Ascent of the Mt of the Holy Cross,
by Steve Bremner and Sam the Wolfdog,
on June 6th, 1999

Sawatch Range,

Mount of the Holy Cross is a grand wilderness trek. One Colorado's most satisfying climbs. The drive from Colorado Springs is quite a distance as well, taking better than three hours. Tigiwon Camp site Leaving Highway 24 I turned up Notch Mtn Road (FR 707) and ascended steadily for eight miles towards the trailhead. Stopped three miles shy by a large pile of snow blocking the road, I set up camp at the campground conveniently located nearby.

In the waning evening hours I cooked up one of my usual mountain fares of spaghetti and relaxed with a bottle of wine.

Dinner is ready

Apres le deluge To my surprise the fog rolled in and it began to snow! June 5th! I was in ecstacy. Sam and I danced around and gloried in this last gasp of winter.
A couple weary climbers came tramping down from the mountain and I pressed them for "beta". They said they turned back short of the summit on the couloir route because of deep snow. They had no snowshoes. Valuable info. This time I would bring my snowshoes.
snow in june
Sam in snow at Tigiwon Campground

When first arriving at the campground I had noticed a great room sort of cabin for group gatherings. I resolved that if it was open I would bivy indoors that night. It was a short hike to the building and lo! it was open! I brought my air mattress and bag and a candle and slept in relative comfort while the storm raged outside. Well maybe not "raged" but at least I was good and dry.

Next morning at 0'dark thirty I began trekking up the road to the trail head.
Holy Cross The rising sun slowly brought fresh light to the scene as I reached the start of the actual trail. First we had to climb 1500 feet in elevation over three miles or so. It didn't take long before we were in snow and the trail became difficult to follow.

Once up to Half Moon Pass at 11,600 feet I contoured for a patch of sparse timber high and to the west. Continuing on through snow I finally found the trail, which now descended in steep switchbacks down to East Cross Creek.

View towards Holy Cross After crossing the creek the trail was off again on again for maybe half a mile before I lost it in the snow. I knew where I had to go--up on the North Ridge, so I climbed directly and steeply of the flanks of the ridge through timber and snow.

Once on the ridge it was an awfully long trek to the summit as you can well see from the photo at right.

Going up the final summit rock I was completely immersed in cold fog. The summit itself was bitter cold and windy. I didn't even stay long enough for a photo.

By this time it was 11:00 A.M. and I'd not yet needed my snowshoes. The snow still firm in the early morning hours. But on the trip back the sun came out and once I'd crossed East Cross Creek again I was glad I had them.

On the other side of East Cross Creek I stopped for a snack and to relax in a welcome moment of sunshine. As I let the scene sink in I noticed a cabin, now overgrown with roof caved in right next to me. I had not even noticed it until I had sat there for some minutes. A mountain man from years gone by had lived in quite an isolated setting.

Back to my car around 3:30 P.M. a group from Houston was pondering their vehicle stuck in the snowbank that had kept all other 4-wheelers from venturing those last three miles. Apparently this group thought their Jeep Cherokee could blast through. I gave them my ice ax and went about my business striking my tent and preparing to depart. 45 minutes later they were still floundering and I needed my ice ax back, so I had to show them how to get unstuck. They had neglected to chip out a block of ice keeping their vehicle high and dry.

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