Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  01/04/2021
Date Climbed:   01/02/2021
Author:  Will_E
 Holy Cross Winter day trip  

Holy Cross Winter Daytrip

I had Holy Cross in my mental to do list for this winter for some time. I knew I needed a great weather forecast, and was thinking it would be ideal to get it as early in winter as possible. The week of New Years was looking pretty good. The timeframe around New Year's Day was showing reasonable temps, mild wind, and no precipitation. As great as I think it would have been to start just before ringing in the new year, I had a tough day getting Shavano and Tabs on 12/29, so wanted one more day of rest and recovery. So plan was to start late at night on 1/1/21.

My normal routine for doing a crazy long hike is to start with 2,000 calories worth of skillet and pancakes from Village Inn. Thanks to our current covid environment, I would be eating it at home.

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Wonder what future generations will think when they see the face mask.

Left home about 9pm, parked at the Tigiwon Road gate just after 11pm. 7° showing for temperature.


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I'm not particularly quick getting ready, part of it is mentally preparing for the cold. Left the car just after 11:30.


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The start of a long journey. All my road walking nighttime shots are from iPhone 12 Pro Max. Crazy how well it pulls off a 3" exposure shot with my shaky hands.

The road was well packed by a snowmobile to start.


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I did quite a bit of research on Holy Cross in winter, so I was expecting to have a nice snowmobile track all the way up the 8 miles of road. I did not. The snowmobile track diverged from the road about 4 miles up. I considered following it, I thought perhaps it would rejoin the road further up.There was another track that continued up the road, looked like a sled track. I followed it rather than the snowmobile track. The snowmobile track never reappeared. Glad I made the right choice.


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Sled track that continued up the road.

I was looking forward to seeing the inside of the Tigiwon house. I've driven by it a few times, but had no idea what it looked like on the inside. I still have no idea what it looks like on the inside. The 'rona ruined the Tigiwon for me, house was locked due to covid. I still hung out for a bit on the porch, needed to dig an SD card out of my bag after discovering my camera was absent one. I suspect the Tigiwon house being closed is what killed my snowmobile track.


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The Tigiwon Community House.


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Denied!

I continued up the road, took lots of pictures. I liked playing with lighting using my headlamp to get different results with the trees.


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Would make a great Christmas tree.

I was able to get by without flotation in the sled track for the most part until somewhere between mile 6 and 7 when I donned my snowshoes.


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Nice getting some weight off my back. On return I kept snowshoes on all the way to the car to ease my shoulders. I should lift weights more.


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The trees were spectacular.


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End of the road.


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Reached the end of the road in 3:45.

When I reached the Half Moon Pass trailhead, the sled I had been following was parked at the kiosk. And there was a trench at the start of the trail. Not gonna lie, I was absolutely giddy. I suspect Holy Cross sees less than 10 summits in any given winter, and I picked a day that someone else chose. Winning.

I started up the well packed trail, went about a quarter mile. Then the trench went left. I looked off in the distance, where a tent was erected. For a short moment I considered going over and waking the camper, I mean, surely their only reason for being there would be a Holy Cross summit bid, right? I decided against the idea, and commenced my long day of breaking trail.


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I later discovered the mysterious camper was forum member arnavxv. And he was there for a summit bid. We never crossed paths.

Initially the snow wasn't terribly deep, and the path wasn't difficult to follow.


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As I neared Half Moon Pass and the trees thinned out the snow started getting deep.


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Deep snow around Half Moon Pass.

I'd been on Holy Cross twice before, most recently in September 2020, so route was easy to remember. I knew from other trip reports I'd read that a deviation from the summer route is necessary where it turns left to descend into Cross Creek in order to avoid avy issues. I cut right just as the summer trail went left. I had some anxiety about this section, I wasn't sure exactly what kind of bushwhack I was in for. I was a little too eager to get down to Cross Creek, I ended up in a few sections with big snow covered boulders. They weren't terribly long, so I clanked through them without taking off my snowshoes. On my return I went a bit further north to avoid these sections and had a much easier time.


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My route in red/yellow, rough approximation of summer route in white.


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First glimpse of my objective from the avy reroute section.

Once I reached the bottom of Half Moon Pass the sun began to rise. The bushwhack through this area really wasn't bad, the creek was frozen so I stayed on it where I could.


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Bottom of Half Moon Pass near Cross Creek. So. Much. Snow.

I was surprised how easy it was to stay along the summer trail through the campground area, I could easily make out faint sections of trail. It was welcome relief, I make no claims of being great at route finding. Good to be gaining elevation again.


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More deep snow climbing up through treeline beyond the campground area.


