Holy Cross has been a mountain I’ve wanted to climb since visiting Colorado 4 years ago. Having a few midweek days off for the 4th of July I figured there would be no better time to get out and visit the Cross. After receiving a bit of beta I decided for a climb of Angelica coulier, over Holy Cross, then descend via the Halo Ridge over Notch Mt. Two wonderful routes that I figured would allow me to see the entire mountain and its surrounding terrain.
After landing Monday(7-2) morning in Denver I made the drive out to Tigiwon Rd. As advertised this road is bumpy and extremely dusty, but passable by all vehicles. I reached the trail head, ate and bedded down for the night(9p), awaiting my 4am start time. Around 1a I awoke to two cars passing by, and soon there after 4 people packing bags and squawking on radios about the search plans. I got up to use the bathroom and briefly chatted with the 4, turns out they were starting a search and rescue operation for 2 missing hikers. Hopefully those guys were found, though I have not heard anything to that extent.
I start up the trail around 430a after a quick breakfast. The trail climbs very continuously to Halfmoon Pass. I reached the pass in the dark, but could see the silhouette of Notch Mt in the moonlight. As I descended to East Cross Creek the sun began to peak over the ridgeline, providing wonderful views of the entire area. After crossing the creek I located the climbers trail through the campsites. It took me a few tries to find the right trail headed up between the main creek and a smaller side creek, but to the climbers left of the first set of cliff bands. Once on the trail it was a steep, but technically easy climb all the way to the bench above Lake Patricia. From here I left the use trail and headed up the ridge toward the moraine that was the boundary at the base of Angelica. The hiking was still fairly easy, though became more boulder hopping as I neared this rocky moraine.
As I climbed the rocky ridge into Holy Cross’s North bowl Angelica presented herself, how beautiful she was. I hiked up to the snow, grabbed some water from a runoff stream, donned crampons and started up(12200ft). The snow was in wonderful shape, slightly soft on top, but very well consolidated underneath. Suncups were minimal and the runnels were just starting to form, so not much of a problem. I made steady progress up the coulier and proceeded into the left branch. The cornices on the right were almost gone, but the snow was good and the climbing wasn’t too steep, so I continued left. I topped out just after 8am at 13700ft, the snow still runs to just below the ridge(50-100ft). The final jaunt up the ridgeline was very quick, putting me on top before 9am, just under 4.5h trail head to summit, no speed record, but a good time.
The Halo Ridge and Notch Mt
I was alone on the summit, something I hadn’t expected, and I actually had not seen anyone all morning. I took a look down the Cross Coulier, the snow looked really soft for the last 200-300ft(lots of postholing). After a quick break and several pictures I took off down the South side of Holy Cross for the Halo Ridge. The hiking was easy, class 2 boulder hopping, tundra strolling, and a little bit of climbers trails. I met my first 3 hikers of the day on the way down Holy Cross, not much of a crowd for a holiday week. I went straight up over Holy Cross Ridge and made my way along the undulating ridge around the Bowl of Tears. The snow was almost all gone(none poses a problem) and the wildflowers were in full bloom. Route finding is easy, just keep walking toward the Notch Mt shelter in the distance. I reached the Notch Mt Shelter around 1130a, while I made good time along the ridge, it is a looonnngggg way.
I sat in the shade of the shelter and stared at Holy Cross, it is truly a beautiful mountain, especially from this vantage.
My next order of business was to navigate my way through the cliffs of Notch Mt. I took off directly over the top of the South summit, dropping down a little too early on the east side in search of the “ledge that bisects the cliff” as Roach calls it. Well my first attempt got me into loose class 4, finally cliffing out looking 50ft straight down. I reascended back to the South summit and took the direct assault straight down the buttress to the Notch.
The first 20-30ft were class 4, after that the terrain mellowed into nice easy class 3 straight to the Notch. While this route is direct and quick, it does take one who is comfortable on exposed class 4, and I still never saw the class 3 ledges. The climb back up to the main Notch Mt summit was simple class 2, though it took me an hour from the hut to the North summit. Once on the North summit there is a climbers trail that drops one down the East side all the way back to Halfmoon Pass. I enjoyed a lovely stroll back down to the trail head, where the hoards appeared.
The entire route took around 9:15h, the entire route enjoys great views and is well worth it. Angelica was holding snow well and should be good for a few more weeks, though climb it early to avoid midday mush. The Halo Ridge is in full bloom right now and is a must, even if you don’t summit from that direction. Final note, mosquitoes are out in force in the Holy Cross Wilderness. Once you stop moving in the trees they will find you, DEET works or if you just continue to move they don’t bother you.
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