14er TBT: Mount of the Holy Cross – Cross Couloir (19 April 2008)

(Last Updated On: December 20, 2015)

This is part of an ongoing series re-telling Brittany’s fourteener-skiing story. Look for the reports every Thursday, as part of a Throwback Thursday theme.

The Cross Couloir has become a classic. But, access to it is difficult. We knew all along that we would try to go earlier in the spring to try to get the road with snowcover, So we could use snowmobiles as access. It finally all came together in April 2008 and Mount of the Holy Cross became my 33rd fourteener skied. Below is a slightly modified version of Frank’s original trip report.


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!”
Mount of the Holy Cross

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.

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).

Frank Konsella snowmobiling to Holy Cross

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.
Snowmobiling to get to Holy Cross.

From there, we made our way through the forest to Halfmoon Pass, where we got our first view of Holy Cross:
Skinning toward Holy Cross

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

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”.
Accessing Holy Cross

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.
Skinning to get to Holy Cross.

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

Approaching summit of Mount of the Holy Cross.

Kellie nearing the summit, with Sopris behind:
Kellie Baker skinning to ski Mount of the Holy Cross.

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′:
Views from Holy Cross

UN 13,346′, AKA Gold Dust Pk., AKA Finnagan Pk.:
Gold Dust Peak seen from Holy Cross.

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 Elks from Holy Cross.

The Cross Couloir drops off about 20′ from the summit, and was looking good:

Jeremy dropping in:
Jeremy Wegener backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross.

Pete:
Pete Sowar skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

Pete Sowar backcountry skiing Mount of the Holy Cross

Brittany:
Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

me:
Frank Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

Frank Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

Frank Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

Frank Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

Kellie.
Kellie Baker backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Mount of the Holy Cross

Jeremy:
Jeremy Wegener backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross.

Jeremy Wegener backcountry skiing on Mounto of the Holy Cross

Brittany:
Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

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. Pete nearing the exit:
Pete Sowar backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross

Pete Sowar backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Mount of the Holy Cross.

Jeremy on the lower corn face:
Jeremy Wegener backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross.

me:
Frank Konsella bakcountry skiing on Holy Cross

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: Cross Couloir on Mount of the Holy Cross

The winds began picking up and we were glad to be off the summit:
Mount of the Holy Cross

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

Kellie, getting a little airtime:
Kellie Baker backcountry skiing Cross Couloir on Holy Cross.

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

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.

At this point, I only had a couple of fourteeners left in the Sawatch Range, and had a couple of bites into most of the other ranges as well – except the Elks. I hadn’t skied a single Elk Range fourteener. It was time. I finally felt that I had acquired the skills I needed to start tackling some of Colorado’s hardest fourteeners….

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate 🙂 Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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Holy Cross - Cross Couloir
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Holy Cross - Cross Couloir
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Holy Cross is one of Colorado's most classic mountains, and the Cross Couloir makes for a great ski, despite the difficulty in access. Find out more!
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Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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