You have to really want to climb this beautiful mountain…. the near 1000′ Half-moon Pass you must climb TWICE discourages the casual hiker. This peak finished the Sawatch 14er’s for me so my anticipation was high, even at midnight when Tom Vervaeke and I departed Colorado Springs. Three hours later we are standing at the trailhead after taking my Saab up one of those “rough but passable in passenger cars” forest service roads.
The road is not marked off of Hwy 24, but follow Roach’s mileage directions and you will get there just fine. There were about 6 cars/trucks and vans in the trailhead parking area but the registry on the trailhead indicated we were first up for the day starting at 3:38am. Hiking with our headlamps, we made Half-moon Pass in good time, descended, crossed the creek and started it all over again. Daylight was just starting to break as we left tree line behind on the north ridge of Holy Cross. The clouds were all morning pink and red. The wind was blowing and it was COLD – on went the shells!
We must have walked right by 2 guys biving by the trail as when we looked back from the ridge crest, there were two following. The route is straightforward but long as we snaked our way up the ridge to the 13,400 saddle. The final slog up the steep talus slope was a steep slog up a talus slope; what can I say…
On top, the rising sun warmed our faces and hands as we sat with our backs to the wind. I scrambled over to look down the famous Cross Couloir (shaped like a cross; discovered in 1800’s and invited flocks of religious folks out to nearby Notch Mountain to view and worship). It looked definitely doable when it held more snow. My next visit to Holy Cross will be up this route. The Maroon Bells were dusted with new snow to the west already giving off their famous stratified appearance. Capital with the sun glinting off its eastern face looked very impressive.
Tom and I departed the summit and boulder hopped down the ridge to just shy of tree line where we changed into shorts for the hike out. Down to the stream, back up the 1,000′ (actually 970′) to Half-moon Pass and back to the cars. A great mountain that makes you earn climbing it from its eastern approach.
Beta: North Ridge II, Class 2 12 miles, 5,625 ‘ elevation gain (970 of it on the return) 8 hours 55 minutes