Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,007 feet
Holy Cross Ridge  -  13,831 feet
Date Posted:  12/26/2012
Date Climbed:   12/23/2012
Author:  Furthermore
 A Sawatch 14er Grid Completer!   

Mount of the Holy Cross 14,005
Holy Cross Ridge 13,831

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.

Lovely weather.

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.

Clearing weather.

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.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
12/27/2012 07:36
How helpful were the jumbo cairns that CFI built when coming off the ridge toward treeline?

Congrats Ken!
12/27/2012 16:04
What an awesome trip in less than ideal conditions.

12/27/2012 16:44
to Mistah Ken. Heck of a treed-summit fear to do the Sawatch 12 times.

Nice sunset pics...
12/27/2012 17:11
and congrats to Ken on finishing the sawatch project. Your images keep getting better Furthermore. Not a bad place to spend the first few days (and nights) of winter either, especially with the teammates you had.

Looks like Dwight got himself a new pair of gloves too...

Glad you're...
12/27/2012 17:18
getting into the winter 14er game dude. Hopefully there are some more fun (âfunâ?) times in store down the road.

Link to my pics:

Nice job to all!
12/27/2012 18:50
And congrats to Ken on the Sawatch grid completion. Great TR and pics as usual!

Looks like...
12/27/2012 18:54
a nice winter hike. Heck of a way to spend Christmas!

12/27/2012 20:11
Some burly stats there but you guys made it look easy peasy (despite the weather)

Badass job to all of you!!

12/28/2012 00:43
Congrats, all. Looks like a great trip!

And a huge congrats to Ken on his completion of the Sawatch grid!!

12/28/2012 00:47
Nice to see your perspective on the trip, after having just read Mr. Nolan's. Love the sunset and sunrise pics. Again, well done everyone.

Absolutely amazing.
12/28/2012 11:15
Really like the report and pictures. Thanks.

12/30/2012 01:50

12/30/2012 04:27
Super job getting that done! A hard-earned Christmas gift! And what a great mountain to finish on! Brrr! That Ridge shot looks chilly! It's supposed to hit the single digits or even 0 degrees tonight here in Iowa, so I can imagine what it was like up there! Thanks for sharing this!

good times
12/30/2012 21:14
It was good to be with Ken on the Sawatch grid finisher, a goal I still have a hard time fully comphrehending, although attempting to accomplish the same thing will make for many interesting winter trips, I look forward to it.

I would have enjoyed the summit a little more if I had not forgotten my goggles in the tent.

Big Stuff
12/31/2012 04:41
What a strong party for a great accomplishment!

Mountain Ninja
Old and decrepit....
12/31/2012 22:39
...yet we all can aspire to accomplish what you have by your age, Ken! A huge congratulations to the group for completing this remote peak in sketchy conditions!

Congratulations Ken!!
01/02/2013 20:54
Quite an accomplishment. You are one tough cookie. Also, congratulations on recieving the CMC Ellingwood Award for achievment in mountaineering. Very well deserved. You are a mentor to more than you know.

Everybody else, great job as trench slaves, 1st time winter baggers of Holy Cross or Holy Cross ridge, or just plain niceness!


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