Mount of the Holy Cross, CO- Elevation 14,005- 09/17/04
Today I was on a mission from God, as Jake and Elwood would say. I have wanted to hike this mountain since before I did my first 14er. I've been here before with Todd and Ellen but that day we started really late and never planned to summit, just get a look at the peak. I remember being on the trail about 1/3 of the way there and seeing the summit thinking that isn't to far, I could make it to the top. Todd strongly discouraged me and so we all turned around. They camped out and I drove back home. One the way home I saw a black bear walking up the hill near the town of Minturn, about 10 miles from Todd's campsite. Right after that the storms moved in and it poured rain like I had never seen before in Colorado. Today is another day, and it’s the best weather I've had all year for a hike. I took the North Ridge trail from the Halfmoon trailhead up and then traversed the Halo ridge and descended the Fall Creek trail for a circle tour never retracing a step for 15 miles. The elevation gain was 5500+ feet, and total hiking time was 13 hours.
This is a picture of the beautiful aspens turning colors on the way up to the trailhead. The dirt road to the trailhead was 8.5 miles but pretty smooth. A 2WDR could probably make it up here as long as the clearance wasn't to low.
Here is the sign at the start of the North Ridge trail. I started on the trail at 8:08 and it was about 40 degrees.
A picture of the trail below the tree line.
As you reach Halfmoon pass you are almost above tree line, but then you have to go back down 1000 feet again on the other side of the pass.
Around the corner from the pass you get your first good look at the Mount of Holy Cross. You cannot see the cross from this trail even if there was snow in it. You can see it from the Fall creek trail but its 3 miles longer round trip and much harder since you have to go over the Halo Ridge for 3 miles.
Just one of the nice views along the trail.
As you get above tree line for the second time you can see the false summit on the right, and the true summit on the left which is still quite a ways off. The trail is very intermittent from here and lots of boulders and rocks to jump over.
Getting close to the summit, still no trail.
I give thanks to the man above for staying with me through all my crazy ideas and adventures. I really like this picture but unfortunately it came out a bit blurry since I was using a self timer on the tripod and got the wrong focus. So I played around with it in MS photo editor and got this emboss effect which came out pretty cool.
I arrived at the summit around 1:50 and the temperature was a warm 75 with very little wind. These Geological Survey plates are only a few inches wide but I've seen them on a few of the 14ers. Not sure what the purpose is but I'll do some more research on it to find out.
Getting ready to sign the register. I feel a little closer to heaven today!
A view from the top. This truly is Gods country!
I left the summit at 2:40, plenty of time to get back. I couldn't resist taking an alternative route back going over the Halo ridge which would add 3 miles to my total trip distance but mean I would hike a full circle and not retrace a single step all the way to the trailhead. Here is a look at about half the ridge I'd be hiking over. This ridge was about 3 miles long and so once I got past it and to the shelter I'd only have 6 miles to go. I figured there would be some kind of trail over some of this ridge, I figured wrong.
After I finally got over and around point 13,831 the first summit I'd have to go over on the ridge I took this picture. This is probably the easiest part of the ridge with a few hundred yards of flat area with smaller rocks. You can see the backside of Vail in the picture where the ski lines are, I believe its Blue Sky Basin.
Looking down in the basin is the Bowl of Tears, a beautiful blue/green lake that sits at the bottom of Holy Cross.
Here I'm looking back at about half (maybe a little more) the distance of the ridge and the short rock field I just crossed. Point 13,831 is on the left and Mount Holy Cross is on the right.
From about the same point I turned around and took this picture of the other half of the route. If the picture was blown up you would be able to see the shelter all the way in the far left of the picture below that last summit point 13,248. You can also see my shadow on the bottom right of the picture.
I liked that shadow concept so much I did a close up and here it is. Notice the rocks are quite large. I was basically jumping and climbing over these rocks for most of the 3 miles, which really wears you out. It was class II but took a lot out of me and took 3 and a half hours to go 3 miles with very few stops.
Finally I'm almost to the Notch Mountain shelter which is at 13,080 ft. From here its about 6 miles the same distance I would have descended if I went back from the summit on the same trail I came on. The good news is that the trail is suppose to be real nice from here and no more elevation gain. The bad news is that its already 6:30 and I'll be hiking back in the dark again on a trail I've never been on.
A close up of the shelter, its unlocked and you can go inside and hang out. I guess you can even spend the night here if you check with the forest service first.
Its quite cozy inside.
The trail was nice on the way down and I even saw another guy at the shelter who came out of nowhere. He said he was heading down the fall creek trail and came up that way. I was glad I wasn't alone and left a little before him. He soon caught me and we spoke briefly. He looked like a real mountain man with a full thick beard and it seemed like I've seen him somewhere before but didn't seen interested in hanging with me and pressed on ahead. He was a little older so I thought I'd catch up to him but I never did.
I really like this picture of the moon on the horizon. To bad it got really pixilated in the size reduction process, I'll have to re-shrink it at different settings and repost the picture later.
Its about 7:30 in this picture and almost completely dark. I was just getting to the tree line and had over 4 miles left of hiking. I was wondering what happened to that guy I saw earlier, was he a ghost, or an axe murderer waiting to jump out of the bushes? I hope not, maybe I like it better when I know I'm the only one on the trail.
Another couple miles down the path I crossed a little creek overflowing on the trail. I used flash which is much brighter than my headlamp but gives you and idea of what it looks like on the trail in the dark.
This is what it looks like when you turn off you headlamp and take a picture without flash. This is even with a few second delay on the shudder. I arrived back at the trailhead around 9:10 and saw a few people getting ready to camp out and hike the next morning. Fortunately that older guy I saw earlier was probably more freaked out about me than I was him. He probably saw my mountain lion killer knife hanging from my hip and decided to run ahead of me. Oh well, I'm actually getting used to hiking in the dark especially tonight when the sky was clear and peppered with stars. It’s unbelievable how many thousands of stars you can see up in the sky here. In Denver you can almost count the number of stars you can see in the sky, but here its another place- its Gods country.