I’ve been wanting to climb this one for a while but with the beast of a mountain that it is and the stories of people getting lost on the way done, I’d put it off in the back of my mind. Then came Labor Day…and we hadn’t backpacked since June. What better way to fix this than 14,005 foot Mt. of the Holy Cross!
We set off from the Halfmoon Trailhead at 4:40 PM, Saturday afternoon with the skies filled with scattered showers but no lightning. It was hot. Very hot. We started climbing right away and meandered our way through a meadow with the occasional yellowing Aspen. Casey enjoyed a nice little jaunt through the tall grasses.
In about an hour we had climbed to the top of Halfmoon Pass, just underneath the scree fields of Notch Mountain (so named because it has a notch!). It was starting to sprinkle on us a bit but it was so light we couldn’t feel it. We could only see it in the fleeting, late afternoon sun.
After a short break, we commenced losing 1,000 feet of the 1,300 feet we had just gained. Always a bit demoralizing to lose something you’re gonna have to get back the next day, but such is Mt. of the Holy Cross. We were soon greeted with our first views of the peak….and she was impressive and imposing.
We descended down into the East Cross Creek drainage where we would set up camp. It was somewhat picturesque looking down into a bunch of trees and seeing small plumes of smoke rising up from the campfires down below. After about 2 hours of hiking, we rolled into camp and began getting ready for some Black Bean soup and cous-cous. Lights out at 8:30…asleep by 9. The only way to go.
We woke up at 4:30 albeit not intentionally. Casey the Brown Dog had decided it was time to get up by laying on his back and nuzzling back and forth between us. We made a quick breakfast, had some coffee and were hiking by 5:40 (not in any rush).
The trail was easy to find even in the dark, but some of the social/campsite trails presented a bit of challenge to making sure we stayed on the correct trail. After a bit of hiking, we we’re up above treeline and starting to catch glimpses of the sun rising in the east.
We were also treated to our first views of the summit…seemed to be quite a way off!
By this point in time, we had caught everyone but one group that had passed us between 2 and 4 am this morning. Some of them we’re fiesty and wouldn’t let us pass them. They would hike quickly, sit down take a break, starting hiking quickly when we got close, sit down take a break and so on. After about 30 minutes of this, they bonked when they got to the big rocks and we just went right on by. Hiking etiquette people!
We scrambled across the ridge on a great trail (Thanks CFI) and approached the final ascent. It had looked a lot worse than it actually was. We only had about 500 feet to gain…we though it was gonna be close to 1,000.
I had set an internal goal to be on the summit be 9 AM. We made it just after 8:30.
Life on the summit was peaceful and somewhat warm (45 degrees?). We were the 2nd group to summit on the day, with the first people right in front of us. We enjoyed some peace and quiet with a little Casey whimpering because we had stopped.
The following are views from our 15 minutes on the summit.
We spent about 20 minutes on the summit and headed down. We had had a similarly nice summit on Shavano on Labor Day last year and had spent way too long and gotten a rough case of AMS on our way down last year. We did not want a repeat of that.
The hike down was slow going. There were lots of people coming up now and the trail is narrow in parts and fairly steep most of the way. We eventually worked our way back down to camp where we ate lunch, refilled waters, and broke down camp. Within a half hour, we were on our way up and over Half Moon Pass and back to our car in 2 hours.
Our total time actually hiking was right around 9.5 hours and we felt the best we’ve ever felt at the end of a 14er. Probably due to our recent commitment to getting fit!
Mt. of the Holy Cross Stats
Elevation: 5,744 feet
Mileage: 12.2 miles
Time: 9 hours, 35 minutes