Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2012
Date Climbed:   07/19/2012
Author:  ChrisM
 No Halo for Me  

I had been saving this mountain for last. Something not too easy and not too difficult. Since climbing plans fell apart for various reasons and I was committed to take the time off from work, I decided to at least pick off the low hanging fruit that I knew I could pick by myself.

I had just read a TR where someone had gone all the way around on the halo and I thought that was a great adventure that I should try. I drove to the TH with a little help from my wife since I had forgotten my route description (strike 1) and missed the Tigiwon Road. I called home and she read the directions to me. Asking anyone else would have been just too embarrassing! For all my other trips to THs, my vehicle GPS had always gotten me there, but not this time. In lieu of my map, I did have waypoints from the standard 14er route in my GPS and I was comfortable with that but reliance on technology can be a double edged sword.

The TH road is a very nice dirt road, once I found it, surrounded by the aftermath of last summerís logging operation to get rid of the dead trees left by the pine bark beetle. It was very sad to see. We have lost what will take generations to recover; probably worse than our national debt. Anyway, this being my last Sawatch peak, I focused on the mountain.

The devastation was unbelievable.

Arriving at the TH, I was pleasantly surprised to find a restroom. I hadnít recalled that luxury from my research. While briefly exploring which TH to take in the dark the next morning, I filled out my hang tag and dutifully put it in my daypack lest the form police stop me. Parking on a near level spot around 7pm, I went over all my stuff, ate my Subway sandwich and crawled into my sleeping bag stretched out in the back of my pilot.

This the sign post for the standard route over Halfmoon Pass.

Awake at 4am and on the trail in 35 minutes was a speed record, although I didnít feel like I was in a hurry. The ground was wet from all the rain. I was hoping for dry talus. The climb up and down Half Moon Pass went quickly and the first 3 miles and 1000 feet of vertical were a warm up, the second time around, not so. When I got to the creek, as usual, there was a trail going both directions so I took the logical left trail. There were a few tents in the camping area. Got to the ridge and lost the treeline without much fanfare. It has to be one of the longest ridges Iíve seen so far. I could see that I was in the middle of the climbers with some ahead and some behind. By the time I summited, most of them passed me.

Golden alpine moment at the top of the pass.

Going down into Cross Creek, still below a sparsely populated treeline.

Go left at the stream. Logic said go uphill at the bottom and I did.

The first ridge to conquer. Tiny CFIers are working on the trail way out of sight.

The CFI was working on the trail and doing a great job. They are going to spend 2 more months working on it. They are changing the trail a little so when you see the red and yellow plastic bristles, thatís where the new trail will be. The current trail is still valid and easier than the new route in most places. It is really climberís choice right now.

The second ridge on the way up. Note the climber and little orange plastic marker.

I always get suckered into thinking the last part of the ridge I see is very close to the summit. I had to chuckle when I got to the top of the ridge only to see several more hundred feet to go and a little steeper and sketcher trail.

The final view of the remaining route. A climber is seen about ready to turn up the summit push.

The last pitch was fairly simple, just go up. There was one spot where a trail segment took me right on the edge of the ridge and very steep. I went right and avoided that section. Catching segments all the way up, I almost circled the summit pitch and decided I wasnít going vertical enough. I summited at 10:53 a little over 6 hours from start. Iím not a fast paced climber. As long as the weather holds out, I take my time and enjoy. I could see the clouds were building and there would be rain in the next few hours. The CFI guys told me it rained a little every day, but nothing big, just a few drops. On the summit for a snack and pics and 15 min later it was almost downhill all the way. Donít forget that extra trudge up Half Moon Pass!

Marker on the summit. No register.

This was to be a Halo climb. I wanted the whole view. I was tired. No one at the summit was going that way. Clouds were building. So, I thought it would be too much, alone. I decided to climb Notch Mountain at another time to get the view of the cross. You can either be the view or see the view. For now I settled for being the view atop Mountain of the Holy Cross.

My summit pose. Disregard that half naked young man in the background!

Summit shot. These mountains looked important. Iíll work on their names later. Can also see most of the Halo.

Unidentified scenery. Note cloud formations.

The Notch Mountain shelter where they have the view, we are the view. On my list in future endeavors when there is snow in the cross.

