Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,007 feet
Date Posted:  07/30/2022
Date Climbed:   07/23/2022
Author:  Beda681
 Holy Cross From Cross Creek   

Hello! This is my first ever trip report so we will see how this goes. Unfortunately I only had my crappy phone camera on me so these pictures will not be very high quality.

So the other day I was sitting at home going down the Youtube rabbit hole and I came across a video documenting some of the strange incidents that have been caused on Mount of the Holy Cross throughout its history. I had climbed the peak once before around 5 or 6 years ago when I was still pretty young and it had largely been absent from my memory for a long time. However, after seeing this video my interest was piqued again and I decided that I wanted to climb it again. However, reading about how people often end up in the Cross Creek drainage also made me interested in exploring that area of the wilderness. This gave me the possibly idiotic idea to attempt to climb Holy Cross from the Cross Creek trailhead and then bushwhack up to the standard trail at some point. Given the way my work schedule was working out for the upcoming weekend, I opted to attempt this hike as a long one day hike rather than backpack. I also normally do fun stuff like this with my dad, but since he was busy I opted to do this as a solo adventure.

I tried to find some information about the Cross Creek trail and the route in general online, but I didn't find much, so most of my research for this hike was just eyeballing elevations and distances off Google Maps. I figured out the bushwhack is around 1000-1200 feet, which seemed manageable regardless of how bad the terrain could be. However, I was quite unoptimistic about me being able to actually accomplish anything, as there were too many unknowns for me to assess how fast I would be able to move. The Minturn weather forecast also showed rain starting from 9 am Sunday which made me think I would end up just having a nice day in the trees hiking around in my poncho.

I set off from Denver Saturday afternoon and ended up at the trailhead around 5:30pm. After eating dinner I forced myself to get to sleep by 7pm. My alarm went off at 2:45 and I got onto the trail by 3am. I felt pretty good so I just put my head down and hiked as fast as I could. Since it was pitch black the first miles were pretty uneventful other than 2 times I heard branches snapping somewhere around me, which freaked me out a bit. One backpacking party that came to the trailhead the evening before mentioned seeing moose and I really did not want to run into a moose in the forest at 4 in the morning. I ended up losing the trail twice due to carelessness, but this didn't hold me back by more than a few minutes. After just over 5 miles and 2 hours, I came to a break in the trees where I could barely see the peak by starlight. After looking at the map for a bit I decided that this would make a good place to part with the trail and head straight across. I had accomplished my goal of getting to this point in darkness so I could start the bushwhack as soon as it got light enough to see properly. I took a rest until 5:30 and then set off.

The peak from the point where I left the trail, bushwhack looks a bit daunting.

Using my map, I saw that by heading straight towards the peak, I would end up close to the bottom of East Cross Creek (the creek that heads down from Lake Patricia and the Bowl of Tears). My overall plan was to follow East Cross Creek so I would end up at the standard trail at its lowest point where it crosses the creek. Leaving the trail, progress was fast as I descended a bit into the valley floor. I went on the edges of a few large meadows which contained waist high grass and over some rolling terrain to reach the main creek.

One of several large meadows with beautiful lush grass.

I certainly underestimated the size of Cross Creek. I was unable to find a path where I could just hop over rocks, as everything was stupidly slippery and I was getting ready to take off my shoes until I saw a fallen log. I ended up just shimmying across the log as if I was sitting on Capitol's knife edge.

Thank you log

I was originally thinking to follow Cross Creek until I came across East Cross Creek, but there were a pretty crazy amount of fallen trees and vegetation so I ended up leaving the main creek immediately after the crossing and heading up the slope. Although it was very steep and had a lot of loose pine needles, I gained elevation fairly quickly and after climbing over some large slabs, I came to a small step which gave me my first fantastic view.

Looking up Cross Creek to Mount Jackson, too bad my phone cannot do this view justice in any way.
Across the valley to Grouse Mountain
The behemoth lurking in the distance.

From this point I was able to easily traverse over to East Cross Creek, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake. I had once again underestimated the size of the creek, which formed many branching paths and waterfalls which hindered progress. I was able to find a route which snaked over some boulders, but there are likely many better options. However, it is a very cool area in the middle of the wilderness, so I am happy I got to visit it.

Nice cascade in the East Cross Creek drainage.

Luckily for me, this waterfall section would not last much longer and the angle of the slope began to relent. I hiked fast along the creek through a pretty clean forest and a willow covered meadow. At some point I crossed it and began to angle right slightly as I knew the main trail was not far. Around 6:30 I reached the backside of campsite 5, where I found my first sign of human life since leaving the trailhead (a tent). I took a short break after reaching the main trail and then headed up. I was impressed with myself at how fast I managed the bushwhack, and I now saw that the summit was well within reach. Clouds were all over the place but for the moment quite sparse, so I was optimistic. I hiked as fast as I could up the very well built trail, admiring some cute marmots and pikas around treeline. I felt pretty fit but my quads began to get really tired around 12,500 as I was reaching the false summit on the ridge so my progress slowed. However, I was still able to reach the summit around 8:45, where I met a few other parties who had camped or started from Halfmoon. The weather was holding so I hung out on the summit for close to an hour, admiring the views. Holy Cross's summit is a really cool place and offers some unique viewing angles. In particular I liked the view of the Maroon Bells, which happen to be at the exact same angle as the iconic view from the lake.

