| Mt. Massive Summit Ski (Southwest Slopes)- N. Halfmoon Creek TH
Date: Friday, May 29, 2009
Group: BillMiddlebrook and USAKeller
Route: Southwest Slopes ascent (4mi.) and upper East Slopes + traverse to Southwest Slopes ski descent (1.5mi.) from North Halfmoon Creek TH
Stats: 7.25 miles; 3,950’ climbed; 2,300’ skied; 8 hrs 20 min RT
Ski conditions: Awesome spring corn!
Our routes seen from the summit of Mt. Elbert May 11, 2008 (red=climb; blue=ski):
Topo of the route (red=climb; blue=ski):
When I got a "Wanna to give Massive a go tomorrow?" text from Bill Thursday, I was all over it. The weather called for 50% chance of rain, and a freeze above 31,100' overnight. I met Bill in Frisco that evening and we were at the trailhead a few hours later. Alarms went off, food was consumed, and we started up the trail at 4:50am. Making pretty good time, we reached the trail junction and began the grind up the SW slopes. It wasn't until near 12,100' we crossed the first snowfield. At 12,800' we decided to switch hiking boots for ski boots and spikes and took a direct line up the snow field, bypassing the standard switchbacks.
A steeper portion of the lower slopes:
Climbing the Southwest Slopes:
We stayed in areas of less sun-hit near climbers' right for the lower ¾ of the snow climb. A firm top layer provided for wonderful purchase, but we couldn't let that fool us. Once we reached the upper portion and couldn't avoid the sun, Bill dug a pit. Below the hard top layer, the snow fractured at the dirt layer, and we had to issues to deal with if we hit it too late. This is what he found:
1) That upper layer (newest snow) could have slid off if warmed to that dirty layer
2) The potential for larger wet slides due to the underlying depth hoar that had high water content
At this point, a ski down the middle of the snowfield was out and a more conservative line was to be taken. We tried to make it up this last portion bit quicker (max. slope angle: 39 deg.). We "topped out" and headed northeast to reach the bottom of the summit ridge.
En route to the ridge. La Plata's appealing North Face looms behind me:
Bill navigates the summit ridge:
And we've had enough of the false summits - more to go:
We reached the summit at 10:25am; no wind and still no clouds over Massive. Things were heating up quickly – we knew we had to hurry and head down, and skied off the summit at 10:50am.
Mt. Elbert getting some action in the distance:
Bill rips some fine spring corn on the upper East Slopes:
I enjoy near-perfect corn off the summit:
Traversing around to the Massive-"South Massive" saddle:
Staying as high as possible, we traversed over and had a few more turns on a narrow strip of snow before taking the skis off for 30 feet to get to the saddle.
A few turns down to the saddle:
From the Massive-"South Massive" saddle, we skied another 50 feet and had to briefly take the skis off again to.
Skiing from the saddle – the strip of snow in the top photo is not continuous:
Looking up towards the saddle – skis went off and we walked down the red line:
Finally we were on continuous snow. Because of the poor snow we found on the climb, we decided to stick closer to the rocks on skiers' left (the same side we ascended in the lower ¾ of the snow field). Snow here was, again, sick corn!! And after a few cuts and jumps, nothing was going to move.
I reap the harvest down the Southwest Slopes:
Bill gets his next:
Looking back at the upper Southwest Slopes ski:
We finished the continuous line, and had one more dry traverse west to finish off the ski at 12,150'.
Traversing to ski the last of Mt. Massive at 12,150':
My final turns:
Bill finishes up his corn:
We finished the ski at 11:40am, and switched back to hiking boots (max. slope angle skied: 34 deg.). It felt good to be back on flat ground once past the trail junction. Somehow, the weather held out for us all day, and the clouds never gave us a break from the heat. We finished off the 2 miles in an hour and were back to the truck at 1:10pm, we were still stoked about the awesome creamy corn we had! It was nice to tick off another Sawatch ski this late in the season. Another good day out, Bill!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):