November 8, 2009

Mountain height:         2179 m
Elevation gain:            approx. 800 m
Roundtrip time:           6 hours          

Hiking with Mark.

A white-knuckled drive down the length of Highway 40 preceded this hike. We didn’t have a specific objective in mind when turning south onto the road, but were hoping something in the Highwood area would look appealing. Nothing did, however, because the entire area was socked in and the snow was coming down. In search of better weather, we continued south towards the Holy Cross Mountain area. Clear skies loomed over Bull Creek Hills and so that became the day’s objective. We didn’t have a route description, but the Gem-Trek map depicted a trail up one side of the mountain and down the other.


The scenery was very pleasant from the beginning, thanks in large part to clear skies and fresh snow. In addition, strong winds ripping through the entire area lifted huge plumes of snow from the ground, further enhancing the experience. At lower elevation, this wind was refreshing….higher up…not so!

Although views on the mountain itself were not what one would call breath-taking, there were several scenes which did fit the description, including a lone, dead tree hanging off the side of a small embankment; the tree’s orientation an obvious testament to the strength of the wind in the area. The gusting wind continued to violently transport snow across the slopes in huge quantities, as we followed the easy terrain up.


At higher elevations, the refreshing wind became a vicious, biting cold one. Travel consisted of running from one group to trees to the next to find any kind of shelter from the wind and blowing snow. I didn’t even stop at the summit to look around, but instead jumped over a snow bank to the north side of the ridge, where the wind and cold were less severe.

After warming up and taking a few seconds to absorb the fine view of Holy Cross Mountain, we continued heading west, in order to complete a loop route. The map depicted a trail going to Grass Pass, but we decided to follow Fir Creek out to the highway.

An excellent day on a terrific shoulder-season route.


Starting off

An interesting tree near the road

The tree and the Moon

More branches

The first highpoint ahead

Same as above

The first signs of windy conditions

Same as above

The Tree

Checking out The Tree in calm conditions

Same as above in not so calm conditions

Mark tests the remaining strength of the tree

More snow violence

Same as above

Looking east to the foothills and prairies

One of many stints taking shelter from the wind behind a tree

Another way to avoid the brunt of the wind

Snow piled high by the wind

Same as above with more blowing snow

Heading to the summit

Mark at the summit

Taking photos of Mark at the summit, while I cower behind a snow bank

Same as above

Same as above

Holy Cross Mountain

More cool snow scenery



Holy Cross Mountain again

Snow blowing off the summit ridge of Holy Cross

Clouds and Mount Head

Getting ready to descend to Fir Creek

The pleasant surroundings of Fir Creek