| Halo to North Ridge and the 13ers in Between!
We opted to go for Holy Cross via the Halo Ridge route and back to the trailhead via the (standard) North Ridge route. We knew we were looking at roughly 13 miles round trip and 5,400’ elevation gain. In other words, we had a long day ahead of us!
Knowing we were in for a big day we took Friday off of work. This allowed us to take our time getting to the trailhead the day before but perhaps more importantly it allowed us wake up at the trailhead ready to go. Though in retrospect maybe it’s better said that it forced us to wake up and go since we were already committed and the cold early morning prevented us from thinking too much about what lay ahead!
Brief note: being the shoulder season Vail was dead and believe it or not we struggled a little finding a reasonable place to grab dinner. I recommend anyone doing a similar thing should push on just a few minutes more to Minturn as there are plenty of establishments to choose from.
At the trailhead we found 7 new campsites (with a bathroom) all in very good condition. They were so new in fact that the $10 per night sign was up but not the box to collect the fee – pity, though we would have gladly paid as it would have been well worth it.
Up the next morning at 5:00 am and on the trail at 6:00 am before sun-up. The Gore range looking jagged and yet also inviting. Sadly my photo is a little washed out. This looked much better in person – or was the red from my bleary eyes?
Just over 2 miles in, the below sign guides you to the right to the Notch Mountain Trail. (If there is a God show me a sign!)
Up through the trees and on we go. Sadly this is what my view would be most of the day, me lagging behind Steve and Jared. Even early on I felt like my get up and go had got up and went.
Having gotten through the 30 or so switchbacks, we were rewarded with our first sighting of the Notch Mountain Shelter at roughly 9:00 am. Our first 13er of the day to the upper right.
Some hardy souls spent the previous night in the Shelter and I heard some even brought wood for a fire! Lugging firewood up to just over 13,000’? That’s what I’d call dedication!
The Shelter and the view of Holy Cross were a big reason we chose this route. I’ve heard that the Shelter was actually built shortly after the turn of the century as a church for the faithful. I suppose what better place than in the presence of the mighty cross. The Shelter and the Cross Couloir in the background – there but for the grace of God go I…
The happy wanderers taking a break.
The three 13ers we'd have to cover to get to our main goal of Holy Cross summit was, well, just a masochist’s dream!
On we go…
A couple of looks back at the Shelter from the first 13er, Point 13,248.
Another shot of the Cross Coulior. It would be great to come back when spring snow fills the couloir and give it a go.
Putting things in perspective.
There’s some brief scrambling and boulder hopping and you’re over Point 13,248. The route between 13ers is gentle. We hardly saw any of the famed spiders – though maybe they had already retired for the season?
Unranked Point 13,373 in the center. We found ourselves wondering, what makes a peak ranked and another “unranked”? Hmmm…
Point 13,831 to the center right. For those keeping track, this is a Centennial Peak – or one of the 100 tallest in the state. It just squeaks in at #93.
The 6’ wide catwalk before Point 13,831. Not difficult at all but beautiful views of the lakes in both directions!
Getting closer – the final push to the summit.
Success! The tired but happy travelers on top at roughly 12:30 pm.
After eating and taking in the amazing fall views it was time to head back down. A photo along the North Ridge route.
The ridge is very rocky but the route is extremely well maintained. Giant cairns mark the way.
With it being such a dry year the fall colors were out early. Just amazing…
At 2:30 pm and with aching legs and feet we reached the East Cross Creek. It looks like I’m pondering something but probably closer to the truth is I’m just struggling to go on!
A beautiful shot by Steve – his photos were much better than mine.
Near the bottom of Half Moon Pass were some great views of Holy Cross.
The aspens continued to show their colors throughout the day.
We made it back to the trailhead, our cars and our coolers (thank God!) at 4:00 pm, each of us wiped out but very glad we choose the route we did.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):