Difficulty: Class 3
Round-trip Distance: 13 miles
Elevation Gain: 5400'
The Halo Ridge route on Mt. of the Holy Cross is a fantastic route that circles around the mountain, passing by the Notch Mountain Shelter which was built in 1924, as well as providing beautiful views of the Cross Couloir and Bowl of Tears. Since our route ascended the Halo Ridge from Halfmoon Pass and came down the standard North Ridge, we got to see the mountain from all angles!
The Gore Range
Approaching Halfmoon Pass
From Halfmoon Pass, we located an evident, although much less traveled, trail that winds around to the east side of Notch Mountain and works its way up to the ridge.
Gaining the ridge on Notch Mtn
First view of Holy Cross
We crested the ridge and scrambled up to the summit of Notch Mtn. From there, we got the full, classic view of the Cross Couloir (despite being somewhat melted out):
Our next obstacle was the notch itself. While this was the crux of our climb, the difficulty, we found, could be kept to Class 3 by traversing to the right and locating cairns and trail segments that traverse beneath the ridge.
Scrambling down to the notch
Our route around the ridge
A cool lake in the valley
Eventually, we crested the ridge and there, below us, was the shelter!
The next peak to be climbed was PT 13,248', which is a short Class 2 scramble from the shelter.
Looking back at Notch Mtn and the shelter
After PT 13,248', the ridge got rockier and our pace slowed down a bit as we scrambled and rock-hopped to the next point in the ridge (not a thirteener):
As we traversed, the Bowl of Tears came into view:
Holy Cross and the Bowl of Tears
Looking back at the traverse so far
Scrambling back up to the ridge
Soon, we topped out and saw the final stretch to Centennial 13er Holy Cross Ridge (13,831'), our last obstacle before Holy Cross!
Bowl of Tears
Looking back at Notch Mtn
Climbing up to HCR
Tuhare Lakes to the south
On top of HCR, all that was left was a Class 2 traverse:
Holy Cross - not far now!
HCR from near the summit
Summit benchmark - success!
As we relaxed on the summit, admiring the long ridge that we had conquered, the clouds quickly gathered and, realizing that we were 6 miles from the car, we took off down the standard North Ridge, figuring that it would be faster than descending the way we came.
Back down the North Ridge
Colorful stream to the east
The rain started falling as we got back to treeline. Now, all we had to do was grind out just about 1000' vertical back over Halfmoon Pass, completing the 360-degree loop, and hike down to the car. The re-climb over the pass really wasn't bad, and the great views of Holy Cross made it more enjoyable.
Back up Halfmoon Pass...
Parting shot of the Mt. of the Holy Cross
One thing we all wished that we had was bug spray, as the mosquitoes were quite bad, so if you're planning to climb Holy Cross soon, don't forget to bring bug spray!
Over the pass we went, and soon we were back at the trailhead! What a great day on a beautiful, classic route.