July 4th, 2012
Route: up - standard route via Halfmoon pass, down - Halo Ridge
Stats: ~13 miles RT, 5,400 elevation gain, 10.25 hours
Mt. Of the Holy Cross was one of the “easiest” 14ers I had left and I was considering “saving” it for a finisher. However, a few considerations made me change my mind.
1) At ~12 miles & 5’600 elevation gain (standard route), it is not an easy hike (and I was thinking of inviting some friends who are more of casual hikers)
2) Weather forecast was looking so bad for the Wilsons group that canceling that trip and making an attempt on Holy Cross as a day trip on July 4th sounded like a reasonable idea.
To be precise, the forecast for the Holy Cross did not look stellar either- “70 percent chance of precipitation after 9am”, but Minturn is a quite a bit shorter drive than Telluride. So on Tuesday, July 3rd I left Denver after work, half-expecting to be back home on the 4th after an attempt on Holy Cross. I made it to the trailhead around 10pm after ~3 hours of driving and promptly hit the sack for the 4am wake-up call. Morning came and I started on the standard (Halfmoon) trail at 5am. Although my preferred route was Halo Ridge, I decided to go up the standard route as fast as I could and see what the weather would look like.
Intense colors of a sunrise are from raging wildfires
First look at Holy Cross from Halfmoon pass
A very long ridge to get up the shoulder
MHC rears its head
Finally the remaining route becomes visible
What's left of Angelica's couloir
Summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross - it is America's Birthday!
I got to the summit around 9.10am and was really surprised to see that the weather still looked good – the thick smoke from the wildfires was obstructing the views, but there were no rain clouds to speak of.
After meeting and chatting briefly with Chicago Transplant (a 14er.com representative disguised as a Forest Service volunteer that morning), off to the Halo Ridge I went. One of my friends gave me the “Colorado 14er Disasters” book as a gift when I first started hiking 14ers two years ago (probably hoping that accounts of the deadly accidents would deter me from hiking the peaks), and the story of Michelle Vanek really stood out to me at the time. On my way to the Holy Cross Ridge, I could not help but think about Michelle – this is not an easy traverse and was probably very difficult for Michelle in her extremely fatigued state.
The Bowl of Tears
Notch shelter across the ridge
Holy Cross Ridge
I made it to the Holy Cross Ridge around 10am, noticed some familiar names on the register and continued. I really enjoyed going down the Halo Ridge and just want to put my vote for this route as a descent route vs. going up. True, there are several “bumps” along the ridge that need to be climbed over or around, but they are going in the right general direction – lower, and the Notch shelter is a welcome beacon, as it is getting closer & closer as you go along. There is almost a two-mile stretch of an “easy” ridge walking, which is good for morale. As I looked back, the higher “bumps” on the ridge (HCR and M.H.C.) looked particularly intimidating, as I knew how much work they involved.
Some easy hiking along the ridge
Bowl of Tears lake from the ridge
Remaining route to the Notch shelter
Are you afraid of spiders? No worries, they are quite small
Notch shelter is getting yet closer
Full view of M. of Holy Cross - not much left of the couloir
After about 3.5 hours on the ridge, I made it to the Notch shelter around 1pm (it was cloudy by then but still no rain).
M.H.C. as seen from the shelter
A rather large marmot
Notch Mountain Trail
Wildflowers are in full bloom
Coasting along a very nice Fall Creek trail, I reached the car just after 3pm. Despite the ominous forecast, the weather held really nicely, so that got me thinking – what if the Wilsons weather forecast could turn out to be as favorable? What if?
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