Peak(s):  Unnamed 13248  -  13,248 feet
Notch Mountain  -  13,237 feet
Date Posted:  06/28/2022
Date Climbed:   06/25/2022
Author:  13erRetriever
Additional Members:   Bibbie
 Another Notch in Harpers Halo   

UN 13,248 ("Harper's Halo") and Notch Mountain (Unranked)
Elevation: 13,248 ft. and 13,237 ft.
Rank: 441 and Unranked
Date Completed: June 25, 2022
Mileage RT: ~10 miles
Gain: ~3200 ft

Before I scare anyone, Harper is alive and kicking (and still beating me to the top of mountains at TEN years old) and the name of this report is not to indicate that Harper has "gained a halo." This angel has always had one!

I do, however, really enjoy naming the unnamed peaks we climb to give them a little more interest and personal remembrance. Will anyone else ever refer to this mountain as "Harper's Halo"? Likely not, but that's entirely beside the point. Harper deserved something special for her 140th unique ranked peak and because she's the closest thing to an angel most of us will ever know the themed name came pretty easily this time around...

We climbed Holy Cross a couple of years ago but because we did the standard route we never actually got to see the iconic cross. My mom and I have been trying to time it right for the past two years to make a return trip to the area and go up to the Notch Mountain Shelter, while I've had dreams of doing the whole Ridge. This can be a little tricky between waiting for the road to open yet going early enough in the year to where there is snow in the couloir, and finding a weekend we can both drive in from opposite sides of the state all while avoiding inevitable early season storms. However, this was a bucket list hike for both of us and one I also wanted to do while I still have my Harper. While she's still doing incredible things at ten years old I can already see her slow down and take longer to recover after our hikes. It couldn't wait any longer. This had to be the year, Ridge or not.

We woke up at 1:30 am for a 2:00 leave time from Fairplay, arriving at the trailhead just after 4:00 am. We took the last parking spot in the lot (still plenty of parking on the road) and headed out by headlamp along the gentle and steady Fall Creek Trail. Not too long after we began, my unsuspecting mom got knocked to the ground by a tree leaning across the trail, which provided some early morning entertainment to our sleepy group. Sorry, mom! You knew I was going to mention it! The rest of the trail to the top of the Notch Mountain Shelter was pretty uneventful and we gratefully found the trail to be a gentle steady climb to the top. I dreaded seeing all those switchbacks on the map but this was a very well planned out and constructed trail. I don't find myself on these too often any more so it was a nice change.

Sunrise hit just as we reached the switchbacks, and by the time we got to the Shelter at 7:45 am we were in full sunlight with clear blue skies. At long last we got to see what makes Mount of the Holy Cross so iconic, and the view didn't disappoint. I wasn't there just for the cross and shelter though - this is after all. I had it in mind to do the Ridge if I felt like it, and UN 13,248 and Notch if I didn't. One look over at the Ridge with only three hours of sleep under my belt made that a pretty easy decision. I'll get over to the Ridge one day, but today was reserved for other exploits. Kyle decided to nap, so the rest of us headed over to UN 13,248 ("Harper's Halo"), joined by Harper's new best fried Heidi who we met at the shelter. Heidi's boyfriend had zoomed past us earlier in the morning on his way to do the whole Ridge over to Holy Cross. They had walkie talkies and when Patrick radioed back to ask Heidi where she was and what she was doing, she simply said "rubbing a golden retriever's butt." More heaven for Harper.

The ridge over to Harper's Halo was easy rock hopping and after a quick summit we soon made it back to the shelter and Kyle. My parents decided to descend the way we came, but I was looking forward to traveling through the notch and getting another (unranked) 13er. We split up, with Harper and Kyle coming with me. I had taken photos of Ben's report and downloaded his GPX before heading out just to give myself some options. Sometime between his 2019 report and now though, someone had marked the notch with a lot of small cairns and it wasn't hard to find our way across. The hardest part was finding the drop point from the south. As you'll see in the photos below there are a bunch of cairns indicating one such point, but it was a class 3- chimney that we just didn't feel like dealing with Harper. While you might drop a little more than needed, we took the easier way down by descending past the first rib and hopping over where it looked like it might work. It did, and in all I think our GPX file probably reflects the easiest and probably ideal way to cross the notch. Drop, cross, climb, drop, longer cross, climb seemed to be the order of operations for this fun little traverse and we were on Notch Mountain in no time with just some minor class 2+ scrambling. The pictures look pretty cool though.

The views from Notch Mountain were probably the best of the day and if I wasn't thinking about hot food and sleep I may have stayed longer. I knew my parent's would be waiting though too, so off we went. The descent was pretty uneventful and though the trail is very faint there is indeed a trail with many many small cairns leading from Half Moon Pass up to Notch Mountain. We had avoided snow most of the day but now that we were on a north face we encountered just a few small patches until the very end, where a larger patch blocked our way directly down to the pass. You'll see on the GPX file that this is where we decided to rock hop around but later in the year you should just be able to follow the trail down to the pass.

Look for us on your next mountain, and be sure to give Harper a "good dog"!

Sunrise on the switchbacks
Looking up at Notch Mountain from the switchbacks. Not too long and we'll be up there!
First view of the cross
The photo I know you've all been waiting for. An angel if I've ever seen one.
Notch Mountain Shelter
Plaque to the pioneer photographer
Looking over at UN 13,248 ("Harper's Halo") from near the shelter, with Holy Cross Ridge out behind looking far away
Closer look at UN 13,248 ("Harper's Halo")
Proud pup on her 140th ranked 13er/14er! She hit 43 14ers on Princeton the weekend before. Two more (Sherman and Evans) and she'll be in official 14er retirement.
Holy Cross Ridge from UN 13,248 ("Harper's Halo"). Doesn't look too bad from here but I don't think I'm giving that dip to the left enough credit.
Back at the shelter
Cairns on the route to Notch Mountain. We did NOT go down this way (other side), but instead dropped further off the side of the mountain before traversing due to dog.
The route over to Notch Mountain. Not as bad as it looks.
More route, in the scree now. There were cairns almost the whole way if you looked for them.
Better views of Holy Cross from this side I'd argue!
Looking up at the notch. Summit is the one on the left.
Looking back from where we came. Ledge-y. Fun.
On top of the ridge now, looking back
We stayed the ridge instead of dropping like Ben did, and found it really enjoyable class 2
Good scramble dog almost up Notch Mountain
Mount of the Holy Cross as seen from Notch Mountain. I like this view best.
From Notch Mountain you're almost even with the shelter looking back, which at first is a little frustrating but it's all so beautiful and fun you don't really care in the end
Harper's idea of heaven. I'm not too inclined to disagree.
Looking down on most of the rest of the route from Notch. There's a trail here with LOTS of little cairns.
One of the best alpine spring beauties I've seen
Looking down on Half Moon Pass, where we'd rejoin the standard route crowds

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
That is one happy puppy
06/28/2022 16:08
Harper looks so dang happy! I love it!

Happiest pup
06/28/2022 17:14
Agree with Ben, that pic of Harper on the snow is very adorable.

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