I picked Mount of the Holy Cross on purpose as my 14th
14er (Golden!). I’d heard a lot of crazy
stuff about people getting lost, never being found, etc. so I wanted to kind of
turn my perception of this mountain around.
Oh, and the weather looked like it would cooperate in the morning, so I
went with it.
This trailhead is 3.5 hours away from my house so I needed
to get up at 1:45am to make it to the trailhead with enough time to hike before
the weather set in (storms after 11am).
I know what you’re thinking: Why
don’t I just drive to the trailhead the night before, park, and sleep in my
Several reasons. I
don’t sleep well at trailheads, so unless it’s 4 hours or more away I drive up
the morning I’m hiking. I wake up at 4am
to go to work every morning, this was the end of my workweek, and the night
before this hike I had a meeting until 10pm.
I’d much rather get a good night’s sleep in my own bed, wake up warm and
to a fresh pot of coffee, and then head out to the trail. The only downside is I’m a bit sleepy driving
(but not as much as if I’d gone the night before). Coffee helps.
This trailhead (Half Moon Trailhead) was easy to find. It was about 8 miles off a dirt road, but it
wasn’t too bad to drive. I’m confident
just about any 2WD could have made it (but I put my Tundra in 4WD just to be
safe). There were probably 20 other
vehicles there when I arrived (picture at end of post). There was a bathroom but the lock didn’t work
and it was out of toilet paper. No
worries: I always bring my own.
I made it later than I’d have liked (6am), and the sun was
already beginning to rise. I usually
start about half an hour before sunrise, so I needed to get a move on! I got out my maps, checked the maps at the
trailhead, verified my route, and was on my way.
The beginning of this hike was quite easy. It gained a moderate amount of elevation on a
I saw several aspen trees that had been visited recently by
After about a mile and a half I came to Half Moon Pass. At this point I was going to LOSE about 1000
feet in elevation, just to make it up again later. This was ok with me though, because I’d
rather hike up than down. I regularly
hike uphill (5-10 miles a day) so muscle memory would kick in.
I ended up hiking down a lot farther than I thought I
would! Then I rounded a corner, and
BAM! There it was! Mount of the Holy Cross. My jaw dropped! Woot!
I was going to hike this?!?
Awesome!!! I was super excited
this was the mountain I was going to climb today! This looked so freaking fun!
While not it’s namesake, I found a cross in the upper right of the mountain. Though not quite as prominent as it would have been last month with
Cool fact: When there’s
snow Mt Shavano has an Angel on its East slopes, and Mount of the Holy Cross
has a cross on its North Face. Mt
Shavano is the furthest South in the Sawatch Mountain Range, and Mount of the
Holy Cross is the furthest North. It’s
like an angel and cross hold the mountain range together.
At this point the trail got really steep going down (which
meant extra work on the return trip), but I honestly didn’t care. This hike was going to be amazing!
The downhill part stopped at Cross Creek. I crossed Cross Creek and began regaining lost
I just have to say, this
trail is very well maintained. It’s
almost impossible to get lost because it’s so manicured. I’m not sure if this was done after all the “incidents”
or before, but either way it’s appreciated.
The only way I could see someone possibly getting turned around is at
these campsites, but they’d need to be missing the indicators of the hiker
would need to be extremely naive.
Cairns. There were
tons of cairns, just in case the pathway of rocks wasn’t enough (which I know
it wouldn’t be in the snow).
the Holy Cross is to the left, the path is to the right.
The only difficult part of this hike was the last quarter mile,
and it was only difficult because of the sun.
It just so happened the time of day I was hiking was right when the sun
was coming up over the mountain, casting an intense yellow glow directly in the
path I was supposed to take. Sunglasses
did not help. I just aimed for the top
and kept hiking upwards. Most 14ers don’t
have much of a trail the last mile or so anyway.
I summited at 9:20am.
I looked around, noticed all routes down looked the same, and placed my
hiking pole in a position to indicate which way I’d come up so I knew which way
to head back down. This is really the
only way I could see someone getting lost:
taking the wrong trail down from the summit.
I took a picture to prove I’d made it
One of the summit marker (I was so excited this summit had
And a few of the amazing views! Check out those lakes!
Then I was off back down the mountain. I looked for the ridge I’d followed coming up
and was glad I’d indicated with my hiking pole: there were 3 “similar” ridges.
Hiking down was pretty easy.
I once again looked for ways to get lost and had a hard time finding
any. In fact, I found a trail I assumed
went to the lakes but it wasn’t what anyone would take instead of the main
trail (it was overgrown and didn’t look used).
I also met a few guys searching for a 13er route, but that trail wasn’t
visible either (I’d looked on my way up too).
Oh, I saw a grouse…
And check out this tree:
how did that happen?!?!?
I made it back down to the trailhead at 12:45pm. So I hiked 12 miles, 5600+ feet in elevation
gain in 7 hours. Not a great time, but I
stopped to take a bunch of pictures, and I spent a lot of time at the summit,
so I’ll take it!
I’m pretty sure this is my new favorite 14er (besides Pikes
Peak: That will always be my favorite as
I’ve hiked it 12+ times and it holds special memories). I loved how it went uphill both ways, the
flowers were beautiful, and that mountain:
majestic!!! This was much of the
Oh, and when I got back down the trailhead was FULL of
cars. Full. That line goes for about a quarter mile.
I saw no less than 8 Park Service Rangers (2 installing a sign
at the summit and 6 hiking to the lakes)
There were a lot of people on this hike, but it didn’t feel
I saw a nun hiking (she had on a hiking skirt that went to
her ankles and a nuns scarf). She didn’t
start until 11am. I hope she made it
before the storms set in.
I can see how someone could get lost below treeline because
you can’t see any of the mountains and lose sense of direction, however above
treeline the trail is pretty easy to follow.
Descending from the summit is the only plausible way to get turned
I had another guy follow me today. Once again nothing creepy, but there has to
be a better way? Guys: do not follow 5,10,15, or 20 yards behind a
woman hiking alone. You may think you’re
respecting her space but it’s just creep!
Several times I either walked faster, stopped, or encouraged him to pass
me. The time I asked him to pass he said
he was just about to stop for a blister, and when I went faster so did he (and
slower was the same). I never felt
threatened (he seemed like a nice guy) but it’s creepy just the same. I felt like his pacer. Guys:
Stop and give some distance or pass us.
Video from the summit:
The Mt of the Holy Cross summit sticker can be bought here