of running water well below until I reached level ground again. Here I saw a few campsites, with some of them occupied with tents pitched but nobody in sight, still a bit early I guess.
I was soon upon the swollen East Cross Creek as the trail leads to some rocks and logs forming a slick but passable bridge to the other side where the trail breaks left and I could see other campsites up the trail that ran along the creek; the trail then quickly turns away to the right and up towards the west. I was now regaining elevation as the trail winds up through the forest and around some rocks and boulders to where you can look almost directly across at the trail leading up to Half Moon Pass. The trail then turns left (south) and continues to climb up out of the forest to where I could now see cairns ahead leading to tree line.
The trail is now very rocky and following the cairns I was soon above tree line and heading towards the ridge that crosses over to the summit approach. Here I was overtaken by a young guy and his little white dog as we spoke briefly and he told me he had started up from the valley where he had camped the night before. He was a lot fresher than I was and I followed behind and was able to catch glimpses of him as he very much showed the way up over the crest and on to the ridge that leads across to the summit approach.
The sun was brightening the day and the clouds continued to build up and around the summit to where I could no longer see it as I crossed the ridge and looked ahead to keep track of the young guy and where to go. I was never more than 150 yards behind him and followed him around the west side of the mountain once I was over the ridge. I followed the cairns as best I could and advanced up along a faint trail and I was now surprised to see the young guy hiking back towards me.
I figured there was no way he had been to the summit, and when we met he told me that he didn’t want to discourage me but that the clouds were building too heavily near the summit so he turned back. He looked a little pale to me and perhaps he just wasn’t feeling well……….anyway……..I made it clear to him that there was no way I was turning back now, so I continued up as he went back down. Inside of 15 mins. I clambered up onto an empty, cloudy summit at 8:42AM. I wasn’t really sure if it was the summit until I saw the summit log canister and the metal geological seal on the highest boulder.
The clouds where rising from below and all around blocking the views until the wind pushed them aside allowing to me a “peek-a-boo” photo opportunity from time to time. I stayed on top about 25 mins while grabbing a bite to eat and drink and taking whatever photos I could before starting back down. Along the way I met others heading up and many more coming across the ridge as well.
I managed to get a little too far left of the ridge while following some miss-aligned cairns and going back over the crest I realized that I was going down the wrong way and had to traverse abruptly right and get back over to where I could see people coming up. I had read of many people losing the trail on the way back down and getting lost overnight in some cases. Anyway……….I righted my wrong and got back to where I belonged. The weather now started turning bad as rain and some hail had me into my rain gear as I hiked back down to the bridge and across and back up the trail to Half Moon Pass.
Back up the switchbacks and over the pass again made for a long hike and I stopped to rest and take more photos as I went. The sun came out a few times but only briefly and the weather was spotty at best as I got back to my truck at 12:42PM with the rains getting harder. My 25th 14’er on this beautiful, wet day in Colorado. Sweet!!!