The Cross of Snow
IN the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face -- the face of one long dead --
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
After working 10 hour days all week in order to get Friday off for this climb, I was happy to head up into the mountains on Thursday evening. We left Denver around 5:30, and got to the Halfmoon Trailhead around 7:40. The road wasn't that bad except for a few fairly large potholes right near the top.
We set off around 7:50 and made it to the pass in a little over an hour. It was here that I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets that I've ever seen, with light reflecting off the Tenmile Range, and beautiful orange clouds over the Gores. It was also here that my camera broke. I brought it out to take a picture, and wanted to switch from the vewifinder to the LCD screen, but when I pressed the button, it shut off and wouldn't come back on. I had charged the batteries the night before, and I've since tried another set, so I know it wasn't the batteries.
After cursing a bit about that, I continued on and headed down the pass. By now it was getting sort of dark, especially in the trees, but that wasn't enough to take away from the magnificence of the Holy Cross Wilderness as we rounded the bend. We descended down to E. Cross Creek and through some miracle were able to find the climbers trail up into the Bowl of Tears Basin. We at least found a trail, I don't know if it was the trail. We stopped at a decent campsite around 10, which was maybe half a mile below Lake Patricia.
After struggling through a (very warm) night without too much sleep we woke up at 4:10 to start the hike. After pumping some water and eating a bit of food, we set off on the trail at about 4:30. We made quick progress up to Bowl of Tears (which is a fabulous name for a lake), and reached the entrance to the couloir at about 6:55. We took a short break to get some food and our gear on, and we set off up the cross at 7:10.
The snow was a bit soft, but not too bad. There was a deep gully down the center of the couloir, and as we headed up, it occasionally had water running down it. It was easily avoidable by sticking to the left of the couloir. We made good time up the couloir, and topped out after about an hour. It really is one of the best finishes on any fourteener, and it was great to be on snow all the way to the top. Overall, one of my favorite climbs on any fourteener, with great great views from the summit. I was very upset that I didn't have my camera.
We headed down the north ridge, planning to use GPS to figure out where we had camped. Unfortunately, we ended up on a bushwack and very steep slopes that involved some serious downclimbing that we put our helmets back on for. We made it back to the campsite by 11:45 and were hiking again by 12. The part that we had done in the dark went by quickly, but heading back over the pass wasn't exactly fun. After the switchbacks finally ended, the relatively unsteep part seemed to go on forever.
We made it over the pass just as a bit of weather (no lightning, fortunately) started to pass overhead. Even the downhill after the pass was hard, and my knees and legs were really hurting. Mercifully, we made it back to the car around 2. It looked like there were a whole bunch of people heading up for the weekend, even that early.
As I've said, one of my favorite climbs yet. Some advice on finding the trail: head off the main trail where you first see the sign, and then head off a little bit to the right. You'll have to cross a small subcreek of the main creek, and then you'll eventually hit some cliffs. We headed off to the right here, and found a trail most of the way. In the day, there seemed to be a trail off to the left side too, but I don't know how easy it is to follow. This trail was fairly easy to follow, even in the dark. When trying to find the entrance to the couloir, you'll see a grassy bench with some rocks near the top. The entrance is just below these rocks, so do your best to stay high on the bench.
Unforuntately, I have no pictures from this climb, except for a few from my cell phone which aren't very good quality.
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