| Mt. of the Holy Cross via Halo Ridge
When I first moved to Colorado last October I had goals of hiking numerous 14ers. I began my job at the top of Vail Mountain and it was here that I first caught a glimpse of the beautiful Mt. of the Holy Cross in the distance. It was at this point that I knew I had to climb that mountain! However, all winter I just stared over at it longingly, knowing the trailhead lay 8 miles behind the road closure and that I did not have enough time to devote to the climb.
As winter passed and early spring approached my time in Vail ended and I moved to Houston, TX as I transitioned from ski bum to high school World History teacher. I did not, however, forget about Holy Cross. As my teacher training went on through the summer I found out I had an unanticipated 5 days of freedom and immediately booked my plane ticket to Denver. This was my chance to get out of the humid Houston and up to Colorado to enjoy some summer activities!
I arrived in Vail on Tuesday night and on Wednesday had enlisted some of my friends to climb Grays Peak. We got an early start and found ourselves in a snowstorm halfway up the peak. We reached the summit in a 20-degree snowstorm. It was quite the experience to say the least. We decided not to summit Torreys Peak because we were not quite ready for the cold weather and the transition from sea level to 14,000 ft in under 12 hours had left me feeling a bit light headed to say the least.
On Wednesday we headed up Mt. Sherman as I completed the Mosquito Range! We enjoyed some beautiful sunny weather and another one of my friends completed her first 14er!! So glad I could accompany her on the journey!
These were wonderful climbs but I was most excited for Saturday, the day in which we planned our ascent of Mt. of the Holy Cross. It had taunted me all winter and I could not wait to climb! My friends and I awoke at 3:30 am and left for the TH at 4 am. We arrived around 5 am and set off for the Halo Ridge before sunrise. It was soothing to hike along the trail in the dark as we prepared ourselves for the long day that awaited us. Of course I forgot my camera and about a ˝ mile into the hike I realized this and had to run back to the car since no one else had a camera. Any morning chill was completely gone after that. My friends kept hiking and I quickly caught back up with them at a clearing right as the sun rose. It was the perfect spot for a quick snack, water break and to get some pictures!
We continued up the trail through the field with beautiful flowers to the cabin on Notch Mountain. Here we saw the Halo Ridge and the massive Mt. of the Holy Cross. We had a perfect blue sky and no clouds so far and were thrilled to begin the Halo Ridge route.
We quickly ascended the first peak, PT 13,248. After snapping a quick success photos we moved onto the next peak, PT 13,373. This part was most difficult for the group due to all the ups and downs of the scrambling. Overall, reaching the summit of this peak seemed to never come and the group’s patience began to wear thin as Holy Cross seemed to elude us. However, the beautiful views of Holy Cross, the Bowl of Tears and Teardrop Couloir and the Gore Range kept our spirits high!
At last we reached the final summit and were off toward the top of Mt. of the Holy Cross. With a quick snack and water break we made our final assault on the peak and before we knew it we were standing on the summit!! The weather could not have been better! There was minimal wind and the fluffy cumulous clouds provided some great contrast for some of the pictures. We relished in our accomplishment, taking a bunch of photos and enjoying some well-earned gummy bears with one of the most beautiful views!
Rested, we looked west and saw rain clouds hovering over some of the other peaks and the clouds beginning to build up. Just like in days prior, we anticipated a late afternoon thunderstorm so we quickly began our descent down the standard north ridge. The clouds, however, seemed to be stalled over the mountains in the distance and did not advance toward us. We kept descending and finally reached the creek after about 8 ˝ hours of hiking. Here lay the final challenge, the final climb up Half Moon Pass. We all gritted our teeth, turned off our minds and turned on beast mode, racing up the pass as fast as possible just to get it over with. This is definitely was a mental challenge, but we all managed, and were elated, to finally begin the final descent to the parking lot! We finally made it to the lot, and in total completed the Halo Ridge ascent and North Ridge descent in 11 hours!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):