August 10th, 2003
We had climbed Castle Peak the day before and after our hike we drove over to the Halfmoon Trailhead. The dirt road up to the trailhead is not too bad and passable to cars. Sleeping at the trailhead we woke up at 4:40 a.m. and was hiking a little after 5 a.m. We made our way through the forest under the light of our headlamps and after about 45 minutes we neared the top of Halfmoon Pass. Breaking out of treeline is was light enough to turn the headlamps off. The trail drops down the other side of the pass at a very gentle grade and we realized we would be hoofing it back over this pass later in the day. As we rounded Point 12,743 we got our first view of Holy Cross in the early morning sun. The peak looked amazing compared to most of the other Sawatch peaks, the north face was quite imposing. The route up to Holy Cross's north ridge is shown in yellow.
As you near the bottom of Halfmoon Pass the trail gets a little steeper before you reach the end of the descent. Back into the trees we proceeded through the forest and caught a nice glimpse of Holy Cross.
We made our way passed several campsites and any campers who were sleeping were woken up by a dog that didn't seem to like me and Amy at all. Just passed the campsites we crossed a stream and the trail heads back up the forest. The trail gets pretty steep and it doesn't take long to break out of treeline again. The photo below is just above treeline and from this point the boulder hopping begins. Holy Cross is just coming into view again and the highpoint on the ridge to the right seems to take forever reach.
We continued through the boulders heading for several monster cairns. The ridge consists of small sections of a trail in between the boulder hopping. We gained the ridge and chose to walk on a snowfield to give our feet a break from the rocks.
The ridge runs into the summit block of Holy Cross at 13,400 feet so we knew we were getting close. At 13,700 feet the route passes by the Angelica Couloir and we took a moment to peer down the gully void of snow this late in the summer. Continuing onward we pass two guys coming off the summit who had backpacked in the day before. They were quite suprised to learn we had started from the trailhead. We reached the summit about 9 a.m. taking us about 4 hours for the ascent. The skies were clear and the views were amazing.
To the south we could make out Mt. Massive, Elbert, Belford, Oxford and Harvard. To the east we could see Quandry, Grays, and Torreys and to the west was the Maroon Bells, Castle and Pyramid. We walked over to the Cross Couloir and scoped it out. It was absent of snow and didn't look like a desirable way to ascend the peak.
We talked for awhile with a nice man from Houston who had summitted right behind us. We noticed him catching us on the ridge pretty quickly and he said it took him 3 hours from the trailhead. That's smoking and being from such a low elevation, we were impressed. Several other groups began to arrive on the summit so we decided it was time to depart. On the descent we passed several parties with nothing more than a water bottle in their hand. One lady was hiking in jeans, yuck. We took our time through the boulders and were glad to reach the trail again. The way out went pretty fast once we got back on the trail. We were dreading the hike back up over the pass but strangely enough, hiking over the pass was the best both Amy and I felt all day. It was nice to give our feet and knees a break from the descent and we zoomed back up Halfmoon Pass. We looked back one last time and this majestic peak of the Sawatch Range before continuing on our way.
We passed the guys we seen coming off the summit lugging their big packs up the slope, and this just reaffirmed our desicion to dayhike the peak. We reached the top of the pass and in a short 30 minutes we were back to the trailhead. We reached the trailhead around 2 p.m. bringing our total hiking time to 9 hours. It was nice to take off the boots and have lunch and a cold soda. Holy Cross is by far my favorite 14er in the Sawatch and was my last 14er in the range, wooohoooo. The mountain carries an allure and mystique about it and you can't help but be charmed by this secluded giant.