Frank's Blog

Frank Konsella's Backcountry Skiing and Biking Blog

Mount of the Holy Cross, Cross Couloir.

The Cross couloir on Holy Cross has been on my tick list for decades. All it took was one look at William H Jackson’s famous 1873 photo (below) for me to say, “I want to ski that!”


Between 1929 and 1950, the area was a national monument and attracted pilgrimages and miraculous healings of all sorts. With the pope in the country, we decided that we should ski the cross in his honor.:D

Pete, Brittany and I thought it was just going to be the three of us, but at the last minute, Jeremy and Kellie decided they wanted to come along as well. Thankfully, Jeremy has a huge rig, so the four of us (minus Brittany, who was coming up on her own from the front range) piled in with all our gear and three sleds (photo from Minturn after skiing).

A friend of mine from high school bought a place in Vail with his sister, and said we could crash there. So the five of us roll in Friday night and as it turns out, some friends of his sister were staying there too! Thankfully, they were cool and didn’t mind us intruding on their romantic off-season getaway. After breakfast at Denny’s in Avon, we hit the trailhead around 6:30. The first 1/4 mile or so was plowed, but gated, which was kind of a pain in the butt, but after that it was smooth sailing up the groomed Tigiwon road for the 8 mile, 2,000′ snowmobile approach.

From there, we made our way through the forest to halfmoon pass, where we got our first view of Holy Cross:

The cross is on the left, while our ascent route is on the right hand (N)ridge.

From the pass, you have to descend almost 1,000′ down to East Cross creek. The snow here was still in the shade and frozen really, really solid, which made for an interesting descent which we all made in a “power-sideslip”.

The climb up to the North ridge was steep, but one of the best things about springtime is that you can really skin some steep slopes.

The ridge route proved to be really straightforward, and we were able to skin the entire way to the summit.

Kellie nearing the summit, with Sopris behind:

This area of the Sawatch is so much more rugged than the rest of the range, and we drooled over lots of lines in the area. UN 13,831′:

UN 13,346′, AKA Gold Dust Pk., AKA Finnagan Pk.:

If you look closely, you can see skiers on both Pyramid’s Landry line and the north face of North Maroon on this lovely Saturday.

The cross couloir drops off about 20′ from the summit, and was looking good:

Jeremy dropping in:

Pete:

Brittany:

me:

Jeremy:

Brittany:

The couloir was a little variable, you had to really stick to the skier’s right to find good snow. We had opted not to bring a rope and mess with rapping the lower part of the couloir, so we hit the exit and skied a really fun corn face down to the bowl of tears. Don Pedro nearing the exit:

Jeremy on the lower corn face:

me:

Pete, with the peak behind:

Coming out the valley, we looked up at the route and the cliff that prevents this couloir going in one clean shot:

The winds began picking up and we were glad to be off the summit:

We made our way down the valley and found the best snow of the day on this north facing slope: (me)

Kellie, getting a little airtime:

It was a steep, but scenic skin back up to the pass on the way out (Pete):

We made our way down some pretty fun meadows back to the snowmobiles and were back at the truck 10 hours after starting. It was a fun day out and a fun route, and I might just need to return sometime soon to ski some of the other lines in the area. I’m not sure if the area around E cross creek gets skied much in the winter, but it’s an area that I would visit if I lived in the area- lots of hucks and pillow lines to be had.

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