| A Sawatch 14er Grid Completer!
December 22-24, 2012
~29.8 Miles, ~9,300 Gain
TH: Base of the Tigiwon Road.
Nothing like starting a wonderful winter climbing season with good company. This was going to be an exciting trip since Ken was going to finish his final Sawatch 14er grid slot on Mount of the Holy Cross. For the folks that are unfamiliar with The Grid, The Grid is climbing each 14er in each month of the year, and Ken currently is 3 summits short of being 80% complete with 14er The Grid. Far from an easy task.
We all arrived about the same time at the base of the Tigiwon Road around 8:00 AM on the 22nd. Dwight had slept in his car and started a casual hike up the road around 6:30 AM while Ken and Jean started hiking right around 8:00 AM. At last, Sarah, Dominic and I started up the road. They walked up the super packed groomed road without snowshoes while I skinned up in my skis. We passed Ken hiking up the road and I asked, “How are you doing?”
His reply was, “Old and decrepit.”
Notch Mountain from the super groomed road.
I decided to ski to camp and then continue the following day with snowshoes. The 8 mile distance to the summer trailhead went fast on the groomed road and before we knew it we were following an old trench up the trail towards Half Moon Pass. Within a quarter of a mile of the summer trailhead our trench building began. Bummer, we couldn't poach more of a trench since winter climbing is supposed to be easy.
Dominic working his way up the Halfmoon Pass trail.
Dominic breaking trail towards Halfmoon Pass.
As our paced slowed by breaking trail, we reached camp just below Halfmoon Pass at 2:30 PM. Dwight and I set up our camp while Sarah and Dominic set up theirs. Before we knew it, Ken and Jean had arrived at camp. For being old and decrepit, he made astonishingly decent time. After we set up camp, Dominic and I ventured over Halfmoon Pass to check out conditions for the descent towards East Cross Creek. Luckily, being early winter season, the snow-pack was low and any avalanche concerns were eliminated. We returned to camp where I ate dinner and went to bed rather early.
Dwight setting up camp.
Mount Jackson from Halfmoon Pass.
First view of Mount of the Holy Cross on our recon mission.
Evening light with Mount of the Holy Cross.
Dominic heading back towards camp.
Sunset colors at camp.
I set my alarm for 5:15 AM and we all ventured out of camp around 6:00 AM. Due to the windy night, Dominic and I had previously made was somewhat hard to follow across the northeastern talus slopes of Notch Mountain. With some GPS guidance, we were able to locate and follow the summer trail towards East Cross Creek. Normally, the summer trail cannot be followed in the winter to East Cross Creek due to the trail's sinuous path through cliff bands.
Traversing across the talus of Notch Mountain in the morning.
Working our way towards East Cross Creek.
Sunrise light on Mount of the Holy Cross.
We all took a break at East Cross Creek and started more trench building up the north slopes of Holy Cross. Since this was going to be Ken's last Sawatch Grid finish we decided to stay as a group to the summit. Near treeline, the trail-breaking was tedious and we all took turns. Unfortunately, as we climbed out of treeline, the weather failed to cooperate. The wind picked up and the visibility dropped. Upward we continued.
Getting out of treeline.
That weather doesn't look very good.
Before climbing the summit massive, the cold wind ripped through us and I began to evaluate my enjoyment of winter climbing. Ken led the way to the summit for his final Sawatch grid finish where we arrived at 12:50 PM. The wind had died down a bit, and even the sun was trying to shine but it was still far from a heat wave.
Working our way up the north ridge of Mount of the Holy Cross.
Summit comes into view for a short time.
Dwight enjoying winter climbing.
Everyone else enjoying winter climbing. I was rather cold so I didn't put much effort in getting a level shot.
Climbing the final talus slopes to the summit.
Ken leading the way to his Sawatch Grid finish.
Ken and Jean on the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross.
After a celebratory summit, Ken, Jean, Dwight started back down as Dominic, Sarah and I started towards Holy Cross Ridge. Sarah wanted to add a winter centennial to her list, so we continued onwards. Travel was a bit slower due to a fresh coat of snow on the talus. Arriving on the summit of Holy Cross Ridge at 1:50 PM, the weather was starting to clear.
A clearing of Mount of the Holy Cross on our traverse over to Holy Cross Ridge.
Dominic and Sarah enjoying the warmth on Holy Cross Ridge.
Mount of the Holy Cross.
Enjoying a quick delicious Christmas cookie, we started our way back towards the Holy Cross-Holy Cross ridge saddle. At the saddle we ascended back up to ~13,600 on Holy Cross and then traversed across the west side of Holy Cross regaining Holy Cross's north ridge back towards East Cross Creek. Near the creek, we caught up with Ken's crew and we continued as a group back to camp where we arrived at 6:40 PM.
Sarah making her way to the saddle on our return.
Sarah with Holy Cross Ridge in the background.
Before we went to bed, the temperature was a balmy 2 degrees. On the 24th, we enjoyed sleeping until 6:30 AM. We packed up camp and started our long trek back to the base of the Tigiwon Road around 8:15 AM. Once I hit the groomed road, I was glad I brought the skis and enjoyed a quick descent back to the car where I arrived at 9:30 AM. Dominic and Sarah made excellent time as well walking down the road and we made it back to Denver in the early afternoon. Outstanding winter start and huge congratulations to Ken for completing the Sawatch grid.
Sunrise on Christmas Eve.
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