Colorado Fourteeners Initiative makes Mount of the Holy Cross safer

Trail work, markers and cairns such as this one on the north ridge route of Mount of the Holy Cross are examples of things that have made the peak safer. The mountain has in the past been a scene where people have gotten lost.

There was a time not long ago where I read an article calling Colorado’s Mount of the Holy Cross a “Bermuda Triangle” of the Rockies.

The mountain is tucked away at the northern edge of the Sawatch Range, in a fairly remote section of western Colorado. In recent years, it’s also been a place where people have gotten lost and have needed rescue. There has been at least one case in which someone disappeared there and was never seen again. More commonly, people have told stories about getting lost coming down the mountain’s summit.

A lot of this has been blamed on route-finding difficulties as hikers descend. Make a wrong turn above treeline, and you could end up taking a trail that will get you lower, but will take you away from the main route leading you back to the trailhead. That can spell real trouble.

At least, that used to be the case. A nonprofit group called the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, which is dedicated to preserving these mountains and building safe, sustainable trails for people who hike and climb them, recently did some work on Mount of the Holy Cross. In addition to sectioning off areas for restoration and general trail maintenance, volunteers put in a lot of work to clearly mark the correct route off the mountain. Improved trails and easy-to-see cairns (some of these are as tall as me) look to have made route-finding problems much less serious than before.

I can’t say what it was like before this work was done, but during an ascent of the peak last weekend, I can tell you that it would be difficult to lose your way now.

CFI crews work hard in remote places, moving large rocks, digging and building up trails. They do this at altitudes of 10,000 feet and up. Just walking that high is too taxing for most people. Imagine doing heavy-duty landscaping at 12,000 feet!

The end result is sustainable, safer routes for hikers, backpackers and climbers. As a nonprofit group, CFI depends a lot on donations. If you enjoy hiking and climbing these peaks, look up CFI and consider giving them a donation. You can learn more about CFI here, and more about how to donate here.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

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