Sawatch range
Notch Mountain cabin and Tenmile/Mosquito range
View of my route, the trailhead looks very far away from here lol
Awkward summit selfie

After admiring Colorado mountains for a bit more, I decided to head down as I realized that I would like to get back to the Cross Creek trail before it starts raining if possible, not looking forward to getting across the large rock slabs in the bushwhack if they got wet. I dashed down to treeline in under an hour and took a break to filter some water at East Cross Creek once I left the main trail again. The forest was lovely but there were quite a few mosquitoes so I got moving pretty quickly once again. One thing I didn't notice on the way up was the fact that there were a lot of animal droppings all around the creek. Seems like deer or elk frequent this path quite often.

These rock ribs were everywhere and were neat
Great break spot other than the mosquitoes

I did my best to avoid walking through the steep waterfall section of the creek again, and I managed to bypass the worst parts but there were some cliffs in the area so for a lot of it I decided to just stick to the route that had already worked for me.

The creek drainage, very wild and lush
Same view as in the morning
More cool slabs

I tried to follow my route up as well as I could, but I also didn't really feel like staring into my GPS every 10 seconds so I ended up deviating at a few sections. I did get to see more of the creek at the bottom, which formed a cool ravine a few hundred yards upstream of my crossing.

Cross Creek ravine

I ended up using the same log to cross over the creek again and headed towards the trail. This was where I ended up deviating quite a large amount from my original route after not looking at the map for a few minutes. At first I thought I would just reach the trail at a slightly different spot but there was an extra creek I had to cross over and I did not recognize the area at all. This was where I found out my GPS was going a little crazy in this area so I ended up wandering around for a few minutes. Eventually I found out that the trail angled up the slope right at the point that I left it in the morning so I was basically going parallel to it as I was hiking up to it. I started traversing and eventually found the trail about a quarter mile from where I left it. This was certainly a confusing area for me and I was surprised that it gave me this much trouble. However, I was back on track and now I just had 5 easy trail miles left to go.

Mushrooms of all kinds were everywhere
Pretty flower I don't remember seeing before this

Shortly after I reached the trail, it finally began raining. I heard a few claps of thunder far in the distance and I hoped that all the people that were heading up the peak while I was heading down had chosen to turn back. I decided that I wanted a break so I found a friendly tree where I put my poncho on and took a nap for about a half hour around 12:30. Once the worst of it passed I started heading down the trail again while it continued to drizzle on and off. Some muscle in my groin was kinda cramping so I took it pretty easy and took my sweet time getting down, admiring the beautiful approach that I missed in the night. I was expecting to meet a good amount of people, but I only saw one backpacking group drying their tents far from the trail and a large group of parents and kids about a mile from the trailhead. I made it back around 3:15, thoroughly exhausted and craving a cold drink.

More cool forest
Cool place to admire the peak if there wasn't fog, sure hope no one got lost up there in that
Final creek crossing (bridge this time)

Overall I blew all of my expectations for this hike out of the water and I was really impressed with how quickly I was able to move. Through this Holy Cross has become one of my favorite fourteeners and now I want to explore the wilderness area a lot more. This route is surprisingly viable and it was a really cool alternative for me to try out.

Now stats: I've been trying out the Adidas running app for hiking and stuff lately and it works pretty well most of the time. On this particular hike the elevation change seems to be way higher than what I would expect, which is weird because it has been very accurate in the past. Everything else seems to match up to my gut feel pretty well.

Stats, elevation changes really shouldn't be more than 6000-6500 imo
Trail map through the valley
Map of bushwhack, some issues with GPS in the area north of Cross Creek
Map of summit push
Pace 1
Pace 2

Overall log: (elevations taken from Google Earth so estimates at best)
3:05 - Cross Creek Trailhead, 8500
5:30 - Bushwhack start, 9700
6:45 - Bushwhack end, 10,700
8:45 - 9:30 - Summit, 14,011
10:45 - Bushwhack 2 start
12:00 - Bushwhack 2 end
3:15 - Cross Creek Trailhead

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41

Comments or Questions
Flower name
07/30/2022 14:09
Its a sego lily, state flower of Utah, somewhat rare in mountains.

07/31/2022 07:10
Very enjoyable trip report, thanks for taking the time putting this together and allowing me to remember beautiful Colorado. Hope you have many more hiking adventures.

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