Whitecross  Mountain – 13,542

RT Length: 7.45 miles

Elevation Gain: 3288’

Once again, just like with Sundog, I was staying near the Cooper Creek trailhead, to both give me added miles and also more peace and quiet.  I waved to my neighbors camping across the way, but they didn’t seem up for conversation.  No worries:  I put together a trip report and made it an early night.  I was on the trail at 4:30am. 

I made it to the Redcloud/Sunshine trailhead before 5am, and once again, it was bustling with hikers getting ready for their day.  Surprisingly, none of them made their way over to Handies Peak. I turned right, and took the Grizzly Gulch trail up into the basin.

There was an information board, a bridge to cross, and a register to sign.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ve already hiked Handies Peak and know the approach.  If not, it’s an easy, well maintained, class 1 trail to the basin.

At around 11860’ of elevation, I turned and left the trail.  It was just over a runnel crossing, and before a section of willows.   I headed northwest, up to the ridge of Whitecross. 

Here’s my overall route. Please note, the actual summit is hidden.

And some step-by-step photos.  Initially, I skirted the willows to the right

Then I found a large boulder, and skirted it to the left.  (It was the only boulder in a sea of tundra, and difficult to miss).

In times without snow, I’d just aim for the ridge.  However, there was a cornice lining the ridge, so I stayed under the snow.  This worked well.

The tundra was steep.  On the way down I’d use microspikes for tractions, but none was needed on the way up.  I kept aiming for the rock outcropping, careful to skirt the messy areas.

Once again, in a year without snow, it would be prudent to take the dotted line.  Today, I took the solid line up a side gully.

I was aiming for these three spires

The gully was a mix of tundra and scree

When I got to the top I turned left, and realized this had been a false summit. The true summit is just a little bit to the northwest.

I cursed myself for leaving my ice axe in the car.  I put on my microspikes, lowered my trekking pole to the size of an ice axe, and hoped the snow was solid.  It was!  I was able to easily make my way across.  Here’s my route:

I was lucky the snow was in perfect conditions:  A fall wouldn’t have been fun.

Once past this area, it was a quick walk to the summit

I summited Whitecross at 7:15am


From the summit you could see Handies Peak, and the ridge. It was starting to snow lightly, and remembering the last time I was in the area, and got caught I several storms while climbing Handies Peak, I decided to head back. 

Here’s my route off the summit

The area with snow was sketchier on the way down than it had been on the way up, as there was a bit of downclimbing and a trust move involved.  Luckily, the snow was the perfect consistency.  My main concern would have been to have fallen through/postholed, but that didn’t happen this early in the morning. 

And now to head back down the gully

I kept my microspikes on for this part, and all the way until I made it back to the trail.  It was pretty straightforward.  Here’s my route:

When I made it to the trail I took off my microspikes as it started to snow a little harder.  I followed the trail back to the trailhead

I made it back to the trailhead, and followed the road back to my truck.

I made it back to my camping spot at 9am, making this a 7.45 mile hike with 3288’ of elevation gain in 4.5 hours.

On to the next trailhead!

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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