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Holy Cross
August 7, 2004

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On August 7, 2004, the FSJ guys once again tackled Holy Cross, this time an overnight camping run. We had some non-FSJ folks with us, like Mike and his son on motorbikes, and Fred's pal, Randy, and a few other guys (sorry, I forgot their names). Michael and Scott joined up riding in Michael's rig.

Holy Cross - Holy Crap!

Since 1988 I've run easy, moderate, and a few hard trails but nothing like Holy Cross. It's been a little while since I've been on the trail and it's been awhile since I've looked at an obstacle and said to myself "there is NO WAY my vehicle can make it up that!" That's about all I said to myself Saturday and Sunday on our 2-day adventure to the Mount of the Holy Cross and the old city at its base.

We met and hit the trail by 10am following a group of Land Rovers and another group of baby Jeeps. Fred Greenwood in his 75 Cherokee narrow track 2-door and Randy in his classic Commando and I rolled up the shale climb and immediately got into moderate level wheeling. It didn't take long for us to catch up with the Land Rovers, one of whichwas stuck on a somewhat more difficult obstacle.

Most of the trail from here qualifies as moderate until you get to the really tough obstacles. Unfortunately I got myself wedged on a rock section, misjudging the line and my clearance, used and broke my new Amsteel Blue winch cable on a straight single line pull with a 9000# winch (please, someone tell me why this is possible and then give me some winching tips so this doesn't happen again). After many minutes of hi-lift activity, stacking rocks under the rig, I was able to get unstuck and we rolled, but not before noticing the fist-sized dent in my rear diff cover and the fluid leaking out of it!! Ouch!

We rolled on for a short time and found a good stopping point before a more difficult obstacle. By this time we'd heard rumors of vehicles backed up forever at French Creek, broken axles, etc. Breaking for lunch and waiting out the traffic jam, we found a level place to park and I began wrenching on my wounded ride.

The ring gear had chewed a hole in the dented cover but it was unscathed and I was able to pound out the dent, repair the hole with JB Quick Weld, button everything up, and replace fluid with 2 quarts of new and what we'd collected with my gold panning pans and ammo cans. Next time I'm bringing a full gallon and some fresh JB. With much help from Fred, Scott, and Randy, TC was rolling again. Say what you want about AMC 20's, but how many diff covers can you ROTATE so that the hole is at the top instead of the bottom??

So with the broken cable (that should NOT have happened) and the crushed diff cover, my confidence was a bit shaken. Randy and Fred are pros at this stuff and I definitely kept a close eye on their lines from that point on. We made it up the next fairly tough climb and reached a ledge area with a few choices of how to get up. The right side was a rather uneven near vertical climb but with just the right tire placement it was doable and indeed, we did it.

We were now stacked behind all the rigs (reports varied from 20 to 60) waiting to cross French Creek. This is where it got interesting. One look at the obstacle and I'm sure my jaw dropped and eyes popped. I still am not quite sure how all these rigs crossed this section. We got to watch a dozen or more rigs going up and coming down. We saw Jeeps, Rovers, Samurais, Broncos, Rangers, Toyotas and an extreme Amigo (or something) tackle this bit, with straps and winches coming out all too often. Our turn came up way too soon. Of course Fred and Randy did a great job of climbing up. Without their spotting I wouldn't have gotten as far as I did. But I got into a precarious situation at a crucial moment so we immediately strapped me up. Maybe I'll make it under my own power next time.

The rest of the climb wasn't exactly easy. We hit another obstacle where a tree root provided a bizzare, slipper, off-camber climb that sends the rear end towards the cliff-side as you get up. The fact that the clouds that had been threatening rain all day finally let go with thunder, rain, and hail didn't help matters. But we all three made it up this sketchy climb and proceeded on to the City. Not that it was easy but compared to what we'd just been through, it seemed that way. We set up camp.

The sun broke and rain stopped just before sunset affording some awesome views of the two remaining buildings and the mountain backdrops and forest. A nice campfire, cold suds, good chow (thanks Scott) and good company put the tougher parts of the day into clear perspective. In good spirits we all headed off for shuteye and soon froze our butts off as the cloudless sky let precious heat escape until the night hit a chilly 28 degrees.

The next morning we awoke to frost on the tents but a gorgeous day. A tour of the area uncovered a big plump yellow-bellied marmot, some interesting lakes and town artifacts. I wonder what the town was like in its heydey. Where was main street? What did it sound like? What was it like to live that far removed from hospitable country? Did the city dwellers ever look around at their gorgeous surroundings?

We headed back a bit earlier than Randy and Fred had planned (thanks guys, we'll hit those other sections next time). I had foolishly thought we'd get up the trail and back down and camp on the easy side of things. Not a chance. This was better anyway. We fired up the rigs and made the decent. Some of my lessons from the last few years and especially the day before were coming back to me and I seemed to do a little better on the decent, although all the credit for crossing the big obstacles goes to my great spotters: Randy, Fred, and Scott.

Before long we were at the turnoff and back to base camp where I aired up, Fred and Randy loaded up the Cherokee which lost high range, and pretty soon we parted ways and headed back. My rear diff didn't explode into a million pieces on the way back so that was good. And we ran into the Rover guys in Minturn as I finished airing up.

So all told things went very well because I really didn't get any body damage, none of us had any serious problems, and we all had a great time. Those of you who couldn't make it, you really missed a super adventure. I hope you guys can make it to the Grizzly run Aug 7-8.

Life goes by fast, don't let too many wheeling opportunities pass you by...

Michael

More photos


Gettin' ready for the trail


Linin' up and movin' out.


Fred is up first


Michael catches a little air


Randy is up and over, no problem.


Trailside repair on a rock-damaged diff cover


Waiting in line at French Creek


Michael needs a strap at French Creek.


Randy walks up French Creek


Late afternoon at Holy Cross City

Rise and shine!

Fred comes back down at French Creek

Michael on the way back down at French Creek

Heading back