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LoJ: #441 (G & M: #440) UN 13248

Range › Sawatch Range
Quadrangle › Mount of the Holy Cross
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 27' 51.55", W 106° 27' 44.61" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

UN 13,248 is the highest point south on a ridge that extends from the unranked Notch Mountain. The peak is accessed via a trail that leads to the historic Notch Mountain Hut that overlooks the "Bowl of Tears" with Mount of the Holy Cross dominating the view west. This is a moderate Class 2 day hike that not only offers a great view of Mount of the Holy Cross, but also some history to go with it. The trailhead is located at the end of the Tigiwon Road out of Minturn and for part of the way, the route uses the primary access trail for the 14er. The trailhead is usually accessible to passenger vehicles, but as with most such graded dirt/gravel roads, a little extra clearance can be helpful. There is a small campground at trail's end. The route provided here offers an alternate descent that will take hikers over Notch Mountain. 

UN 13,248 North Ridge Route

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Half Moon - Fall Creek: 9.8 mi / 3,225'
  • Trailhead
    • Half Moon - Fall Creek Trailhead

      Whether coming from the east or west on I-70, take the Minturn exit # 171 and head south on US24 to the town of Minturn. When the highway comes into town at the north end and makes a fairly sharp right turn, it's about 3.5 more miles south to the turnoff  on the right for the Tigiwon Road (FR707). The turnoff is just before the highway crosses Eagle Creek. If coming on US24 from Leadville, the turnoff is after the last switchback as you descend from Battle Mountain. After that switchback, the highway crosses the Eagle River and the turnoff will be almost immediately after that crossing on the left. 

      Once on the Tigiwon (on some maps labelled Tigwon) it's a long drive on a graded, gravel road that meanders through countless turns and switchbacks to the trailhead. There are beautiful stands of aspen and open meadows. Total distance is about 8.5 miles. About 6 miles in, there's a small campground that is not listed on the White River NF website, just beyond the Tigiwon Community Hut. Overall, the road can be somewhat rough, but most passenger vehicles should be able to make it to the TH. Cross-overs & standard SUV's would be a safer bet. This road may not be open until mid-June some time. Check the White River National Forest website for more info. Both the Half Moon trail and the Fall Creek trail take out from here. Be careful to correctly identify the trail you desire. There is a small, national forest campground on a spur road from the trailhead. This will almost always be filled on summer weekends. There's only 7 sites. Primitive campsites along the Tigiwon Road are limited. Parking can also be a hassle on weekends with so many climbers coming to do Mount of the Holy Cross, you may end up parking along the side of the road as much as a quarter mile back from the trailhead, even on a Friday evening. 


      Camping

      There is a very small campground (Half Moon) at the trailhead area which was re-worked several years ago. There are only seven sites and a fee is charged. The campground is first-come, first-served. Some sources indicate a campground near the Tigiwon Community Hut. The White River NF makes no mention of it. Camping at the Tigiwon Hut is prohibited, but on Google Earth, you can see some primitive sites just up the road from there. Attempt to camp at your own risk. The Half Moon CG can be expected to be fully occupied on any summer weekend. Also, because the Half Moon Pass trail is the access to Mt. of the Holy Cross, and that summit is one of the more popular 14er destinations for Front Range peakbaggers, the limited trailhead parking fills immediately on weekends and later arrivals will find themselves having to park a substantial distance back down the road. 


      Campsite Locations

      Half Moon › N 39° 30' 04.16", W 106° 25' 54.90"
      10,315 ft. elevation
    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info UN 13,248 North Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2008

    From the end of the Tigiwon Road at the trailhead parking, two trails head out. One is the trail to Half Moon Pass which continues toward East Cross Creek and the Mount of the Holy Cross North ridge trail. The other trail is the Fall Creek/Notch Mountain Trail #2001. This is the one you want. This trail heads generally south and will be the left of the two trails. About 2.4 miles along the Fall Creek Trail is the turnoff for Notch Mountain and the historic Notch Mountain Hut/Shelter. The trail is likely over a century old and the shelter was built in 1933. In the first half of the 20th century, religious pilgrimages to this location were a common event. Travelers from around the country hiked this trail for the view of the cross on Mount of the Holy Cross. Religious services were even conducted there and the Tigiwon Community Hut was originally built to provide some shelter for travelers. 

    Once on the Fall Creek/Notch Mtn. Trail, there will be far fewer hikers, most of whom will be heading for Mount of the Holy Cross. The trail continues through heavily forested terrain for nearly two miles gaining very little elevation. Continue on the Fall Creek Trail until you come to the Notch Mountain Trail #2000 and head more to the west now. (The Fall Creek trail continues south to the foot of Whitney Peak, climbs a pass and comes out near Hunky Dory Lake.) Once on the Notch Mtn. trail, the serious elevation gain begins. The trail turns off at about 11,200 ft and begins ascending on multiple switchbacks through more open forest and meadows. The meadows contain large amounts of bluebells and paintbrush. One interesting thing we found in one of the lower meadows was an old stump/log that someone had set in an upright position. It had the appearance of a small gnome with arms raised, reaching out in the direction of Holy Cross (even though not visible from this location). We took a few photos of the interesting feature. 

    Further up the trail, in the open tundra, we spotted some ptarmigan and were able to obtain a few more photos of this fairly rare bird. Continue up the almost endless switchbacks and after about an hour and a half arrive at the Notch Mountain hut. Holy Cross presents a magnificent view and photographers will want to spend some time taking various photos. Now, a word of explanation. Notch Mtn. itself is not a ranked summit. The one ranked summit here is south of the hut along the ridge. It is marked as 13,248 ft. and lies about ¾ mile south of the hut. Hike over to that official summit likely leaving behind some other folks arriving at the hut. The walk to the ranked summit takes one over large boulders and blocks of rock and is slow. It’s similar to the final summit ascent of Holy Cross. 

    For the descent, either return as you came or consider this alternative for those who might want to tag Notch Mountain. Departing the hut strike out to the south along the ridge. To get to Notch Mountain, you have to negotiate the formation for which this summit is named – the big notch between it and the hut. Ascend from the hut up toward the 13,224 marker on the map. From the summit, backtrack a little south to a large cairn you may have passed. From the cairn drop about 100 feet in elevation on the west side of the ridge. After a little contouring, a rock rib will block the way. We found a way over it after a little searching and continued contouring to another rib. After crossing this second rib, we dropped another 100 feet. Contouring across some more gullies, we finally picked up a trail of sorts. This took us to the notch, about 50 feet below it on the west side. Just past the notch, we began ascending on a rock and tundra bench toward the ridge. The trail led to the east side of the ridge and skirted the summit of Notch Mtn. We, of course, tagged the summit. From the summit drop back down a little on the east side to pick up the trail. This trail does not show on any maps and may be left over from the pilgrimage days. It continues north from the summit of Notch Mtn. following the ridgeline for a while and then dropping over to the west side. Then it crosses over to the east side of the ridge just a little before the 12,743 marker. It then begins a descent down on the east flank of the north ridge, and contours around the nose of the ridge to join the Holy Cross trail at Half Moon Pass. Along the way, we saw plenty more flowers to enjoy and by staying up high, were able to enjoy some more views before descending back to forest. 

    At Half Moon Pass search for the descent trail by locating two rock cairns that mark it’s beginning just west of the pass summit. During a break, we took several photos of the brilliant orange paintbrush that covered this area. From the pass, it's easy hiking for the remaining couple of miles back to the trailhead. 


    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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