Bittersweet day towards Holy Cross Ridge...

Page Type
Trip Report
Location:
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jul 29, 2007
Activities:
Hiking
Season:
Summer
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Created On: Jul 30, 2007
Last Edited On: Jul 30, 2007

Trip Report

Sigh...

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:
TR: HCR I

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:
TR: HCR II

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:
TR: HCR III

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...
TR: HCR IV

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):
TR: HCR V

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.
TR: HCR VI

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:
TR: HCR VII

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:
TR: HCR VIII

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:
TR: HCR IX

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:
TR: HCR X

West from our high point:
TR: HCR XI

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:
TR: HCR XII

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:
TR: HCR XIII

Here's a shot of the same two jeeps after crossing the log (that I should've crossed that morning):
TR: HCR XIV

Here's another shot of the road they had passed to get to where they were:
TR: HCR XV

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!

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Bittersweet day towards Holy Cross Ridge...

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Holy Cross Ridge (UN13,831,UN13,768 & UN13,248)Trip Reports