Halo Ridge (UN13253->Holy Cross Ridge->UN13786->Mount of the Holy Cross)

Date Climbed: July 2, 2023

Trailhead: Fall Creek TH

Trailhead Access: 2wd carefully driven

Halo Ridge is an absolute must-do route. You get to visit the Notch Mountain Cabin, bag a centennial, and get an epic view of the cross on Mt. of the Holy Cross. And the traverse itself remains class 2 and it quite pleasant, both gaining and descending off the ridge on a nice trail. No bushwhacking required. My shins thanked me. In order to not orphan UN13786, I nabbed that peak in an out-and-back from Holy Cross Ridge.

Starting from the Fall Creek TH (a familiar trail since I did it the day before to get Whitney Peak), I approached several miles to reach the turn off (right) to Notch Mountain trail. This trail will gain the majority of the elevation for the day, switching back and forth to the ridge. Once on the ridge, the trail disappears at the Notch Mountain Cabin, but the rest of the route is evident just by eyeballing it.

The turnoff for Notch Mountain

Halo Ridge is probably named after its being shaped like a halo (at least I’m guessing), so you can see the entire route before you. And from the cabin you get the best views of the cross on Holy Cross you’ll get in Colorado.

The cross!

Continuing down the ridge, the rockhopping began. UN13253 was a quick bag after gaining the ridge, but it’s the shorter peak along the way.

Summit #1: UN13253

Then, after descending off UN13253 and into a nice grassy tundra meadow, the ridge narrowed. I think avoiding the ridge proper keeps the class lower; the ridge seemed to be broken by steepish blocks. Once at the end of this ridge portion, the right turns right and a steep rocky slope is required to gain the alpine meadow that stands before you and Holy Cross Ridge.

The ridge before the “right turn”. Holy Cross Ridge on the right
Looking down at the Bowl of Tears
The flat tundra before Holy Cross Ridge

Apparently there is a route down Tuhare Lakes from this flat upper ridge, but that basin was so filled in with snow at this point I didn’t want to have to deal with that if bad weather came in and I had to bail.

It took me maybe 30 minutes to get from the alpine tundra to the Holy Cross Ridge summit.

From there, I could assess the traverse over to UN13786. From my vantage point from the east the face looked very steep and intimidating, but now seeing its west side I was assured the traverse would be simple.

On top of Holy Cross Ridge, assessing the traverse
Views of sheer cliffs and steep slab on the traverse was vertigo-inducing
Summit of UN13786
Summit of UN13786
Summit of UN13786, looking at Whitney peak, which I did the day before

After a class 2 broken talus traverse over to and back from UN13786, I eyeballed the backside of Holy Cross Ridge. I really didn’t want to have to re-summit it again, so I instead made the annoying side-hill journey on its west face over to the ridge connecting to Mount of the Holy Cross.

Holy Cross Ridge is the nearer peak with Holy Cross in the distance

For some reason side-hilling to avoid more elevation gain seems to take far longer than anticipated. But there were a lot of oven- to car-sized boulders to scramble over which made my life a lot easier. Once on the saddle, I decided to just summit Mount of the Holy Cross instead of avoiding the peak. Would it really be a Halo Ridge without the Holy Cross?

Finally en route up to Holy Cross

And so for the second time I stood atop Mount of the Holy Cross, admiring the route I’d come from and the Notch Mountain Shelter across the valley, where I had began the traverse.

With weather starting to threaten my well-being, I began my descent down the North Ridge route of Mt. of the Holy Cross. By now I was grateful to have a nice, developed trail to walk on, even if it was steep and aggressive on the knees. And Half Moon Pass wasn’t that bad; again, a nice trail makes all the difference.

Holy Cross from Half Moon Pass

All in all, Halo Ridge is a relatively pleasant route, and I recommend going around the same time I did to enjoy perfect cross conditions on Mt. of the Holy Cross (filled in with snow, but bare rock surrounding). And there were hardly any snow obstacles to contend with along the way.

And who knows, maybe you’ll get a Strava record along the way. Apparently doing the Fall Creek Trail to the Notch Mountain trail turnoff twice in one weekend is award-worthy. I’ll take whatever meager awards I can get in the unglamorous hobby of peakbagging!

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