Mount of the Holy Cross: 14,005′ (Rank: 51st)
Holy Cross Ridge: 13,831′ (Rank: 91st)
Elevation Gain: ~5,623′
Route Length: ~13 miles
Centennial Pursuit: 4/100
The trip was organized and planned by a friend of mine. I was very happy to join along, as it included two more peaks that are on Colorado Centennial’s list. Mount of the Holy Cross is located outside the small mountain town of Minturn, which is located just west of the more famous mountain town, Vail. Mount of the Holy Cross is situated in the northern tier of the Sawatch Range, and is the northern most 14er in this range. The Swatch Range includes 15 peaks over 14,000 feet. This range alone has more 14ers than the entire state of California. Yes, the mountain gets its name from the vertical couloir and the horizontal ledge that fill up with snow, forming a cross. This being a low snow year in Colorado, it had all melted out when we hiked it. Nevertheless, it is quite a stunning peak, with an amazing profile. I highly recommend at least climbing to the the Notch Mountain Shelter Cabin to have a closer look at this peak and it’s cross.
A fun fact about Mount of the Holy Cross: This mountain used to be designated a National Monument due mainly in part to its ‘cross’ shaped snow formation on its northeast face. It has since lost this designation.
My hiking partner and I did these two summits as a large loop, known as the ‘Halo Ridge Route’. (This route is more fully described at 14ers.com). We decided to make it a two day affair but, this route can be done in a single day. Doing it in single day requires stamina, and proper planning. Starting at the Half-moon trailhead, we decided to do the loop counter clockwise. Starting off by climbing up and over Half Moon Pass, and descending down to East Cross Creek. Here there are a number of designated campsites. We got lucky to secure one, as they are on a first come first serve basis, and it was a busy weekend. We set off bright and early the next morning, in fact it was not bright at all, it was still dark. Our first objective was to was get above tree-line and up onto Holy Cross’s north ridge. From there its up, up, and up. Summiting Mount of the Holy Cross was straight forward, it’s hard to miss. From there we descended down to a saddle that sits between Mount of the Holy Cross and the high point of Holy Cross Ridge. Back on up to the high point of the ridge we climbed. Summiting this point secured my second centennial of the day. At 13,831′, this ridge high point is an official Colorado Centennial. From there it was time for some fun ridge walking around what is known as ‘The Bowl of Tears’. After crossing a wide flat field of rock and grass, traversing down and back up a ridge, we finally came to the Notch Mountain Shelter. From there it was switchback fun all the way back down to tree-line. Once down, it was smooth sailing to close the loop on this trek.
My Take Away:
I really, really, enjoyed the challenge of this hike. Our first day was a fairly easy 3 miles or so. However, our second day was a nice challenge. Unfortunately summer in Colorado can definitely mean wild fires. We experienced this during our hike. From our campsite we could smell the smoke, see the haze in the air, and actually see ash flakes falling onto our tents. Regardless of the smoke, the summit morning was quite beautiful. Having the alpenglow on Mount of the Holy Cross is just stunning. To find yourself atop a 14er all alone in the peak of summer can be rare, but that was just the case on our summit day. Though I wouldn’t consider this route technical, it is demanding. You will put in a long day, thats for sure. One thing this hike will do, is leave you itching for more mountains, as the surrounding range will leave you in awe. If you have any questions about this hike, or would like to see me include other information in the future, please email me (email@example.com) or leave a comment below. If you would like to see more photos from my climbs and travels, you can follow me on Facebook. Thanks!