As always, the sketchiest of trails always reveal themselves on the way down. Maybe if I were tallerÖAs I passed the CFI team, they closed up shop and headed for their hideout. I had noticed, but did not fathom why they were stopping so soon until I looked up. The clouds were expanding and blocking more sunlight. The sky was getting ominous. I had a long way to go. Before getting back to the creek crossing, it sprinkled a little just like the CFI had said, but the clouds were darkening more than I cared to see. I reached the creek and it began raining a little harder. I put on the cover for my backpack and picked up my pace. It began to rain harder and then I heard thunder. It rolled around for a few seconds in the clouds, but didnít exit. Now, I had my rain jacket on. I was unable to see a change in the brightness of the clouds. I was now committed for the final push up the pass. I was in a quandary. Still below treeline, but on a side hill exposed trail. What was the right decision, to stay put, go back or forward. I ran through all the possibilities in a split second and I moved faster, yet. When a roll of thunder began, I found coverage, no lightening. After 10 hours on the trail, I still found energy reserves to dash between rolls of thunder. Once I got to the pass, itís still a ways until you really start to drop down. The sunlight began to hit the trail and I figured I would be fairly safe to cross the pass, but down below, it was still raining. The thunder had moved northward. A sigh of relief.

Sorry, no photography on the run.

Crossing over the pass took longer than I expected. Almost level. Note storm headed away toward the TH!

I took 3 Ĺ L of water and now that the thunder challenge was over, I was wondering when my water supply would run out. On the way down, it stopped raining. The trail was very wet and slippery. I was happy to know that it truly was downhill all the way to the TH. I still had water. Right about the time I was saying that the TH must be close, it was.

Nice trails, at least the rain stopped.

A crowded parking lot at the TH.

The rain picked up and I sat there in my lawn chair under my hatchback with a cold Diet Coke and my feet propped up. The guy in the car beside me asked if I had had fun that day. I really canít answer that question until a few days later when I can walk again. I regretted not doing the Halo and have a hard time admitting that Iím turning into a young geezer at 61. I would highly recommend going over the pass and spending the night there. It makes climb day a lot more pleasant and easier.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/22/2012 23:31
on finishing the Sawatch--and none of this geezer stuff--you can probably kick the butts of 20 year olds! Holy Cross is no walk in the park! Nice report!


Nicely done.
07/23/2012 15:01
Pic 15: Those are all of the elk 14ers.


Excellent job
07/23/2012 16:41
I'm one of those 20 year olds and I have several friends who couldn't do what you do! I wouldn't dare take them up HC.

Great mountain, great photos. Sorry you couldn't get the ridge -- I climbed it yesterday and promise it's worth coming back for!


Yes, be prepared!
07/23/2012 19:13
To do the entire Ridge and summit is a very exhausting trek, but definitely one worth doing again someday. But you also want a bluebird day as you'll be above 13000' for a very long time. And it IS nice to have a partner with you. All those extra 13er peaks can get you tired very easily. Nice job on your first summit of MHC!


I'm sure we passed each other.
07/23/2012 20:06
My friend (50) and I (46) did also did HC that day. Left the trailhead around 6:15 and reached the summit around 11:30. I'm not a regular 14er climber (3 total), but do plenty of mountain biking and this was one of the hardest things I've done. I can't imagine doing the Halo route without being in much better shape and I'm still a little sore today (7/23).
We actually hit two thunderstorms on the way down and I'm guessing at least 5-6 people who we passed were caught above treeline in both of them.
We both ran out of water - him at the summit, me (100oz) at the start of the ridge climb on the way back.
This is a tough one-day hike and I have to remind myself when reading trip reports and assessments on this site re: difficulty that it's all relative. We're talking about a very small percentage of people who even attempt this sort of thing.
...but of course I'm already thinking about the next challenge now.


07/23/2012 22:07
Halo Ridge is a bear, but definitely worth seeing the Cross from Notch Mountain. Good choice and smart decision making on your part.


You're all very supportive!
07/27/2012 16:19
Thank you all for your positive feedback. Sometimes I am too hard on myself and need to lighten up. When reading TRs and applying them to yourself, you definitely need to keep everything in perspective. Our abilities, knowledge, and experience, etc are all different.

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