Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  09/04/2008
Date Climbed:   09/03/2008
Author:  KevinK
 Another Halo ridge horror story   

Having already summitted 27 centennials so far this summer, my plans of finishing the 14ers next year seemed to be falling into place nicely. I was putting together trips to get a few more peaks this fall but due to the impending road closure Holy Cross was the one I really needed to get done this year. Tuesday night I checked on the fantastic weather forcast for the next day and packed my bag for an attempt on the Halo ridge route.

My alarm sounded at 3:40 and I quickly made a smoothie (my neighbors must hate me) and headed out the door for my drive to the trailhead. A short while later, at 5:00, I was heading up the Fall creek trail towards the Notch shelter and the Halo ridge above. As I began to approach treeline I was treated to a spectacular sunrise.


This route has always intrigued me and I was excited to do it solo to see how fast I could finish. I seemed to be making pretty good time as I topped off at point 13248 (about 3000 ft and 5.5 miles) in three hours including breaks, water filtering, collecting some porcini mushrooms and a visit to the shelter.


The sun was shining and I was really enjoying myself as I cruised across the next part of the ridge. Things were just kind of lining up really well and though there is no trail, large blocks mixed with occasional nice grassy sections were providing an excellent route. At this rate I figured that I'd be on Holy Cross in another couple hours.


Suddenly everything changed. Stepping down between two boulders my ankle rolled violently to the side. I heard a popping noise that I knew was probably a ligament but that I hoped was just the explosion of pain in my head. A wave of heat rolled through my body as I struggled to pull off some layers. I sat there stunned and disbelieving in the rocks, resting as I contemplated my situation. I was at about the worst place in the route this could have happened, about halfway through my loop. I briely considered moving forward as I knew I would have more help on the standard route but the extra 2000+ of vertical going that way quickly discouraged me. Though it was only 8:30 the clouds were suddenly beginning to build very quickly, I knew that they would probably roll by but I had no idea how well I'd be able to move and knew I needed to head down. At this point I had about a mile of no longer pleasant boulder hopping and then five miles of trail back to my car. After nixing the idea of taking off my boot to survey the damage I laced it up tighter instead and began to pick my way slowly back down the ridge. Luckily I hike with poles (past ankle issues) and was able to make my way along without putting too much weight on my foot.

After a little while I took a break back below pt. 13248 to make some phone calls. First I checked in with a couple of friends to see if I could get anyone to start heading up the trail with some crutches. Then I called mtn. rescue to inform them of my location and predicament. I told them that I was working my way down, feeling OK and well prepared but unsure if I'd be able to walk the whole way out. I planned to call them again after a little while and began to put my phone away when I realized that my phone was nearly drained of batteries. I don't know whether it was the cold or the constant wandering in and out of signal but I was suddenly about to be cut off from help and hadn't seen another hiker all day. I had already figured that I'd probably have to walk out myself but this pretty much sealed the deal. I made my way back to the Notch mtn. shelter and used the phone one more time to call mtn. rescue and inform them of my plans, I told them that I was headed down on the trail myself but that they could feel free to send someone up with crutches and a splint, otherwise I expected to take about 6-7 hours to get down and would call them by then if I was alright.

I worked my way painfully back down the trail as the hours dragged by. After a couple of miles I stopped to take 2/3 of a percocet I had in my emergency kit which helped a little bit. I also met a couple groups of hikers heading on day hikes to the shelter which was encouraging. The trail seemed to go on forever as I fantasized about helicopters, crutches and time travel. Finally, six long hours after my injury I hobbled up to the safety of my car. I had an icepack wrapped around a beer in my cooler and decided to enjoy these (as well as the last 1/3 percocet) before my drive out. As I removed my boot my ankle promptly swelled up to gargantuan proportions and became too painful to put any weight on, good thing I had left my boot on earlier and didn't have to crawl out.

I hope you all enjoy this report and maybe get something useful out of it. Though it was a pretty crappy day and probably will end my season prematurely it really did help to drive home a few points for me:

-Always carry percocet (or some other strong painkiller)
-Always carry poles when hiking solo, I don't think I could have made it out without them
-Always make sure people know exactly where you are going (especially solo)
-Be especially careful at the furthest out or least accessable points on your route
-If you bring a phone, make sure it is fully charged and keep it switched off to avoid roaming or cold killing the battery
-Holy Cross is bad news (just kidding, I'll be back ASAP to crush this route)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Comments or Questions
Jon Frohlich

09/04/2008 19:05
Sorry to hear about your day. Sounds like you did all the right things to get down though. I‘ll be up there next summer if you feel like trying again.

