July 09, 2008

Dad's Weekend

Similar to the OSU weekends of yesteryear, my dad came out from Oregon to visit for few days, as he typically does once a summer. Two years ago, we attempted to climb Mt. of the Holy Cross, one of Colorado's many 14,000 foot mountains. After two years of dwelling on the fact that he didn't make it to the top, he came back to prove himself.

The trip started with a couple of acclimatization hikes to about 12,000 feet. The first of these, on the 4th of July, involved Dad hiking up to the continental divide near Rollins Pass in the Indian Peaks while Andy, Dave, and I skied a couple of chutes in the cirque immediately northeast of Beacon Peak.

Beacon Peak, with one of our ski lines visible in the cirque

The first line we hiked up and then skied was probably the steepest and most committing line I've skied since Alaska.

Line 1 - Unnamed southeast facing chute north of Beacon Peak

We had a few minutes left before Andy needed to be back for some BBQ festivities, so we skied a mellower, shorter line on the flanks of Beacon Peak.

Line 2

Meanwhile, Dad was hiking up the next prominent ridge north of us to the continental divide (that's how we got the first picture shown above). He made it all the way to the top and was back down about the same time we finished up.

The next day, Dad was ready for some more acclimatization, this time with a bit more elevation gain. To accomplish this, we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike up Flattop Mountain. Being a Saturday on a holiday weekend, the park was packed and full of yahoos. After a solid elevation gain of 2800 vertical feet, we successfully made it to the top.

With two hikes under out belt in two days, we were running out of time in our 4-day weekend to climb the Mt. of the Holy Cross. So on day 3, we drove to the trailhead and backpacked up over Halfmoon Pass, down to East Cross Creek, and up the flanks of Holy Cross to about 11,000 feet.

Mt. of the Holy Cross

We had just enough time to set up the tent at 11,000 feet before the lightening, thunder, hail, and rain began. The rain continued through the night and was still coming down at 3:00 am when we rose to start hiking towards the summit, 3000 vertical feet above us.

Roughly half way up, the rain turned to snow. It was apparently just cold enough for the snow to stick to the rocks, turning every step into a potential slip. The rest of the way up, we were in a whiteout and could not see more than about 100 feet. We reached the summit at about 8:00 am. The visibility was so poor, we had to search out the summit register to convince ourselves we were at the top.

Dad holding the summit register

Father and Son on the Summit!

Yes, these pictures are from last weekend and there was 2 inches of fresh snow in the ground! We didn't stay on the summit long as there was nothing to see except clouds and we were cold. The trip down was slightly more treacherous than the way up as it was increasingly difficult to keep from slipping on the snow covered rocks.

Even the flowers were stymied by this July 7th snowstorm.

After descending about 500 feet from the summit, the clouds started to break and we could see glimpses of spectacular views in every direction the clouds allowed. Unfortunately, the peak we had just climbed remained at least partially shrouded for the entire descent.

Dad descending at about 13,500 feet, Holy Cross hiding in the background

It was truly awesome to see my dad work so hard to accomplish something that he was determined to do. We overcame some adverse weather conditions to be the only two people to summit that day. In fact, we didn't see anyone until we were at the top of Halfmoon Pass on our way back to the car.

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