Thursday, February 7, 2013

FEATURED ROUTE: The North Ridge of Mount of the Holy Cross


Length: 11 miles (roundtrip)
Total Elevation gain: 5,800'
trail access: Half Moon Trail

Mount of the Holy Cross
The North Ridge of Holy Cross is one of Colorado's best class 2 adventures. It is an amazing and challenging climb that takes you to one of Colorado's hallowed places. The length and total elevation required for this climb necessitate a two-day outing for many people. This might be advised for anyone whose conditioning might not be up for a one-day approach. That trade off, however, is that you will have to lug a heavy backpack over Half Moon Pass twice. Is it easier? The more environmental choice is to minimize your impact by climbing Holy Cross in one day. However, this is a place that warrants a slow, contemplative pace. I recommend a backpack of at least two days. Three might be preferable. Take your time and enjoy this beautiful wilderness. Please minimize your impact by adhering to No Trace Wilderness ethic.

From Half Moon Trailhead, follow Half Moon Trail for 2 miles to Half Moon Pass at 11,600'. On my last trip, I discovered crossing this pass can be exciting in an afternoon thunderstorm. After summitting Half Moon Pass, descend gradually at first towards East Cross Creek. You will soon get your first views of the North Face of Holy Cross, an impressive sight. Soon the trail starts to descend more steeply and you round a corner and get an amazing view of the mountain and the East Cross Creek Basin, complete with steep granite walls on the basin's north flank, the mountain to the south, and a tallish waterfall in the center. You know now if you didnt before that this is a special place. Descend another 900 feet into the creek basin where some excellent campsites exist near the creek. Stay in one of the numbered campsites to minimize impact. You can be ticketed by rangers for camping elsewhere. Not only is it a legal issue anyway, it is environmental, so please respect this.

The Gore Range in Colorado at sunrise
The Gore Range in the distance from the North Ridge
Cross East Cross Creek at a makeshift rock bridge and follow the trail as it winds up the northern slopes into the high alpine zone. At around 11,500' you will cross treeline. A bit later you will get your first glimpse of the mountain, much closer and even more imposing now. Follow the trail as the ridge tightens to a prominent notch at 13,700'. you can peer down the inset couloir, which is impressive whether it has snow or not. From here the trail gets rougher. Pick your way through class 2 to 2+ terrain to an impressive summit.

Do not get lost on the descent! Remember the route. Going too far west or north of the trail can pull you into the Cross Creek drainage (not the East Cross Creek drainage where you want to be.) While there are trails there, they will take you very far away from your vehicle. Also don't forget you have to go up and over (1,000') Half Moon Pass on the way out. As aforementioned, this can be exciting if the afternoon storms are rolling in and exhausting anytime after a long climb of Holy Cross.


Longs, Holy Cross, and McGregor Mountain

Frustration in Paradise

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