| Tour de Massive from N. Halfmoon Creek
Mountains: South Massive (14,132), Mt. Massive (14,421'), Massive Green (14,300'), North Massive (14,340') and Point 14,169'
Route: Started at N. Halfmoon Creek TH (10,500') and climbed the SW Slopes route to the South Massive summit, traversed over to all the other Massive Summits and descended a modified West Slopes route.
Elevation Gain - 5000' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 9.5 miles (approx)
Roundtrip Time - ¬ 9:15, includes 1:15 on the summits
After a great day at the Holy Cross Wilderness I headed over to Wild Bill's at Leadville for a ¾ lb belly buster and a large pineapple shake. I got out of the restaurant to be soaked by rain and large quantities of pea sized hail. I called Kirk (KirkT) for a quick weather report and he confirmed that I was under a biiig hucking cloud, and also that we were still doing the Tour de Massive the following morning. We arranged to meet at the Main Massive TH at 3:15AM from where I would drive my Jeep up to the North Halfmoon Creek TH. The plan was to start hiking by 3:30AM.
I drove up to the trailhead and walked around for a bit before the mosquitoes drove me into my Jeep. I slept rather uncomfortably and woke up at 3:15AM. Kirk and Chris (Chris P.) showed up 15 minutes later and I reluctantly oozed out of my sleeping bag and drove us up to N. Halfmoon Ck. The road is pretty straightforward and the last 0.5 miles get a little rough… comparable to the 4WD road up to Huron perhaps… nothing a stock 4WD vehicle with reasonable clearance can't handle.
We set off up the trail by 4:20AM with Chris setting a race pace. The trail is very easy to follow under headlamps and we made good time. Kirk spotted the elusive (in the dark) cutoff point and we started making our way up a strong climbers trail to the ridgeline.
We ascended to about 13,300' by 6:15AM but realized that the trail was heading straight for the Main Massive summit. At this point we decided to skirt across talus/scree/snow slopes to the saddle to S. Massive. We should have made the turn off earlier. The detour cost us a little time and took us across a few patches of snow and a good deal of talus and scree that we sent tumbling downhill. A few Class 3 moves were required.
We soon got to the saddle and made our way up to South Massive for our first summit of the day at 7:20AM.
We stayed on the summit for a bit and Kirk did his customary headstand on the summit block. We set off down for the Main Massive summit at around 7:40AM. Chris and I summitted at about 8:30AM and Kirk followed a few minutes later. Here's looking back at the ridge to South Massive. There's a climber's trail through the entire length of the traverse across all 5 points.
The weather wasn't really conducive to photography…
We met another climber at the main summit and chatted for a bit and ate our sandwiches. We spent quite a bit of time on the summit before heading over to the next point, Massive Green
We summitted Massive Green and decided to head straight over to N. Massive without wasting too much time. The ridge to North Massive has some pretty interesting stuff on it if you get off route. We ended up doing some minor Class 3 scrambling
There were a few patches of snow which obscured the regular route which appears to be along the East side of the ridge. If you can find the regular route you can easily keep the difficulty down to Class 2 as we found out later. However we traversed over to the west side of the ridge and got into some enjoyable class 3 scrambling. Close to the summit we came across this wall…
Chris P decided to go straight up it
Kirk and I decided to traverse over to the east side of the ridge and find the trail. And sure enough, there it was… on the East side of the ridge…
We summitted N. Massive at 10:15AM. All three of us felt that it was a worthy summit and it appears rather dense that N. Massive isn't even soft ranked while Cameron is. Here's a sweet ridge we should've traversed if it weren't for the weather…
And here's the main Massive summit as seen from N. Massive
And our victorious mugs…
We spent a while on North Massive talking about high altitude flies with AMS and the sweet ridge to Oklahoma. The clouds started building in the interim and we decided to hit Pt. 14,169 and call it quits. Here's looking back from the connecting ridge at our summits for the day…
From Pt. 14,169 we planned to head down towards the N. Halfmoon Lakes where we'd spotted a trail from one of the summits. We found a couple snow slopes but thought better not to glissade down them because they ended rather dangerously. Instead we found some cairns and followed them down a miserable scree slope which promised to hook us up with the West slopes route.
On the way down this slope at about 13,600' we met a couple groups going up with plans to hit N. Massive and the main Massive summit although huge dark clouds had built vertically in the last 30 minutes. I warned one of the slower groups about this but they had this valuable piece of information with them that had seen them through their illustrious climbing careers… "We see the clouds… if we SEE lightning, we'll turn around". We left, enlightened. Sure enough we heard thunder and started getting hit by hail within 30 minutes… we were down at 12,600' by then and we hope everyone else made it down safely too. I am worried by the number of people who don't seem to know, at all, what they're doing up there and worse yet, do not want to learn from others‘ mistakes.
After busting out our knees and ankles quite a bit we got down to the lakes at 11:40AM. It's pretty easy to find the West Slopes trail from here and the route is marked very well with cairns. Here's looking back up the trail…
We made good time back and were at the trailhead by 1:35PM. Chris and Kirk strong hikers… we made a good team and kept up a sustainable pace throughout although Chris' pace makes one wheeze like an old man sometimes. Massive was my last Sawatch summit. It's a great feeling to be done with a range. I don't want to be climbing this range again for a long time unless it's in winter or the Ellingwood ridge. Thanks Sawatch, it's been great climbing with you.