After reading Gary Roach's comments on the Holy Cross route as a "tough one-day climb" and "climbing Holy Cross in one day... you will maximize impact on yourself. Get in shape for this one!", I was worried that my plans to drive from Denver and climb it the same day were foolish.
I left Denver at 4:30a to arrive at the trailhead at 6:41a. Tigiwon road is easy to find it is right after mile marker 148 after you pass through Minturn. There is also a brown forest sign at the turnoff.
Tigiwon is an easy dirt road, any passenger car can make it up if you pay attention. I did the 8.4 miles in 20 minutes with a very low clearance vehicle:
Even a Prius can navigate the excellent dirt road.
They are conducting a huge logging operation where they seem to be removing all the beetle-kill, i.e. everything. There is also evidence of recent small fires. When you get to the trailhead you'll have no problems. They've graded over the potholes mentioned in previous reports. Perhaps because it was Wednesday, there were only 5 cars in the lot.
Starting at 6:55a, I was worried about the weather even though the skies were blazing blue. The 46° temperature kept me cool as I topped the pass at 7:40 and made it to the creek by 8:15. The way down from the pass gets quite steep. This is the place to install a zipline over to the ridge.
A picture of the plunge to East Cross Creek. 1000 feet down!
There are many side trails to many excellent camping spots at East Cross Creek. Be careful when you do cross the creek as the trail on the other side goes both ways. You want to turn left.
At 9:50, just past the treeline and before I got up on the ridge, I ran into 15 Colorado Fourteener Initiative volunteers. They were doing amazing work putting in rock steps up the hillside. I'm donating more money to this group.
After treeline it is a very long 1.6 miles to the top and you travel mostly on piles of rocks. The trail is reasonably well marked.
Once you are on the ridge, the rest of the route is obvious.
The CFI installed helpful yellow and orange trail markers. These make it much easier to work your way through the rock pile.
It's all rock piles up the ridge and up to the summit.
Incredible! Raspberries at this altitude? Raspberries deep in the rock pile?
It looks like they may even bear fruit.
I watched as this spider detected a gnat hitting his web and ran over and ate the gnat.
At the turn for the final assent you can look down the Angelica Coulior (I made it there at 10:45a). In fact the trail goes a bit too close to the edge for my comfort. This is also a good place to look across and be glad you aren't taking the Halo Ridge route.
You can see the Notch House from the Angelica Coulior.
There is an actual trail to the summit and it is marked with cairns. But it may take you longer to get to the summit if you take time to find it. If you don't follow the trail (and maybe even if you do), you will be using your hands to scramble over some rocks. This isn't technical, it is just a big boulder field. I made the summit at 11:15 and there were no black clouds heading my way.
Yea! The summit. You can see the Notch House and the Bowl of Tears.
A shout out to Steve who hiked with me along the ridge to the summit and back down to below treeline. Trail finding is easier with two and conversation passes the time. It took only 15 minutes to get back to the Angelica Coulior and another hour and a quarter to reach treeline.
Find the Pica.
At 1:55 I was at East Cross Creek. From there it took an hour to reach the top of the pass. Along this section the rain and briefly, some hail, caught up with me. I was at the lot at 3:40 for a total time of 8 hours and 45 minutes. The upshot is no, you don't need to camp at East Cross Creek, no, you don't need to start at 5a and yes you can drive from Denver and do Holy Cross in one day (and a fun day at that).
Along the climb up to the pass, these Columbines were part of a bunch clustered together.
Strawberries on the way back down from the pass.