I got off work early this day, and didn't want to waste it, so I grabbed two good hiking buddies and headed out the door.. eventually. We were all sorta procrastinating, so didn't get to the TH until 4pm.. oops! But we were okay with that. Headlamps packed away safely, we headed out from the Crosscut TH and picked our path. We had a map just in case, but decided not to use it, and gauged the route by looking as far ahead as possible and crossing our fingers.
I'd been up this way before, but we wanted to try something different. Instead of going so far out of the way to the west, we stuck to a slightly more direct route up a draw. It turns out there is a trail here! Or, at least some sort of remnants of trail. There are tons and tons of cairns going up this draw, as though they are following switchback after switchback. It's really unnecessary, though; the terrain isn't really steep enough. Does anyone know if this is the old trail to the top? Someone had mentioned to me that there was one somewhere in this area, but this is the first I've seen of anything that could resemble that.
We found a couple good campsites and fire rings on the way up as well. One of my favorite parts was getting to the top of the hill below peak 4175, and having to cross a thin ridge across to the Flatiron side. We weren't sure what to do at this point. It looked as though we might have to bail and follow the wash, as it didn't look like the ridge would go all the way across.. but it was good! We moved along and at this point lost the trail. Things got much steeper, and there was lots of scree. We worked ourselves up below peak 5024, where the rock stands completely vertical, and scoped out a spot we thought we could climb up. This is where things got super heady!
We weren't sure we'd be able to make it up the crack system before us. It rose about 20 feet, which sounds short.. but we had hiked up quite a way at this point so the exposure was much greater, not to mention the steep slope below that. Janelle was first in line and took a good look at the crack. She discovered something which instilled confidence in us all -- there were coins stuck in the crack! Someone had been there before, and somehow two pennies and a nickel had become lodged there. Janelle started up the crack, working carefully to the right of a highly intimidating agave plant. She broke it down, and then quickly, carefully, was able to move above it and to the century plant that marked the "anchors." I followed with slight hesitation, working my right elbow into a crack, grabbing a left crimp, and desperately seeking feet on the rounded decaying rock face. I passed through the agave and then Jameson followed. We celebrated at the top with excitement, and then continued on our way.
We'd topped out almost directly below the crash site, so stopped for a moment to pay our respects. This really hit home for me, with a good friend of mine dying in a helicopter accident just weeks before this crash had occurred. In a strange way I think it gave me a little bit of closure, even though it was someone else's tragedy.
We made our way out to the Flatiron, confirming our victory. Then it was the long hike down the trail and into the draw. We kept our headlamps off throughout most of it, as the moon was waxing gibbous and provided more than enough light. It was very peaceful, and suddenly I realized that we hadn't seen anyone else on the trail since virtually the trailhead. We made it back to the car around 9:30pm, thoroughly tired, but extremely satisfied. This route is one I probably wouldn't tire of. Just another way to spice up an old classic!
*just added a photoset.. the pics are not mine, but belong to the other two awesome hikers on this trip*