Mt. of the Holy Cross - 14,005 feet
Mt. of the Holy Cross - 14,005 feet
After reading a lot of trip reports for this 14er, we knew pretty quickly that we wanted to do it via Halo Ridge, but could we was the question. We were intimidated by the reports on how hard it can be but we decided to not let that stop us. It didn't take long to realize we made the right choice and we wouldn't have traded it for anything. This route is at the top of our list of greatest hikes. Sure, it was long but worth it. We certainly wouldn't recommend this route for the beginner but we wouldn't necessarily recommend this 14er for the beginner either.
We had climbed Notch Mountain the weekend before so that helped us scope out the trails, view, as well as the trailhead. Beautiful hike in of itself if your just looking for a smaller climb. The 8 mile trek up Tigiwon Road takes about a half hour. It is not difficult, just bumpy. We got there a little later in the morning, since we knew it wouldn't take as long, and there were cars parked in a long line for quite a ways. All the camp sites were taken and there are many along the 8 mile road and a few at the trailhead. So if you plan this hike on a weekend this time of year, expect a lot of company.
We came down the following Wednesday night to camp for this big climb on Thursday. There were quite a few less cars and a few more camp sites available at that time. There were still more people than I expected for the middle of the week.
There were a few groups getting ready to go at 430 in the morning like us. Only one other group of two going the Halo route though. One of the reasons we wanted to do this route was for the views and beauty. This route didn't disappoint. Well accept maybe the fact that there wasn't much snow in the cross. That is okay because it gives a great reason to hike up again to the shelter to see that view in the snowy months. The wildflowers and sunrise were gorgeous.
It seemed like no time and we were up to the switchbacks. There are a lot of them but we didn't mind. We would work on identifying the flowers we were seeing and stop for a breath every 5 switchbacks. It didn't seem bad at all. Before we knew it, we were at the shelter. It was about 730.
The next part is daunting. We followed the route description from this website which is a good one. I do think you need some experience hiking on talus that has no specific path. Your experience seems to guide you the right way. There are no cairns, just generalizations of where to go. Walking on talus of this size takes a lot of concentration and that got a little tedious but in general I prefer this over loose gravel climbing.
The shelter behind us in the distance.
We enjoyed having a new challenge to meet one at a time. We reached the saddle and the two gendarmes took longer to get across than it looks from this side of them.
You can see its distance a little better looking back.
The view was so magnificent on the way to PT 13,831. I couldn't decide where to look while getting a little bit of a reprieve from the talus.
Back to it after gulping down some more Gatorade and trailmix. I hate false summits but these weren't too bad.
Finally we got to the summit of the last 13er! We still had a ways to go and I was getting a little nervous about the time. It was around 1040. We had thought that we would be to Holy Cross by now. We really didn't diddle daddle either.
We arrived around 1140 and enjoyed a half hour soaking up the sun and eating ravenously.
Once again, the shelter and notch mountain in the distance. Hard to see without zooming in.
There is a big sign at the summit showing you which direction to go to the trail which helps. Coming down the back side of this summit might be where people can go wrong. It is easy to understand how people might not see the huge beehive cairns over to the ridge on the right. It really is a big sea of talus and it looked like you could just keep going. When you are on the summit and just starting down...look over to the right and identify those big cairns so you know where you are going. It is harder to see them or realize where you are when you are down a ways off the summit. We appreciate the efforts taken by CFI to help the problem but if there could be any suggestion then it would be to put a couple of those beehive cairns in a couple places coming down off the summit because like I said, unless you look far to the right, you might not see them. I read in an article that search and rescue gets called 10 times a season for climbers on this mountain, either getting lost or getting tired (maybe that is a lot less now since the trail improvements). One of those calls happened this day though. Luckily he finally got down.
The ridge you walk along is very developed so if you aren't on a well cairned trail then you aren't in the right spot. So much more talus to come down. I never like going down. Lots of rock stairs quite reminiscent of Quandry. I can imagine this route is a little bland and tedious to go up.
We made treeline before the first thunder was heard. It looked like it was raining hard a ways off but it never made it to us. There were 10 campsites in the East Cross Creek area. They looked nice but the trails to them all went uphill so we chose not to check them out. It was actually kind of nice getting to go back up Half Moon Pass. It was getting hard on the knees going down. There is a pretty steep section for a little bit but then it really eases off. You finally get some nice views of the mountain but not anything like the Halo Ridge.
Always have to get one last flower picture.
So we got back to the trailhead around 430 pm, so the whole thing took around 12 hours. We aren't the fastest but not the slowest either. For this reason (weather and endurance), along with the talus hiking, and the so called Bermuda triangle of Colorado we don't necessarily recommend this mountain, either route, as one of the firsts or maybe even not to those that haven't been hiking at elevation. Certainly not for the Halo ridge route since a lot of time is spent above 13,000 feet. We found it helpful to have had a lot of food and hydration through the hike as well as previous high elevation gain hikes this season prior to attempting this one. We didn't feel too bad. Better than expected anyway.
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