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Trees looked great caked in snow.


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Finally nearing treeline.

As I approached treeline, I was incredibly excited at the prospect of ditching my snowshoes, but it would be a while. I can't remember a peak that had so much snow this high.


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When I saw the trees on the right my first thought was, "Are those Aspens? Changing color? In January?". Rather, it was the morning sun illuminating them.


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Almost above treeline. So close.


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I think this where I finally removed snowshoes. Crazy how high up the snow was.

After stashing my snowshoes next to one of the giant cairns (and remembering to put a GPS marker on my phone), I continued to ascend. From this point to the final ridge was a complete PITA. Too rocky to leave snowshoes on, but not rocky enough to play rock-scotch and stay out of the snow, which was generally deep enough to posthole to mid calf. Very annoying.


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Not having a good time in this section.


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This is where it actually hit me. I'm going to summit Holy Cross. In winter. In a single day push. Bonkers.

When I reached the final ridge, the snow relented, and I had fun going up as I was able to mostly stay on dry rocks. I reached the summit in a cat's whisker less than 12 hours from start.


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Summited Holy Cross 11:33 am on 1/2/2021.

The summit was cold and windy, lots of blowing snow. Thermometer showed 17° (sorry Judd, forgot to take a pic). Holy Cross' summit had enough snow I was punching through up to my knee. I sent a text to my SAR friends that I completely underestimated this mountain, but all was well and I was about to start heading down.


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Summit view.


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From summit, looking south towards Holy Cross Ridge.


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If you've been on Holy Cross, you likely remember this distinctive rock, it stands maybe 4' high. On this day it was nearly buried.

When I started back down the mountain, all I could think about was how difficult the reclimb of Half Moon Pass was going to be. I think I built it up in my head so much that when I actually got there, it seemingly went quick. Granted, I now had a track to follow most of the way (and fortunately I found a way to get around the nasty rocky section), I was back on the summer trail before I knew it. Took several pics on the way back now that I had daylight.


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Getting back to treeline.


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Love snowshoe track pics, really captures the work involved doing this.


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I'm often in awe when I'm on my way down. Disbelief that a few hours ago I was standing atop that magnificent peak.


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Just on the other side of Halfmoon Pass. One of my favorite shots this day.


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Getting close to the road.


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Stats from Apple Watch/iPhone.


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Garmin stats.


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GPS track of my route.

Return trip from summit to car took just over 7 hours, and was largely uneventful. It was a fantastic day pushing myself to the limit, I live for days like this. Thanks for reading.





Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
CaptCO

This website needed this
01/04/2021 20:19
Great refresher from the typical repetitive TRs. You‘re da man will e


supranihilest

Half Moon Pass re-ascent
01/04/2021 22:17
Both times I've done Holy Cross now I dreaded the re-ascent to Half Moon Pass, and both times I was surprised, like you, to find it way easier than expected. Glad to see you found that to be true in winter as well! Truly inspiring work, Will.


hogantheepic

Wow man
01/05/2021 00:07
This is honestly super surprising and enlightening. Awesome work, awesome TR! Thanks for the inspiration!


Cide

Strong
01/05/2021 03:27
Work!


coopereitel

Sick
01/05/2021 07:19
A good long day!


JtheChemE

Strongman
01/05/2021 09:19
Nice effort, major style points for doing it as a single effort push solo, and busting your own trench.


Jay521

In my next life,
01/05/2021 15:36
I want to have your strength and endurance. Fantastic job!


cottonmountaineering

nice!
01/06/2021 08:01
nice job! holy cross is a beast in winter


JQDivide

impressive
01/19/2021 10:18
Ave. Speed : 2.9....
That's impressive.

Joel


Will_E

RE:
01/19/2021 14:37
CaptCo: Of course my TR's are fantastically written, I'm a product of the Arkansas Public School system. 47th in the nation! That means there's 4 states worse!

Supra: I think not having to break trail on the regain is what did it, but yeah, super surprising.

Hogan: I was pretty sure I could do this, but not 100%, so yeah, some surprise on my part too.

Cide: Thanks

Cooper: I love long days, but it may be a while before I do another one of this magnitude.

J: Thanks, to a degree I enjoy breaking trail and dialing up my heart rate, but it was a little overkill this trip.

Jay: I've sort of become addicted to cardio, which helps me get through long days like this. Some might say my cardio addiction is unhealthy.

Cotton: Thanks, its a crazy amount of work.

Joel: I don't how Garmin's algorithm calculates the "time moving", but its way off, which is where the "avg speed" is derived from. I can assure that I was moving for much longer than 10 hours.



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