Layne Bracy

Yikes! (but nice photos)
09/04/2008 20:29
That is one of my worst-case scenarios, since I often hike alone (without poles or percocet). Glad you made it out OK! Layne

09/04/2008 21:08
Thanks for reminding me of my vulnerability on the mountains, and thanks for the great advice. Poles it is!


09/04/2008 21:27
Glad to hear you were prepared to make your own evac. This is one HUGE reason why I just got the SPOT messenger, carry poles and wear large ankle protecting boots. Hopefully the damage to the ankle isn‘t too bad, so you can get back out there soon! Get PT otherwise, it‘s SOOO worth it. I made it back out hiking in 3 months after a bad Type II ankle sprain.


One question -
09/04/2008 21:55
how would i get a hold of said painkillers? =) That sucks - sorry that happened to you. =(


09/04/2008 23:44
Hey...hope you get that ankle taken care of so you can get back out there.
That‘s a nice route/loop you were on, and it‘s worth going back for.

Kudos for being prepared for such an unfortunate accident.
And good job on your self-rescue.

janaynay: I think moonnugs will be getting plenty more of ”said painkillers” after this episode!


Well Done!
09/05/2008 13:48
Getting out ok is everything.
I hope this does not put you out too long, I also hope this does not f... with your snowboarding this season. Whatever the case keep us posted. BTW I enjoyed our brief encounter on Snowmass, it was good to climb with you.
Get well soon.

Mel McKinney

Hoping for a quick recovery
09/05/2008 16:58
Moonnugs, sorry to hear about your injury. Sounds like you had it under control (Thank Heavens for Percocet!). Since I‘m also in the Happy Valley, let me know if you need anything.

Jim Davies

09/05/2008 20:40
Wow, that is a scary situation. Kudos for keeping your head and handling it so well. Heal fast!


Spot, a bit expensive
09/05/2008 21:04
The Spot messenger is a way to send (pre-written) OK, Help and 911 messages. So a bit different than a beacon (used only in emergency), and much less expensive. Amazon has a sale currently for $132 or so. Then it‘s just $100/yr for the subscription.

Since I‘ve done quite a few solo backpacks/hikes in Alaska and Colorado, where cell phones don‘t work, it‘s peace of mind for me and my family & friends.


09/06/2008 21:34
Kevin, I‘m really glad you‘re okay and am seriously impressed with how you handled yourself and the situation. Heal fast so we can hit the slopes this winter!


09/07/2008 16:03
Be prepared for your foot to turn a rainbow of colors. I had a similar injury, and it turned red, purple, and black from the internal bleeding. It‘s bummer that you‘ll have to miss some fall hiking, but it‘s worth taking the time to let it heal properly.


The Dreaded Sprained Ankle
09/08/2008 17:26
Kevin: Glad you made it out in relatively good shape. Your story underscores how easily a sprained ankle can happen and how serious it can be in the high country. We are all one ankle twist away from spending an uncomfortable night (or two) in the middle of nowhere. Greg


Sorry to hear of your injury...
09/08/2008 22:10
Get well soon, Kevin!

I‘m glad you made it out OK.


Thanks all
07/20/2010 14:06
Thanks for the kind words everyone. It‘s definitely a beautiful area and I‘ll be getting back out there for those summits as soon as I can.

Layne: Definitely one of my worst case scenarios as well, after I heal it ought to toughen me up some.

Bergsteigen: I‘m with you on the high boots and poles. I might have to look into a spot messenger as well, is that like a personal locator beacon? Do they still cost hundreds of $?

Jaynaynay: I always seem to just have leftovers around. Before they were from wisdom teeth and now, as D-baker said, I‘ll have some from my ankle


Holy Schnikes
01/19/2011 03:38
Kevin, I‘m glad you made it out ok (and that you had your poles )
I‘ll cross my fingers that you heal in time for a peak or two before the lifts start.

   Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.