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Boulder, CO

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Mt of the Holy Cross "Orbital"

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Mt of the Holy Cross "Orbital"

Derek Bartz

A summer solstice snow storm passes by near the top of Notch Mountain

A summer solstice snow storm passes by near the top of Notch Mountain

Trip Date:  June 21-22
Location: Holy Cross Wilderness
Miles:  13.3
Vertcal:  5,400'
Permit: Yes, self register at the trailhead
Why Go?  Awesome sunset/sunrise views of the Cross Couloir and a night in a hut at 13,000'; get up there already.
Directions:  Take exit 171 off of I-70.  Head south on US 24 through the town of Minturn, continue 2.8 miles, and turn west onto Tigiwon Road (FR 707).  The Halfmoon Trailhead is 8.4 miles up the 2WD dirt road.  The Half Moon Trail and the Falls Creek Trail both begin here.

Spend the summer solstice in a hut atop 13,000' Notch Mountain?  Of course!  We left Boulder around 1:00pm and arrived at the Halfmoon Trailhead shortly after 4:00pm; a little later than planned we headed up the Falls Creek Trail.  At tree line clouds began to gather making us question what the sky looked like over the steep slope we were ascending.  Luckily it was just a light snow storm followed by dispersed puffy clouds making for an atmospheric afternoon in the alpine.  So far so good.  

When we arrived at the Notch Mountain hut we saw a tent set up outside and thought it was locked for sure.  Turns out there was a patch of ice and snow behind the door, only allowing it to open a couple inches but not enough to actually get inside.  Our plan all along was to sleep in this hut, and none of us seemed too excited about the prospects of cowboy camping on an exposed ridge at 13,000'; we WERE getting inside.  First we boiled some water and poured it under the door, which allowed us to get the door open enough to get my hand inside in which I picked at the snow/ice with my ice axe.  A little bit of pushing thereafter and voila we were inside, it made for an entertaining start to the trip.  The hut was fabulous: great views of the Cross Couloir (which we initially planned to climb before we realized it was near impossible to get to the base from Notch Mt), beers and whiskey, and only a couple mice to share the entire hut with. Next time we'll pack up fire wood for sure.  

Unfortunately there was solid cloud cover for sunrise so no alpenglow on the cross, but at least Halo Ridge was awesome! The 2.1 mile ridge circles the Bowl of Tears Basin tagging three 13,000' sub-peaks along the way. Walking it's length in the early morning light was fantastic, fun class 2 terrain with sweeping views of the Sawatch and Elks to the South/West.  I definitely recommend this route over the standard North Ridge, which we descended to complete the "Orbital" tour of Holy Cross.

After getting all settled into the hut we were able to enjoy the late afternoon lighting from atop Notch Mountain

After getting all settled into the hut we were able to enjoy the late afternoon lighting from atop Notch Mountain

Notch Mountain shelter

Notch Mountain shelter

One last view of the Cross

One last view of the Cross

The ridge as seen from Point 13,248'

The ridge as seen from Point 13,248'

Holy Cross Ridge and the still frozen Tuhure Lakes from about 1/3 of the way along Halo Ridge

Holy Cross Ridge and the still frozen Tuhure Lakes from about 1/3 of the way along Halo Ridge

The nasty cornice guarding Teardrop Couloir

The nasty cornice guarding Teardrop Couloir