| Mt. Massive, West Slopes
Ryan and I were in Leadville for the weekend, and figured that a 14er would be a good way to cap things off. This would be Ryan's first first hike above 10,000 ft, although he is an avid trail runner on the Front Range. Looking for something different, I decided on the West Slopes approach of Massive. Considering the Class 2 rating in Roach's Class 2 rating, I figured it should be easily doable. It turned out to be quite an adventurous "Class 2"...
Ryan under the SW slopes
7:45 am, we left from North Half Moon TH, and were at the trail split for the SW slopes and W slopes trails in about 30 minutes. Continuing up the W slopes trail, the Massive Wilderness area becomes increasingly remote and breathtaking. I was extremely happy with our choice of routes. We passed two other hikers all day, and they were on their way to Oklahoma.
Massive Wilderness (shoulder of French center)
The trail becomes pretty faint near the North Halfmoon Lakes, but a string of cairns will take you up to the correct basin for this hike. We reached the base of the scree field and a rock face (see pic) at 9:45am, and the cairns took us left. This seems to be the route suggested in Roach's book as well. The rock face looks to offer some pretty nice class 4-5 options, but not sure what the top-out is like. Might have to bring a rope next time, it looks like good solid rock.
At the base of scree fields
The scree isn't bad to start, but becomes increasingly steep and unstable. I had an area of rocks about 10 ft radius around me slide 5 ft.
Ryan on loose scree
About halfway up, the scree began to feel pretty dangerous, and we opted for the more solid rock to the right. The difficultly bumped up to sustained and fairly exposed Class 3 here, and I felt pretty bad for dragging Ryan into this as his first 14er. At this point we were quite committed, and the best way down was up.
There was still loose debris mixed in with the scrambling, and our nerves were taking a toll. The clouds were threatening, and rain drizzled off and on, not helping matters. We finally cruised around a crux at the top and gained the tower at the top of the fin we had been climbing next to, at about 10:40am. After a deep calming breath, we were able to take in the incredible views.
Ryan atop the tower that our route followed up
Here we were greatly relieved to jump back onto the well established ridgeline trail, and soon gained the summit on "Massive Green". Here we were greeted with a light dose of August snowfall. We then followed the trail to the main summit, with some fun and much less exposed Class 3 detours. Luckily the clouds remained stable, and there were no signs of electricity.
At the summit, we took in the views and watched Leadville getting absolutely dumped on with rain. We took the well marked southwest slopes turn-off, and proceeded to half-jog down the steep, but excellently maintained trail (thanks CFI!!). The sun came out, making it a complete Colorado day, with sun, rain, and snow. With a big juicy burger on the brain, we made good time back to the car, finishing at 2pm.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):