On July 1st, the Kloser family of Vail made a high camp below Mount of the Holy Cross, a Colorado 14er known for its easterly cross shaped feature consisting of a couloir and horizontal snowfield.
The next day, Mike Kloser and his progeny, Heidi, age 12, and Christian, age 11, climbed and backcountry skied the Cross couloir, one of Colorado’s most well known extreme ski routes IV D11 R3. Even at their early age, Mike’s well prepared team had years of practice under their boots. They’d previously climbed numerous 14ers, were well versed in snow climbing techniques such as self-arrest, and as ski-town residents have the requisite downhill skills for just about any descent. While skiing such terrain is not for everyone (or every family), it’s gratifying to see the practice and preparation that led up to the Kloser’s descent. I’ve always advocated taking a careful and serious approach to our Colorado 14ers, nice to see the Klosers doing the same — and reaping the rewards.
Mike Kloser is one of Colorado’s most gifted athletes, he’s known for his success in endurance sports and is a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
According to Kloser’s wife Emily, who was also along on the trip (but didn’t ski):
On Friday evening July 1st, we hiked in and camped at tree line just below Bowl of Tears. Heidi, age 12, and Christian, age 11, carried all their own equipment in on the sometimes tedious and mosquito ridden climb. We set out at 6 am July 2nd for the Cross. Two teams were ahead of us but Mike picked a great route and we were now leading the groups. At 7:42 we arrived at the bottom of the Cross Couloir. Mike rigged some safety ropes across the couloir. Two climbers set out at 7:55, then Mike, Heidi and Christian and two other climbers began the ascent at 8:05. The kids, with their skis on their backs, crampons on boots and ice axes in hand, passed the climbers ahead and climbed out of the couloir right at 9:00am. I waited at the ski out since I recently had ACL surgery (and was relieved that I had an excuse not to ski the Cross.)
With the snow condition as close to perfect as they get for this time of year, the three clicked in to their bindings and began the ski. After stopping several times so dad could get more photos, they were back down to my location in the couloir. The first words from Heidi were, "Let’s go do it again!"
On a serious note: This was not a whim. Mike had carefully planned this for years. The kids have practiced their "self-arrest" skills on steep snow fields for years. They have climbed 30 of the 14ers. They know how to move quickly and efficiently on talus and steep slopes. They are both very solid and accomplished skiers. And most importantly, it was something they wanted to do.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.