Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   08/07/2005
Author:  SarahT
 Notch Mtn, Halo Ridge 8/7/05  


Mt. of the Holy Cross from Half Moon TH (Notch Mountain traverse, Halo Ridge, Holy Cross Ridge summit, return via standard route)

I'd been badly neglecting the Sawatch this summer in favor of more interesting ranges but since I'm heading out for a big trip to Chicago Basin this week I figured I would do something a little easier and closer to home this past weekend. The most appealing 14er that I had left in the Sawatch was Mt. of the Holy Cross.

I drove down to Half Moon TH late Saturday afternoon. Around 5pm we found a state trooper blocking the entrance to the Tigiwon road who told me that there had been a fatal accident and the road would be closed for quite some time. Having nothing else to do, we drove about a mile further down the highway and found a nice mound of dirt to sit on where we could see parts of Tigiwon and the trooper. Fortunately, after about 1.5 hours the trooper left and we drove up to Half Moon TH and paid the $10 for a nice campsite. Not too far up the road we saw a piece of heavy construction equipment (later I found out it was a crane) that had rolled down the bank.

Knowing that we were in for a long hike in the middle of monsoon season we hit the trail to Half Moon Pass around 3:15am on Sunday. The hike up to the pass was easy and went by very quickly. I was a little worried about finding our way to the top of Notch Mountain in complete darkness but it turned out to be a breeze. At the top of the pass we found a cairn that marked the beginning of a faint trail. We followed the trail for about 0.4 miles but then worried it was heading too far east and not enough south. Roach's instructions say to leave the trail at the pass and hike up talus directly south to point 12,743. I'd read in previous trip reports that it was not necessary to summit point 12,743 and that it could be bypassed on the east, but since we were navigating in darkness I decided that the surest way to stay on route was to keep hiking south to the summit, always aiming for the highest point. This worked very well and after some rock hopping we topped out on point 12,743. From there we followed the top of the ridge over many false summits to Notch Mountain. It was around 5:30 when we arrived and we took a very extended break to watch the sun rise (which was amazing!) and wait for better light so we could find the best route around the notch. After having fun taking a bunch of pictures, we left Notch Mountain's summit at 6:20. When we neared the notch we dropped down from the ridge a bit on the left (east) to an obvious gully. We crossed over the steep snow free gully and climbed up it a little bit so that we were then on the right (west) side of the ridge. We then traversed the ridge a bit until we found an easy path back up to the top. Route finding here was very easy and obvious and involved a few fun Class 3 scrambles (which I really enjoyed, knowing that the rest of the hike was going to pretty much be a walk-up). Possibilities ranged from Class 2 to Class 5. Shortly afterwards we reached the Notch Mountain shelter and I was surprised at how nice it was! Although I wondered as to how useful it is - I wouldn't want to do this route and carry my huge pack the entire way! And where would one get a bunch of wood for the fireplace? From here we started on Halo Ridge. I found the ridge to be quite interesting even though it just involved a bunch of rock hopping. We followed the ridge proper the entire time - there was really no need to drop down by more than a few feet at any point. We quickly summitted point 13,245 (a ranked 13er). From here it wasn't long before we reached Holy Cross Ridge, a centennial. We could now see a few people on the Holy Cross summit. Our stomachs were grumbling so we stopped to have a bite to eat. A solo hiker shortly appeared on the summit. I was surprised to see that the register went back to 2003! We then started the traverse to Mt. of the Holy Cross. We passed half a dozen other friendly hikers who were heading toward Holy Cross Ridge after summitting Holy Cross. They planned to summit the ridge and return the way they had come. We reached Holy Cross's fairly crowded summit around 11am and chose to take a break on a cool more private fin out in front of the summit where the views were better. The weather was looking great so we stayed for a good 45 minutes. The trip back on the standard route was uneventful and the required elevation gain back to Half Moon Pass wasn't as bad as I'd expected. For some reason I still had an amazing amount of energy. The trip back down to the TH from the pass was great - gentle enough that we made very good time half running back down. Got to camp around 3:15pm.

RT time about 12 hours with at least 2 hours of breaks. If you like rock hopping, this hike is for you. Only a few miles of trail hiking, the rest is just picking your favorite route over piles of rocks. The scenery was amazing and having just bought a new larger memory stick for my camera, I took over 100 pictures! One more note - spiders seem to have taken over the ridge! Scary! My second favorite Sawatch hike (after Ellingwood Ridge).

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