Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  04/24/2012
Date Climbed:   04/21/2012
Author:  Cool Hand Luke

 "Miles from nowhere, guess I'll take my time"  

Ever since I saw Jackson's photo of Holy Cross I knew it was a climb I wanted to do. The only problem was getting there. Never hearing a comment of "Lake Patricia approach was awesome, can't wait to do it again!" I started looking at other options. I also wanted to do Halo Ridge with snow, so the decision was made to try to link the two routes together.

I left the winter TH at 7:30 PM Friday to hike part-way up the road. I was welcomed to the area with a gorgeous sunset over the valley. Image
Sun setting Friday evening

After scaring up a few elk darkness set in. Still hiking at a brisk pace I came near some felled timber by the road. Immediately I heard a loud growl and I froze in my tracks. I pulled out my bear spray and began to yell "get out of here." I never saw the animal, but by the sounds of it clumsily running away I believe it was a bear. I also like to believe it was the sheer ferociousness of my voice that made the animal decide to turn tail, and since this was a solo trip that belief cannot be debated.

After yelling for a few more minutes I continued on to the Tigawon Cabin, bear spray in hand. Unfortunately the cabin was locked, but the porch looked like a great resting place for the night. I woke up to a great view of the Gore Range that I could not see the night before, sometimes the view at first light tells it will be a good day.Image
First views of the morning

After reaching Halfmoon TH I began to break trail on the Fall Creek Trail. It was surprisingly easy to follow, minus several downed trees. Image
Fall Creek Trail

After reaching the turnoff to Notch Mountain trail-finding was a different story. I consulted my map and just headed in a westerly direction, knowing the ridge would eventually come. Upon gaining the ridge I first saw several mountains and though "hmmm, that's funny, the Cross isn't very evident." After turning the corner the mountains kept looming higher and higher, and my jaw dropped lower and lower. Finally, Holy Cross came into view, dwarfing everything around it. It was a great feeling to finally see the mountain in-person. Image
First Sighting

After a quick lunch and the shelter I started the ridge full-pack with the plan of bivying in the perfect weather. The summit of Pt. 13,248 came fast, and the views got even better. I looked back at my tracks to the shelter and Cat Steven's Miles from Nowhere kept repeating in my head.Image
Pt. 13248
Halo Ridge with snow is absolutely breath-taking, and I had to remind myself to watch where I was going instead of scanning the views around me. Snowshoes still on, I reached Pt. 13,373 and took a break and soaked in the views. Image

Tired, but still feeling ok, I continued on to Pt. 13,831. Upon reaching the summit I signed the register and surprise, surprise, Steve Gladbach and Britt were the last people to sign it, in calender winter too. After stashing snowshoes rock-hopping was much welcomed. After several obvious false summits I found myself standing on top of Holy Cross with fantastic views and great weather. Not eating since lunch I was rather hungry and decided to try to cook a dehydrated meal on top, my JetBoil worked like a champ and my energy levels began to increase. Image
Rewarding summit view
Happy camper

It was 6 PM with moderate cloud-cover. The Cross had been in the shade a while so I decided to check the snow conditions and they seemed ok. I made fast work descending the Cross and dug a bivy spot in a rock-fall-free area after the exit point. Turning off my headlamp for the night the snow on the mountains intensified and I began to wonder if I was a little off my rocker for having the time of my life being alone and sleeping on the side of a mountain. Anyways, sleep came fast with Miles from Nowhere still on repeat in my head.

The next morning I woke up and knew the day would be tough. The Cross receives sunlight immediately in the morning so I wanted to make it up as soon as possible. The snow conditions were not great and I felt it was too soft for comfort. Nearing the top snow balls began to fall from the side rocks and it was time to boogie. In a few minutes I was back on the summit and tearing into breakfast.

The descent went by rather quickly and I was back at the shelter ahead of schedule. The descent was uneventful, but long. After reaching Halfmoon the road had dried considerably and it was easy to make good time.

This was one of the most fun trips I have been on in CO; the views were breath-taking and the isolation was welcomed. Upon reaching the car with an ear-to-ear smile I knew it was worth every ounce of effort.


Catchy closing pic

-Snowshoes were helpful all the way to Pt. 13,831 right now
-Notch Mountain Shelter is not locked
-Be mindful of cornices from Pt. 13,248 on
-Great bivy spot in the flat area between 13,373 and 13,831 (weather-pending of course)
-Hiking poles were one of the best pieces of gear I brought for this trip

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Where do the children play
04/25/2012 04:04
Way to kill it Luke! This is wicked! Glad you had a great time up there.


Nicely done!
04/25/2012 04:46
Looks amazing man! Well earned!


Nice Pics!
04/25/2012 12:23
Amazing pictures! Guess I will have to make it up there soon. Great report.


04/25/2012 12:48
Great solo adventure! Can't wait to give this one a shot myself.


04/26/2012 01:33
so you summited, then down climbed the cross, and then climbed back up it? That's awesome. Nice job man. Looks like a lot of fun.


04/26/2012 03:08
I don't know much about this hike at all and can't quite tell from the routes descriptions but is Tigiwon Road closed before the trailhead to a certain time of the year? I was actually thinking of doing Holy Cross this Friday but am not sure it's doable in a day. Any help/insight would be much appreciated!

Cool Hand Luke

04/26/2012 03:46
Thanks for all the encouraging comments and interest in the route. Let me know if you have any specific beta questions, happy to help.

Abe-Thanks for introducing me to Cat Stevens on the San Juan trip, let me know when you want to do Halo Ridge too.

Mrwaffles- Correct, summited, down climbed the Cross, bivied, and came back up. Can't say when I woke up in the morning it seemed like a great idea, but in hindsight it makes sense. Looks like you had some cool lines on Democrat, good job!

dfrizzle- The winter closure on Tigiwon is about 7-8 miles one-way below the standard Halfmoon TH, which makes the RT mileage about 30-32 depending on which route you take. Right now I would allow 2 full days minimum. Most years Tigiwon opens on June 20th, which makes a long day hike possible.


Cool Luke
04/26/2012 13:57
Luke, very nice shots of the mountain and looks like you had a nice ”relaxing” stroll!


very creative
04/27/2012 20:27
that area just has so many options, i like this one, i commend you for your efforts and moxie. what were the conditions like on the road to the TH, how far did you hike till you hit snow?

Cool Hand Luke

04/28/2012 00:33
Thanks, Barry. The only thing missing was on Old Chub hidden in the river at the end.

SchralpTheGnar- Completely agree with you, the options are endless and most people only touch a small portion of the wilderness. Definitely want to go back and explore some of the other areas.

The road was melting out fast, on the way down I crossed maybe 15 snow fields, the longest of which was about 100 yards. All the remaining fields are well packed and begin around the Tigawon Cabin roughly 5 miles in. There are about 5 downed trees if you are thinking of biking with a trailer, but unless the area gets more snow the road won't be a problem in my opinion.


Great TR
01/27/2014 00:57
Summiting, Bivuacing, and then going back up is damn cool. I was curious how heavy your pack was?

Cool Hand Luke

Re Great TR
03/20/2014 07:16
Thank you, cbrobin. I tried to go as light as I safely could on the route and used an ultralight frameless pack. Total weight would be around 32 lbs.

*Edit* I just used the same set-up for another winter climb and the weight was right at 32 again. I started the habit of laying out each meal individually instead of just throwing whatever food I think I may eat in my pack, helps save a little weight.

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