| "A Lofty Tour de Massive"
The day began too late, 3:30AM turned to 3:40AM, really sleeping in now. We picked up our buddy Chris in Denver at 5:20AM and made our way to N. Halfmoon Creek where we arrived at about 8:30AM, much later than we should be. But having lived in CO my whole life I know that the weather forecast is best judged up close and hour by hour so we set off on route 9.4EC in Roach's 14ers. The trail begins with a very nice mellow stroll through the trees with the creek flowing next to you. There are several small stream crossings but none posed any challenge.
It felt like quite awhile below the trees but it wasn't too steep and you should take advantage of this by moving quickly. The main trail for the SW Slopes route branches to the right while you continue straightish on the West Slopes route.
The turn is marked by this sign.
Eventually the trail becomes less and less obvious and it is more just about keeping track of where you're at and where you're trying to get to. A map helps with this. We managed to stay pretty well on the route Roach describes using this remarkable tool. The views along the way were spectacular.
After much discussion of this way or that way we left the upper basin and picked a line up a steep scree slope and scrambled up loose rock onto the ridge with the impressive rock tower on the south end. Here we are in agreement, that way.
Once on it the ridge was more interesting than expected and could be as easy or difficult as you want. Jessica is quite scared of heights and while easy and wide she had to move slow on some sections of this ridge and we made slow progress up toward objective one, Massive's N. Summit. Standing tall at 14,340 it is almost an official 14er and would be the 5th highest if it were. When we reached the summit it was late, 12:15PM and the clouds were looking ominous.
We had a judgment call to make; continue over the main summit to descend the SW Slopes route or turn back the way we came. While the clouds looked threatening they were also pretty scattered and there had been almost no thunder so we shouldered the packs and started moving. We also knew that the descent down the SW Slopes would be quicker than where we just came from so we carried on.
From here out we didn't stop for any other pictures, we just went. There was some light snow but mostly the clouds kept passing to the north. After making our way down the low class 3 ridge past Massive Green we had a soft ridge to the summit. Jessica was tired, Chris was tired, I was tired, the clouds did not seem to be very mindful of this and kept moving toward us. Finally after hearing thunder 3 or 4 times it was time to really go. We had been above 14k for several hours now and it was near 2PM. Jessica started to panic a little as she struggled to breathe so I grabbed her pack, put it on frontwards and after a few Lamaze style deep breaths we were soldiering on. It was about here that I was reminded that being fit is being safe and was happy that my legs felt strong. After finally reaching the true summit I jokingly suggested we finish the tour with the south summit. Finally now on the way down it seemed we had luck on our side and would make it down without being seriously threatened by lightning. I looked for a possible glissade and there was a tempting possibility that we avoided because I couldn't see the trail meeting up anywhere at the bottom of the ride. This proved to be the right decision as it would have left us pretty far from the actual trail. We did find a nice glissade a little further down the steep descent. With the snow as soft as it was self arrest was impossible and if you didn't maintain control the stop was a little rough so use caution. I had to brace Jessica at the bottom. This made quick work of a couple hundred feet and was a nice relief. The rest was just a long slog back to the car. Trekking poles are recommended for this steep descent. We arrived back at the trailhead at 4:30, 9 hours, roughly 8 miles and 4300+ feet of elevation gain. It was Chris' first epic 14er and second 14er summit, Jessica's 6th summit and my 15th.
*If you are comfortable filtering water there are plenty of spots to do so along the route, some very high on the ridge SW of N. Massive's summit. This will change as the snowpack depletes but there are lower options that should be available year round.
**We moved very slow on the class 2-3 sections so this can be done a good deal quicker but I would shoot to be on the north summit by 10AM so a start around 6-6:30AM at the TH should be reasonable for most.
***If you are going to do Massive then I highly recommend this route. A camp at Halfmoon Lake could make for a great 2 day trip.
Mount Massive indeed.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):