Hiking Holy Cross

I like to think I’m capable of planning ahead. I mean, you should see the lists I make when packing – they get color coordinated and sometimes I start them days in advance. I’m weird like that. But that doesn’t mean I always remember things.

Like that one time when we left home at 1am to drive up to Vail for a 5am hike up Mount of the Holy Cross with Paula. We made it approximately 75 miles away from home (to Frisco, for the local yocals) when gas became a necessity. No big deal. Except for the fact that we both left our wallets at home and only had $0.62 in the car. Not kidding. I counted the change, that is all we had. Seeing how it was about 2:30am at this point we didn’t have a lot of options…

Mount of the Holy Cross - 14er Hike Near Vail

There was a chance we’d make it to the trailhead then bum money off Paula but there was also a chance we’d run out of gas on the narrow mountain road leading to the trailhead. If you have ever driven up an unpaved road leading to a remote trailhead you know how horrible this would be.

We gave up and turned around. There was no way we’d be able to get back to the trailhead in time so I sent Paula an apologetic “gawd, I’m an idiot” text and crawled back into bed.

Seriously, who does that?! Who forgets all of their money at home?! Apparently I do. We do…Chris forgot his wallet too!

Our plan was to hike Holy Cross with Paula and we were really looking forward to hiking with another crazy mountain person but alas, it wasn’t going to happen. We considered giving up on the summit all together but, darn it, I had packed the car! We were going to hike this stupid mountain.

We decided to try again on Saturday night. With a full tank of gas and both wallets we made the drive back into the mountain that evening, found a suitable parking spot at the fairly busy trailhead and did some car camping, literally.

Mount of the Holy Cross - Car CampingMount of the Holy Cross - Trailhead

Getting up early and summiting early seems to suit us, and we are actually getting pretty good at the early rising. We left the trailhead at 3:30am with no one ahead of us and a sky full of stars above us.

I had done minimal research on this summit simply because I didn’t have to choose it – Paula already had. However, I did notice we gained 5,600 feet but the trailhead was at 10,320 and the summit peaked at 14,005. This could only mean one thing – there was an up/down between the trailhead and the summit. Great…we got the relief of downhill on the way but we’d have to hike ~1,000 feet up just a few miles from the car. Phooey.

Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14erMount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er

At least it was dark for the first few hours so it was a matter of just following the trail ahead of you – you could not see how far you had to go! We timed the hike perfectly – we were packing away the headlamps as the trail got rocky and a bit more technical.

Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14erMount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er

By the time we got above treeline we had less than 2 miles to go. That didn’t seem too bad, right? Well, it wasn’t. Except for the fact that roughly a mile of that distance was on stairs. Never ending rock stairs. It didn’t completely demolish my quads but it got a little daunting after a while…I was kind of dreading the hike back down.

Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er
Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er

Eventually we did make it up all the stairs and then up the helter skelter scramble to the summit. It was worth every step…

Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - SummitMount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - SummitMount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - Summit
Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - SummitMount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - Summit

Another couple was coming down the scramble as we headed up so we were not the first to summit but we did get the summit to ourselves for about 20 minutes. We spent this time being ridiculous and marginally irresponsible with photos. It was a really cool summit with steep drops off a two sides. We had to take the photos just to freak out The Moms!

Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - SummitMount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - Summit
Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - SummitMount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - Summit

The trek down always seems like it should be easier but it rarely is. The continual downhill always does a number on the quads! We met quite a few people on the way up as we scampered down but after hit the treeline we spent most of our hike back to the car on our own. It was nice. Peaceful and quiet.

Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er - Summit

As we hiked back up the ridge that would drop us back to the car we could see Holy Cross looming in the distance behind us. It looked so far away! Just another reason early morning summits are worth it – seeing that mountain so far away would have been demoralizing!

Mount of the Holy Cross - Hiking a 14er
The summit from 4 miles away – seems so much further, but worth every step!

The last few miles seemed to drag on forever but we eventually made it to the car just before noon – probably the quickest and earliest day on a fourteener yet! We celebrated with cold pizza and Mt Dew before making our way back to Denver. The rest of the day was spent recuperating on the couch. This was our seventh summit of the year but it’s the first one we really felt the next day – the stairs did us in! And if we are lucky it won’t be the last one of the year!

This is unrelated to the fourteener talk but, as you may have heard, Colorado is being ripped apart by devastating floods. The area we live in is fairly untouched. The only flooding within 10 miles of us is in a State Park with no homes directly affected. We have been incredibly lucky – we are safe, our belongings are dry and our friends are all accounted for. Not everyone is this lucky. Please keep everyone here in your thoughts and if you want to help check out HelpColoradoNow.org for more details. Or, if you are more of a t-shirt person check out these Colorado Flood T-Shirts!


Hiking Holy Cross — 15 Comments

  1. Sweet lady, the views! That’s freaking magical :) Totally worth the hike, yes?

    Okay, I will stop saying that the hill I climb is a mountain. You hike mountains. Damn.

    I’ve been thinking of Colorado and the floods. It’s very saddening. I’m glad you’re safe and your surrounding area. Hope things turn around soon.
    Sonia the Mexigarian recently posted..Marathon Training Week 4My Profile

  2. That’s too funny! I mean really in that kind of situation you have to just laugh at yourself for your forgetfulness or you’d cry!

    I love your camping style. John and I have camped exactly like that at many a trailhead. It beats having to break down a tent super early the next morning!
    Natalie @ Free Range Human recently posted..Who Doesn’t Love It?My Profile

  3. Pingback: Running Plans Are Overrated // Heidi Kumm

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