Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mt. of the Holy Cross Recon

Mt. of the Holy Cross Recon by billwright510 at Garmin Connect - Details
Strava link

Homie and I talked about this one earlier. He wanted to go in and help his friends break a track, since he'd used their track before. Homie is very ethical when it comes to using tracks. Me? Not so much. I know my limitations. I'm not doing one of those monster winter 14ers without good weather and a nice track. This mountain is 16 miles longer in winter, since you have to ski 8 miles into the summer trailhead. The good news is that the road groomed for use by snowmobilers, but that doesn't make it any shorter. Once at the summer trailhead you climb for 1.5 miles to a pass and then you descend 1000 feet to just below 11,000 feet. After all that, you have a 3000+ foot climb to the summit, about what a short summer 14er would be from the car. Homie's did this peak with Dan Mottinger in 16 hours.

Homie ended  up bailing on the mountain to spend more time with his family. With two little girls Christmas time is pretty special. I had mentally geared up to give this at least a look so I went alone on Sunday morning, hoping to see the others, who had camped near the pass the night before. Yes, I carried enough food/water to climb it, but I wasn't mentally very committed.

I got up at 4 a.m. and drove to Minturn and then to the trailhead. I was skiing at 5:30 a.m. and made good time to the summer trailhead, taking 2.5 hours. I then had one hell of a time separating my full-length skins - they were suck together so tightly. I hadn't used them in a year or so and almost had to turn back here because of it. I had skinned up the road with just my kicker skins, but the single track trail to the pass required more traction. Eventually, I succeeded and continued up to the pass, finding the tents just below it.

The others had left skis at their camp, but I had no other floatation with me so I continued on skis, following their track. At the start of the traverse at the pass the route cut across a rocky slope. The weather was socked in and it started to snow lightly. I hadn't seen the sun yet and it didn't look like it was going to make an appearance. The wind picked up and it was cold. The route ahead looked very difficult for skis and I decided to turn around. Wimpy? Yes. I probably don't have what it takes to do a 14er this long in winter, solo. With Homie, we wouldn't have hesitated at the pass and I'd have followed him. Alone I have the option of being more of a wimp and I almost always choose that option.

I had a fun, challenging ski back down to the summer trailhead, barely staying upright. Once back on the road, I pulled off my skins, but had to face about a mile of gradual uphill. Since I wasn't as whipped as I planned to be I thought I could skate ski this section, which I did, sort of. I had to stop a number of times to rest. Skate skiing with a sizable pack on backcountry skis is quite a challenge when I can barely do it on skate skis.

I was sure glad to crest the top and then enjoyed a fast, easy ski for the next seven miles, back to the car. I'm still learning the long-distance winter game and taking it conservatively.

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