Cross Couloir

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 39.46650°N / 106.481°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Difficulty: Steep Snow (up to 45 degrees)
Additional Information Grade: III
Sign the Climber's Log


Note: Tigiwon Road and Halfmoon Trailhead are closed May 1 to June 20 by the NFS for Elk calving

Start at the Halfmoon Trailhead. Hike over Halfmoon Pass and down to East Cross Creek. Cross the log bridge and turn left on the climbers' trail which is about 60 feet up trail. Last time I was there, there was a small pile of rocks marking this turn. It is important to find this trail if you want the easiest way up into the Bowl of Tears. The trail was relatively easy to follow up past Lake Patricia, then it becomes more dificult to follow as you enter the rockier terrain. In general, once you're past Lake Patricia, you will be near the creek, on the right (west) side of it. Look for cairns and stay East of the large rock face above Lake Patricia. Continue up the drainage until you get to the Bowl of Tears Lake. Just before the lake, you will get a view of the cliff below the cross and a little bit of the cross. You are aiming to enter the cross just above the cliff by climbing from the bowl of tears up the shelf next to the cliff.

Once you reach the Bowl of Tears, look up towards the mountain. You will see a large slabby cliff, that looks like it leads over to the face below the cross, and above that you will see some grassy slopes that meet with some rocks above it. You need to climb west from the Bowl of Tears and angle north up onto the steep, grassy slopes to the point where the grass meets the rocks of the upper part of the mountain. Once you reach this, you need to scramble for maybe 10 to 20 feet and you will see the entrance to the cross. Looking downslope, you will be able to see where the cross ends and drops off to the cliff.

Here's one of Kalet's images that I doctored to try and show the route to the entrance of the couloir from the Bowl of Tears lake. The last bit of the red line crosses the grassy slopes you are aiming for.
Cross Couloir route

The Climb

Climbing the Cross is straightforward. Put on your crampons, get out your axe and start climbing. There are a few decent rest points along the way if you need it on the side of the couloir in the rocks. Once you reach the arms of the cross there is about 200-300 feet to go and it becomes steeper. As long as the snow has softened up, it won't be very dificult though. Make sure to glance down into the Bowl of Tears as you are climbing; the view is spectacular. When we climbed it, the top did not have a cornice, but it was very steep for the last few feet, but easy to kick steps into it and haul yourself onto the summit. The true summit was about 20 feet to the north from where we topped out. The finish of the Cross is one of the best finishes on any 14er or snow climb I've been on. I think the Roach book makes the climb sound more dificult than it is (I would definitely be able to self arrest and have some snow climbing experience before tackling this one, though). The sketchiest part about this climb is the large cliff at the bottom. If you need to take a rope and gear to feel safer about the cliff, go for it. Carrying the extra weight with such a long approach and hike out may necesitate camping at Cross Creek, though. Total height of climb 1000-1200 feet, mostly in the upper 30s to low 40s maxing out at 45 degrees or so just below the summit. Definitely get on this early. We summited just before noon and it was quite soft with overcast skies. On a sunny day, I would guess it could turn into mush by 10 and be a pain in the ass. We started from a camp on Halfmoon Pass. Expect 2 to 3 hours from the pass to the Bowl of Tears and maybe 2 to 3 hours to the summit from the Bowl of Tears, and maybe 3 to 4 hours from the summit back to the trailhead via the standard route.

Essential Gear

You will definitely need an axe and crampons. I did not feel I needed a rope and pro, but some people may feel more comfortable with it. Know how to self arrest and have practiced it. Also, I would have a few snow climbs under your belt before attempting this one.