I had been itching to climb Holy Cross since reading many sad stories of people gone missing. When I found out that t my fiance was going to be out of town for the weekend, I knew this was my chance. I called a few of my buddies to find someone available and with some last minute planning we settled on ascending by the Halo Ridge route and would descend the standard North Ridge.
We got to the Tigiwon Rd. closure around 6:30, by 6:45 we were on our bikes riding the 8 miles and 2200 feet to Halfmoon Campground. Each of us carrying 30+ lbs of gear. Next time I bringing a filter and will pump water at the TH. The bike to the TH was tough, I got off many times and pushed it up the road. By mile 4 I was ready to turn around, but my partner was waiting for me at the Community House at mile 5 so I had to keep going. It got a little easier at parts which kept me motivated to keep moving. At the end of 2 grueling hours we made it to the campground and set up our tent, ate some food, drank some water and called it a night.
We set the alarm for 4:15 and were out on the trail by 4:45. After about an hour of hiking, the trees cleared and we were greeted with a sunrise.
Sunrise over Holy Cross Wildnerness
We found the turnoff for the Notch Mountain trail and begin the ascent back and forth up all the switchbacks. I didn't count, but it had to be more than 40. As you round the last turn, you can catch a glimpse of the shelter and you know you're close to the top.
Notch Mountain Shelter and Cross
The sun was shining on the shelter and cross. Blue skies all around. We rested for about 20 minutes, surveyed the blue skies and gave ourselves the go ahead to start on the Halo Ridge.
start of the Halo Ridge
There are lots of up and downs on the ridge, but nothing harder than class 2. It was pretty easy to stay on "trail" as we stayed on the ridge top for the majority of the climb. There are quite a few summits along the way, but the scenery was breathtaking in all directions.
Alpine lakes (not sure which ones)
somewhere in the middle
The final summit is never out of sight and tempts you the entire time. It seemed to take forever to get around the halo, and was a huge relief once we were staring at nothing but Holy Cross. The last short scramble to the top was hard, but since we knew we were near our adrenilne kicked in and propelled us to the top.
We spent about 30 minutes on the summit enjoying the views and solitude. Our names were the only ones I the summit register and we didn't see anyone coming up the standard route or coming up behind us. Pretty cool to know (assume?) that you were the only pair to be on top of a mountain on any given day.
Clouds were starting to build so we decided to get a move on. We started the descent and after reading that many people get lost by descending too fast we were sure to stay as close to the ridge as possible. There are many cairns to lead the way and when we did lose the trail through the rocks we stayed on top of the ridge until we found it again. There were these strange markers along the route every 5-10 feet. Not sure what they are, seemed to be too many of them to be actual trail markers.
The trails descends to I think East Cross Creek. It was running pretty swiftly but there was a log to walk across.
After the creek crossing the trail climbs a final 1,000 feet to just below tree line and then descends back to Halfmoon Campground. We got back to camp at 2:25 PM making for a 9 hour and 40 minute day. We packed up camp, hopped on our bikes and rode mostly DOWNHILL back to the car. Stopped in Minturn for a burger and brew and then sat in traffic until, arriving back in Denver at 8:00.
Overall, it was a great 20 hours in the Holy Cross Wilderness. The road closure nearly put an end to my plans this summer, but in the end I think it made the trip more rewarding and definitely more secluded. If you've got a bike and want an adventure I can't think of a better way to experience all this beautiful mountain has to offer than the journey I took this past weekend.
Tigiwon Road closure to Halfmoon CG - 2.25 hours
Halfmoon CG - Notch Mountain Shelter - 2.5 hours
Shelter to Holy Cross Summit - 3.5 hours
Summit to Halfmoon CG - 3 hours
Halfmoon CG to Tigiwon Road closure - 35 minutes (had to change out a flat tire)