2013 14er Trip – Day One
Due to a shorter than normal vacation in early July, I ended up with the opportunity to take three days off work later in the month and head up to the high country. My son and I quickly threw some plans together and decided to keep home base in Leadville and venture out to some different peaks each day. This meant 4:45 wakeups each morning to get to the trailhead and hopefully beat the storms which usually show up later in the day.
On the way up after work on Tuesday I set the Copper to Leadville knee-driving FKT (the burrito needed two hands). If there ever is a knee-driving world championship, I’m in. #medalcontender
We spent the first evening high above town looking to capture the sun setting over Turquoise Lake. The sunset didn’t pan out, but I happened to catch some great Crepuscular Rays with one of the beams shining directly on the city.
Day one objective was Mt. of the Holy Cross. We would be taking the Halo Ridge route, which is a much longer (at least time-wise) approach to the summit. It traverses 2.5 miles of the ridge and without any trail. Almost all boulder-hopping.
The climb up Notch Mountain looked bad on the map, but turned out to be very nice with many switchbacks and a good trail. We paused for a bit to watch pika, marmots, and the camoflaged ptarmigans.
The columbine were in their full glory. This particular variation (there are over 70) is the Colorado state flower. Blue for the sky, white represents snow, and yellow represents gold mining.
Our first view of Holy Cross (named for the gullies that make a cross shape, especially evident when filled with snow) was magnificent. From this spot we could see the entire route to the summit. Kind of hard to tell in this shot, but the peak is actually over a mile away and 1,000′ higher than our location.
The scale of the entire area was amazing. I let Malcolm get a few minutes ahead of me and he turned into a tiny yellow spec on the ridge.
Even helicopters look microscopic from up here.
I snapped this panorama before I took off to catch up. The lake is called the Bowl of Tears. I probably shed a few later in the hike…
Hop. Hop. Hop. Long way from help. Don’t break an ankle…
We finally reached the summit after spending nearly 4 hours (stops and photos included) to travel the 2.5 miles along the ridge.
Thankfully the sketchy-looking clouds that began showing up at 8:30 never really amounted to anything. The descent was no picnic, but at least we were on a trail now.
It was great to get back to some vegetation after being on the rocks so long.
Normally with 14ers, once you summit it’s all downhill back the car. Holy Cross has a nasty little surprise with the 1,000′ climb over Half Moon Pass standing in your way. Malcolm absolutely crushed this climb and I barely held on. We were so glad to get to the top! After receiving some feedback from the home front that we were looking too serious in our summit photo, we risked cracking our faces and smiled for this one.
The trail back to the parking lot was a little slice of heaven.