With Tigwon Road being closed all summer, I had all but written off attempting Holy Cross this year. The 8 mile slog to the trailhead sounded really appealing and all, but I always seemed to find another peak to climb instead - though from other summits I often found myself staring forlornly at Holy Cross. But after hearing that the Forest Service had actually stuck to their word and re-opened the road on October 16, I decided to join up with the group being organized by Karthik and give it a shot.
I picked up Randy (flintster) in Littleton at about 3:30 and headed to the Halfmoon trailhead, where we met up with Karthik (TheOtherIndian), Grant (grcr0941), Paula (paula), Keegan, and Brent. It was chilly but not too bad considering it was late October! We started the ascent to Halfmoon Pass just before sunrise.
Mt. Jackson from Halfmoon Pass
We made reasonable time to the pass, and even more reasonable time on the steep descent to East Cross Creek (even though I knew I would be in much pain re-climbing the pass later that day).
Thin ice on East Cross Creek
After regrouping at the creek, we started uphill to meet the north ridge. There was already a fair amount of snow in the trees but hikers earlier in the week had tramped a solid trail (thanks!).
Heading uphill again
Upon reaching the ridge we were greeted by the warmth of the sun. The wind had been variable all morning but it was never too strong. We were looking at the makings of a perfect fall day.
Finally some sunlight!
Once on the ridge, progress seemed to slow. The north ridge is long but relatively mellow.
By the time I rounded the corner and began the final summit push, the group was pretty spaced out. I finally topped out at about 11:30 to find Grant, Keegan, and Brent already hanging out.
Probably the biggest crowd HC has seen all year!
Bowl of Tears and the East Cross Creek drainage
After taking our time on the summit, the four of us decided to head down. Shortly below the summit we found the remainder of the group - we decided to keep moving and regroup at the creek crossing.
For whatever reason the ridge seemed to be even longer going the other direction. It took about two hours (and a fair amount of slipping on the snow) to reach the creek. Brent and Keegan decided to keep motoring back to the trailhead while Grant and I waited for the rest of the group. I discovered the big flat rock next to the creek crossing made a nice napping spot. Eventually Randy appeared and we decided to get moving. As I predicted earlier, the re-ascent of Halfmoon Pass was quite painful, but we eventually made it.
Almost back to Halfmoon Pass...
Another mile and a half and we were back at the trailhead - almost 10.5 hours after leaving! Grant, Karthik, and Paula ended up getting back about an hour after us.
On the drive out we were able to survey the work done by the logging crews all summer. They removed an amazing number of trees. The scene reminded me of pictures taken after the Mt. St. Helens eruption - trees piles up like sticks.
Pile of trees
This was a long and grueling hike, but well worth the effort. With the road closure, I feel that we were some of the lucky few to summit this year (and I was able to write one of the handful of 2011 Holy Cross trip reports!). All in all, it was a great way to end the season and yet another great day in the mountains. Climb on!