Distance: Approximately 12 miles RT (with descent of North Ridge)
Elevation Gain: 5,625' including reclimbing to Halfmoon Pass
Difficulty: Class 2 trail approach (minor scrambling if off route) with steep snow (approximately 45 degrees)
Estimated Time: 5 hours for ascent, 3 1/2 to 4 for descent
Special Thanks to Andy
for writing this section.
The route description starts from Lake Patricia. To get there start at Half Moon trailhead and climb over Half Moon Pass. Descend the other side until you hit East Cross Creek. Cross over East Cross Creek and then wander south (left off the trail) through the campsites until you hit the stagnate beaver pond. Circle around the beaver pond until you find the outlet (where water is flowing out of the pond). Once you've found that, head south-southeast until you hit a very steep rock face 30 to 40 feet high. Circle around this to the east until the trail becomes evident.
This trail will take you up the path of least resistance to Lake Patricia
(though it is still an arduous and very steep journey). If you do not find this trail you are in for a hellish bushwhack involving class three moves up impossible steep slopes (I know from experience dude). Anywho, the trail takes you up to the spot on the map where there are many little tiny ponds west of Lake Patricia. There the trail seems to peter out. No worries, when you get to the little ponds bushwhack downhill to the east and you'll find Lake Patricia. There are several nice places to camp around the west side of the lake.
Special Thanks to Andy
for additional information included in this section.
From Lake Patricia, hike south and west around the hill to the southwest of the lake. Once you get out of the trees you can pretty much see you're whole route (which is very pleasant knowing where you're going and that there are no false summits or anything like that). There are sections of climbers trail here, but occassionally we lost the trail on the way. There is a grassy gully on the southeast side of the couloir that can be climbed to attain Angelica Couloir, this led directly to the basin below the couloir. It also appears as if the run out of Angelica Couloir, which is a large boulder field, would be an option as well but I am not sure how to reach this from Lake Patricia.
It takes about forty-five minutes to reach the top of the grassy gully from Lake Patricia. Early in season this basin
will be snow. The basin is relatively flat and has several small rocks you can utilize to put on your crampons and prepare for your ascent. Depending on snow conditions, you can get 1200' of snow climbing on this route!
The initial slopes
are wide, and not too steep. The maximum slope here is probably about 35-40 degrees. As you ascend towards the north ridge you will come to a junction in the couloir at approximately 12,900'. Continuing up this initial lower snowfield would deposit you directly on the north ridge route, but it is guarded by a cornice and not recommended. The main couloir route turns left
here and ascends the narrow Angelica Couloir for an additional 800 feet. This branch is clearly evident from several vantage points along the approach, but not the base of the climb. This narrow branch provides the most aesthetic climb, but is also steeper than the lower snowfield. I would have to say that it is consitently between 40 and 45 degrees with a crux section
near the top that felt steeper, perhaps as much as 48 degrees. Refer to the photos below to get an idea of the steepness of the couloir. Above this crux the snow rolls gently and there is no cornice. When we climbed this route the snow ended a good 40 feet below the top and we had to climb loose dirt and scree to reach the notch at 13,700' that marks the top of the couloir.
The notch at 13,700' is also a popular resting spot for hikers on the standard north ridge route, your topping out may come as a surprise to many a weary hiker on the trail. Join them, and ascend 305' on broken climbers trail and talus to the summit. Descend either via the North Ridge
or the Halo Ridge
Some additional images of this route without snow, courtesy of Andy
Ice Axe and Crampons are recommended for a snow ascent.
Due to loose dirt and scree and the fact that the main trail (north ridge route) passes above the top of the couloir, you should definitely wear a helmet for this route year round.
Some Additional Considerations
Please note that the Tigiwon Road used to reach the trailhead for this route is closed annually for elk calving from May 1 until June 20. If you are planning a snow climb you will have to wait until Late June/ Early July, or bike/hike road adding considerable distance and elevation gain to your trip that will generally require a 2-3 day trip. Consider climbing on a weekday to limit the number of climbers above you.
After the snow melts there is plenty of loose scree and dirt in the upper couloir. You may opt to continue directly up to the north ridge, following the yellow variation on the map below.
For more information about seasonal Elk Calving closures in the Holy Cross Wilderness contact the Holy Cross Ranger Station in Minturn at (970) 827-5715.
Annotated Route map courtesy of Andy