Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,007 feet
Holy Cross Ridge  -  13,831 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2012
Modified:  09/23/2012
Date Climbed:   09/09/2012
Author:  mtnkub
 The Halo Ridge is long...   

This was a day with glorious weather and no threat of electric storms whatsoever. Perfect for long routes on high ridges... and fortunately very forgiving for misunderestimations (borrowing a word creation form you-know-who). We knew it was going to be a long day, as we planned to climb Holy Cross via the Halo Ridge and back via the standard route (13+mi, 5400+ft). However, while I thought we would make it within 9-10h, it took us just under 12h instead. For comparison, I should say that we are no speed demons, but we did Shavano/Tabeguache in ~8.5h a month earlier (~11mi, 5200ft for our not-recommended "short-cut" route).

The shelter at Notch Mountain is just ~1000ft below the summit of Holy Cross, and I estimated the total elevation gain along the ~2mi ridge to be just a little over 1500ft. While this estimate is probably about right, my resulting time estimation of ~2h was way off. It took us 4h instead. (I now think that even very strong parties should allow at least 3h, even though I'm sure that people have done it in under 1.5h. But then, we met a guy on the summit who had done whole standard route in 2:45h). From the shelter, the traverse over Holy Cross Ridge looks very rugged and daunting, while the longer first part of the route looks much tamer. The good news is that the part going over Holy Cross Ridge is by no means as tough (or exposed) as it looks, and IMO actually easier than going over PT13373 or even PT13248 (PT13373 involves more loose stuff, and even the boulder hopping around PT13248 appeared more awkward to me).

So, when we finally arrived at the summit we had already worked much harder than planned, and no long in shape for anything that could be called a speed descent. However, as we had started from our camp around 7:30 am (just a little later than planned; from the camp ground just below the Half Moon trail head), we still made it in time for sufficient day light while breaking camp.

Overall, the route was even more physically demanding than I thought. Still, it makes a great one-day outing on Holy Cross, and breaking it down into two days always scared me: On the standard route, you save 1300ft, but also have to schlepp your camping gear 950ft back up on summit day. On the Halo Ridge, a night in the Notch Mountain shelter means carrying up all your water and sleeping at 13,000ft. In Sept 2012, the shelter was in excellent condition, though. By contrast, in Sept 2007, I would not have wanted to spend the night there (smell...). The pics were taken during that earlier trip, from Notch Mtn just north of the 3rd class terrain of the notch (which you don't have to negotiate on the Halo route proper).

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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