RT Length: 13.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 4863’
After 2 hours of sleep I woke up at 9:30pm to drive to the Halfmoon/Tigiwon/Fall Creek Trailhead. My kids think I’m nuts, but starting early when hiking above treeline really has its advantages. I was afraid of encountering afternoon thunderstorms, as there was a 50% chance after noon, and while I didn’t know if I’d be encountering any snow it was likely and would soften up during the day so I wanted an early start. The 2WD dirt road in was a little rough but easy to navigate. I arrived at the trailhead at 2:15am and took one of the last available parking spots.
There’s a ton of signage at this trailhead and multiple routes up to the same peak(s). I chose to take the Fall Creek Trail, heading south.
This trail is well established and well maintained. The first half mile or so was dry
And then the trail was completely covered in several inches of water. I took off my boots to cross the waterfall area (about 1.5 miles into the trail)
At 2.4 miles I came to a trail junction for Lake Constantine and Notch Mountain Trail, taking Notch Mountain Trail west.
This trail switchbacked up the side of the mountain for another mile or so, and where there wasn’t water there was snow
At 11,750’ I came to the base of the slope up to the ridge, and needed snowshoes
In the dark I could only see a few feet in front of me and there was a lot of snow, so here I lost the defined trail and just hiked straight up the ridge. Snowshoes were very helpful here! It’s also steeper than it looks
About 150’ from the ridge the snow stopped and I was able to follow a snow free trail to the ridge
The sun was beginning to rise, and I love sitting and watching sunrises, so as soon as I reached the ridge I ascended a small (and unranked) slope to sit and enjoy the view
The sunrise didn’t disappoint!
The best view was behind me though, of 14er Mt of the Holy Cross. Wow! It’s beautiful in the morning light.
After enjoying the sunrise I walked over to the ridge shelter and was excited to find it unlocked (well, it had a lock but the lock wasn’t securing the door).
The shelter’s actually quite roomy, with a fireplace (not that there’s any firewood above treeline) and a great view of Mt of the Holy Cross. This would be a nice place to shelter if a storm hit the ridge.
From the cabin I could see much of the rest of the route: Up Point 13,248, over to Point 13,373, and across to Holy Cross Ridge
The hike over to Point 13,248 was full of large rocks and hollow snow: the kind where you step on it and sink in a hole between the rocks up to your waist. After the first few postholes I stuck to the rocks
I summited Point 13,248 at 6:20am
Here’s looking back at the shelter
And here’s the route before me. It didn’t look like the sun wanted to peak out above the clouds this morning
Here’s where I got a little nervous. The ridge looked like it was covered in more snow than I’d anticipated.
But when I made my way down there (losing about 600 feet in elevation along the way) the ridge was snow free enough to walk across. Well, not really walk, but more like scramble up and down on the rocks. Sticking to the ridge worked well.
I was a bit worried about the large patches of snow I saw, hoping they weren’t hollow like the snow I’d encountered higher up on the ridge. Luckily, the snow here was solid
This is also where the crux of the route began. The solid line is the route I took up, and the dotted one is the route I took on the way down.
On my way up I went straight across the slope and then up the ridge
If I were to do this again I’d take the route I took down up as well. I didn’t initially because the rocks looked loose and unstable, but on my way down I found them to be stable and easy to climb through. I needed my ice axe and crampons for this part (on the way up and down) because the snow was steep. The traverse across the slope on my way in was sketchy, as every few feet or so I’d hit an air pocket and sink to my waist. I went slowly, seriously worried at some point I was going to slip and fall. Once I’d traversed the slope I needed to gain the ridge. This was steep as well. I couldn’t have done this without my ice axe and crampons
I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally gained Point 13,373. That had been more difficult than anticipated. I took a look back at Point 13,248
And at the rest of the route before me
I descended a bit, and then traversed a flat area before ascending once again. The last few hundred feet go up and down in elevation quite a bit, creating a few small false summits. My advice is not to go straight up the ridge, but circle the mountain to the left (west), gaining in elevation as you go
There were several large patches of snow to traverse here as well, and just my luck, the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds, making these crossings tricky as well
I summited at 8:30am
Holy Cross Ridge:
Here’s looking back on the route I took along the ridge
Ok, the sun was really warming things up and I was debating how safe the route back down Point 13,373 was going to be with soft snow. The ridge to Mt of the Holy Cross looked quite easy, and I considered just making this a loop, but I really wanted pictures of the route I took in, meaning I was going back the same way. Time to head back.
This time instead of going directly over the top of Point 13,373 I skirted the mountain to the right (east)
This put me at a great place to descend, so I once again put on my crampons and got out my ice axe and garden tool
The snow had indeed softened up, but was now perfect for kicking in steps. I felt much more comfortable traversing down than I had up, and the best part was the rocks I thought had been loose were really much larger and stable than they’d looked from across the ridge. Here’s the route I took down
And now the fun part: re-ascending point 13,248
I skirted the summit of this one as well, sticking to the left and then heading back to the shelter
Once at the shelter I met a couple eating lunch and taking a break. They’d intended on hiking the ridge today as well but were turning back due to weather/conditions. I thought this was a great idea, and noted it did look like we were indeed going to get some thunderstorms today after all.
I made it back to the switchbacks and when I came to snow put back on my snowshoes. This section looks short, but it’s actually a long and steep descent (which is made ‘easier’ with the switchbacks I couldn’t see under the snow, so I just headed straight down).
The sun had warmed up the snow, and what had been solid on my way in was now the consistency of a slushie. Each step I took I sank in the snow past my knees, and my trekking pole and ice axe were useless. I was sliding everywhere, and finally gave up and glissaded down. The couple behind me kept getting their feet stuck in the snow between rocks. The conditions were terrible, and I mentally high-fived myself for an early start: I wouldn’t have been able to descend Point 13,373 at this time of day.
Oh, and I saw a ptarmigan. I love those guys!
Snow stopped at about 11,700’ and everything was wet again, including my feet. The slushy snow had gotten inside my boots and my feet were soaked through. Changing socks wouldn’t have helped because my boots were wet as well. I didn’t even bother taking off my boots for the creek/waterfall crossings because they were already soaking wet
I made it back to my truck at 1:30pm, making this a 13.5 mile hike with 4863’ in elevation gain in 11 hours.