Mount of the Holy Cross

snow Cross Couloir
Difficulty Class 3 
Snow Steepness: Steep 
Ski/Board: Advanced, D11 / R3 / IV  
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: High  
Start10,320 feet
Summit14,007 feet
Total Gain5,600 feet
RT Length12.25 miles
SheriffEagle: 970-479-2201
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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This route should only be climbed with consolidated snow, in spring or early summer. Climbing this route in mid-winter could put you in deadly avalanche conditions.


The Tigiwon road is closed each year between late November and June 21st. Until it opens, you'll have to bike or hike the road.
From Interstate 70, take Exit 171 and follow U.S. 24. Drive almost 5 miles and turn right onto the Tigiwon road. The turn is just before U.S. 24 crosses the Eagle River and starts to switchback up the hillside. The Tigiwon road is dirt and cars can usually make it to the trailhead. Drive just over 8 miles to the trailhead. IMPORTANT: The Tigiwon road is closed each year between November 22nd and June 21st but biking or hiking the road is allowed. If you plan on heading there around the time of the road opening, please contact the Holy Cross office of the US Forest Service Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District at 970-827-5715 to see when they will be opening the gate.


Fill out a Wilderness Registration Card and hike up the Half Moon trail ( 1 and 2) to reach Half Moon Pass after 1.5 miles - 3 and 4. Cross the pass and follow the trail as it gradually descends west - 5 and 6. Below 11,400', Mt. of the Holy Cross and the lower Cross Couloir route is visible to the southwest - 7. Continue over the northwest shoulder of Notch Mountain and descend toward East Cross Creek - 8 and 9. From Half Moon Pass, you will lose about 1,000' of elevation to reach the creek. After a steep descent, reach the thick forest near East Cross Creek (approx. 10,700'). If you're camping in the area, please read the information sign ( 10) which has a map of defined camping spots on the north (right) side of the creek.

Just after you cross the creek ( 11) but no farther than the boulder seen in 12, turn left and walk into some old, closed campsites. Continue a bit farther to reach a stream ( 13) which drains the small pond just off to your right (west). Cross the stream and locate a faint trail which heads southeast. Finding this trail makes it much easier to navigate the next mile of hiking. If you're climbing this route in spring when snow may be lingering below tree line, it may be difficult to follow the trail so study maps and have a plan in case you lose the trail. Follow the trail southeast then south as it weaves up through large boulders and steep terrain. Near 11,200', the trail turns southwest and climbs a rocky section ( 14) before zig zagging through more large boulders - 15 and 16. Near 11,600', leave the trees and enter an open area in upper East Cross Creek where the trail will likely run out - 17.

Continue south along the creek and climb to the right to bypass the large rocks seen in 17. At the top of the rocks, locate a narrow passage through boulders ( 18) and continue along the upper creek. Weave through willows, rocks and then a lot more rocks to reach higher ground below the outlet of Bowl of Tears - 19 and 20. Between 11,800' and 11,900', you're passing under the Cross Couloir but this route does not climb from the absolute bottom of the couloir because of cliffs near the bottom. Instead, the route swings south and ascends a portion of the east face before entering the couloir, near 13,000'.

Pass the outlet of Bowl of Tears and continue along west shore, below Holy Cross' east face. By now you've probably figured out that the approach to the Cross Couloir is quite tedious. Turn right and begin climbing the east face - 21. Take the path of least resistance through some rock bands and continue west up the face - 22 and 23. Above 12,600', angle right (north) onto the tundra ( 24 and 25) and continue above 12,900' to reach the entry of the Cross Couloir , just under 13,000' - 26. As you enter the couloir ( 27 and 28), the cliff section which you took so much time to bypass is not far below - 29. Once you're in the couloir, the route is obvious - 30. You'll immediately face a slope angle near 40 degrees but it eases slightly near 13,400' before increasing as you climb higher - 31 and 32. Enjoy a challenging finish as the slope angle exceeds 45 degrees, just below the top - 33, 34, 35, and 36. Turn right to gain the summit - 37. 38 is a head-on look at the couloir. Unless you're skiing or boarding the summit, it's best to descend via the standard, north ridge route.


Photos courtesy of Carl, Marc, Brian and Ben: 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43
For more information about skiing the Cross Couloir and a bunch of other Colorado peaks, check out the printed guidebook Climbing and Skiing Colorado's Mountains by Ben Connors and Brian Miller


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