Mount of the Holy Cross Full Loop:
Fall Creek Trail to Notch Mtn Trail, Traverse to Holy Cross Ridge, Summit M.H.C., Descend Standard Route
Josh (no screenname)
Start Time: 5:10am Sunday July 8th, 2012
I have been looking for a route to gain more experience with exposure without going up to a class 3. Halo Ridge Loop on 14ers.com is rated at a 2+ with a 3/6 for exposure. I figured this would be perfect. Brice has been bugging me about Mt of the Holy Cross for weeks anyways. His friend, Josh, was going to be up in Leadville and decided to come along.
Here's what the plan was. Pack everything up Friday night then work all day Saturday while Josh set up a camp on Fall Creek Trail. Brice and I left from Longmont at 7pm in the middle of a vicious rain storm that flooded I-25. We were detoured down the frontage road and quickly ran into Bass Pro Shop for the propane we forgot.
Finally on I-70 to the trail head. Tigiwon road was easily passable and we had no trouble getting through the mud created earlier in the day in a Ford Taurus. We arrived at the trail head at 11:00pm Saturday night. We made sure we had everything and set off about 1 mile to the campsite that Josh had picked out. We set up a tent a attempted sleeping at midnight.
11:15pm Start to Campsite
For some reason I have trouble sleeping before a big hike, but it doesn't seem to bother me in the morning. Brice said he got about 3-4 hours of sleep and I think Josh got about 5 hours. We woke up at 4am and started making Mountain House Eggs with tortillas and coffee. We all had trouble getting food down that early in the morning.
We set off at around 5:10am. Forty minutes later than planned. It was fairly chilly and we started in beanies and gloves, just to remove them 10 minutes down the trail as are bodies started working. After about 20-25 minutes down Fall Creek we took out right turn (west) on to the Notch Mountain Trail. This was an endless amount of switchbacks that seemed to last forever. The views east we absolutely incredible with low clouds and the sun breaking through them.
Brice and Josh Hiking up Switchbacks
It was a huge relief to gain the ridge where we took a break at the Notch Mountain Shelter. This is the perfect spot for taking pictures of Mt. of the Holy Cross. Unfortunately the cross couloir was pretty well melted to get a good cross picture. We still took our time here as it was a truly amazing experience.
Notch MTN Shelter with Mount of the Holy Cross
Inside Notch MTN Shelter
Although it was very rewarding to get to the shelter we had a huge day still ahead of us. We find out it takes a long time to climb the three 13ers and Holy Cross. Here is a Panoramic Picture of the route we had ahead of us
Panorama of day's adventure
Goal 1: PT. 13248
This was the easiest of the mountains climbed on this route. 20 minutes or so and your on top. We did find a few spots to practice class 3 moves involving pulling your body over a few tall boulders. Most of this was on the backside of PT. 13248. Down climbing this section and the ridge to PT. 13373 were a blast and we all had huge smiles on our faces.
Traverse over to PT 13248
From both PT. 13248 and its saddle with PT. 13373 were more great views of the upcoming catwalk and the bowl of tears. Climbing PT. 13373 was the hardest part of the day and we took about three stops to catch our breath. This entire route involves climbing and descending several times. I do not know the exact elevation gain, but I am assuming for the other trips its around 5,500 feet.
Look at PT 13373 and Catwalk to Holy Cross Ridge
Descend to ridge and up 13373
Holy Cross and Bowl of Tears
Looking back at 13248
Bowl of Tears
From the top of PT. 13373 you begin to see in more detail the remaining route up both Holy Cross Ridge (13831) and Mt of the Holy Cross (14005). The catwalk was very simple and the choke point that is supposed to only be 6 foot wide seemed much wider. The exposure was minimal. There are views south that I was not able to include due to limited space with pictures. You will have to go up and see for yourself. : )
Remaining Route Panorama
Notch Mountain in Clouds
Holy Cross clears of clouds for us
There are several false summit points on the way up Holy Cross Ridge (13831) . From the beginning of the climb you can see the sawtooth shape of the mountain. We took a ten minute break on the top before our final climb up Mount of the Holy Cross. You drop down to 13500ft before ascending to 14005ft. At this point the moisture from the following day had completely risen into the clouds and they were getting ominous and we debated turning around. Word of advice from us, there are no good descending points from Notch Mountain Shelter until the bottom of the North Ridge and this portion took us 3 hours to complete. You are above everything for hours. We did find a good window to summit, but quickly headed down the North Ridge toward treeline. No good summit pictures or summit lunch on this trip. : (
Final Climb to Summit
Panorama from Holy Cross Ridge
Southwest Panorama from Holy Cross Ridge
The ridge was fairly self-explanatory. We stayed on the highest point as that seemed to be the easiest route. I have included a picture I took from over by the shleter. We figured this would be a quick descent, but it was quite the opposite. We moved very slow over loose rock from a very boot worn area. There are numerous boulders to cross and route finding going down was not easy. We got off track and headed slightly too far west and had to find the trail again very close to treeline. Be prepared to spend an hour on this section. This is not something we expected and we were chased by rumbling clouds all the way down. By the time we reached treeline, our feet were killing us. We all rested for about 20 minutes with our boots off.
Time for a quick descent
North Ridge Descent
Finally Reaching Treeline, Break Time
The march through the trees was fairly uneventful. Our morale was shot by this point and all we wanted was to get back to camp and head home. Only one problem, after getting down to the creek you must then climb back up Half Moon Pass. Oh boy. Up we go one more time. This was a long slow climb up much steeper switchbacks than we had at the beginning of the day. The whole day felt like an interval workout were you push hard for 30 minutes and then slow pace for thirty minutes. After reaching the top of the pass I was completely exhausted and took off to tear down camp. I paced between a jog and fast paced walking to get there early and tale some stress of Brice, who wt this point was in pain from a sore ankle.
Brice slips at the end of log crossing. Thank God for Waterproof boots
Final Views of Holy Cross and waterfall
This was a great trip, but do plan on an early start. I would begin this around 3am to be in treeline before afternoon storms. Our route took around 13 hours not including going back up fall creek trail for our tent and other gear. This is one of the most beautiful places I have every hiked. I typically take about 150 pictures on a trip. I have 380 from this one and I wish I could share all of them with you.
Thank you for reading and I hope we get someone to do Halo Ridge someday. I wish a safe trip to everyone going out this week. Watch for storms.
“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice