| A Soggy "Tour de Massive"
Tour de Massive from North Halfmoon Lakes
Pt 14,169 - 14,169 ft.
North Massive - 14,340 ft.
Massive Green - 14,300 ft.
Mt. Massive - 14,421 ft.
South Massive - 14,132 ft.
Trip Length: 12.0 miles
Trip Duration: 9 hrs 35 min.
Elevation Gain: ~5200 ft.
Climbers: Myself, Longshanks (Eric)
The weather looked like it was going to allow a brief window of opportunity, so Eric and I pulled the last-minute trigger and made the drive from Fort Collins to Leadville at oh-dark-early ... again. I really do need to staring thinking about pitching a tent at the trailhead. Since it was the start of the 4th of July weekend, the drunks were out again en masse. So, by the time we were passing through the I-76 and I-70 corridors at 2AM, it was degenerating into a game of blotto bumper cars. Once blissfully west of Lookout Mountain, the driving become much more 'predictable'.
We made it to Leadville by about 4:10, but took our sweet time getting back on the Halfmoon Creek Road especially on the 4WD portion. The junction of Halfmoon Creek Road and Forest Road 110J, 1/2 mile from the trailhead is a good place to stop if you have any regard for your oil pan. We tried to be quiet and not wake the nearby campers as we got our gear and our act together.
As soon as we were underway at 4:45, it started to sprinkle. This was to be a harbinger of the way the rest of the day was going to go. It's only about a 10 minute walk to the actual trailhead, so I was glad not to have put the truck through its paces getting there. The mountain looked like it had received a lot of rain the night before and there were streams running down the trail in places. After an unplanned bushwhacking session near a waterfall, my feet and legs were soaked ... and we were only an hour into the hike.
The North Halfmoon Lakes trail takes a hard turn to the north if you follow it, and steers you east of the actual lakes. So if you stay on trail and are planning to do this route, you may not actually see the North Halfmoon Lakes until you get much higher on the mountain. The cairns pushed us across a cascading waterfall that was impassable without hip waders given the amount of runoff. We found a passage a few feet higher that required a 'leap of faith' of about 8 feet across the stream and we both barely cleared the gap. What the hell were we doing up here? We apparently were going to be the only idiots on this route all day.
Above this ridge, the prominent gendarme comes into view to your east which takes you along a ridge up towards North Massive's summit. The trail also pretty much disintegrates aside from the occasional cairn.
The upper slopes were pretty much still snowed in, so we ended up taking the path of least resistance up a steep dirt slope to the top of the ridge.
The path we took would have been miserable under dry conditions, but the wet soil actually consolidated pretty well and we found ourselves on the ridge crest in no time.
A look back at the ridge line from the North Massive / Massive Green saddle with Mt. Oklahoma in the distance:
A look at the higher portion of the slope - just a small ribbon of snow-free ridge line:
Eric at the North Massive saddle ~13,800 ft.
Above 14,000 feet the mountain was pretty well fogged-in with a bracing wind, and we headed for Pt 14,169 based primarily on memory of where it was supposed to be. Soon enough, we stumbled onto the summit by 8:20AM.
Not wanting to waste any time on the summits (this was only the first of 5 planned summits this day), we quickly set off for North Massive. One disappointing false summit later, we found ourselves on the completely socked-in North Massive summit by 8:45. The summit register there indicated that we were the first people in 3 days on North Massive. We peeked down the Class 3 gullies and found they were way too wet, steep, and snowed in to even entertain. We ended up doing an easy Class 2 traverse that bypassed the major difficulties:
From the route-line shown, you can see that we went up and over the gendarme near the North Massive / Massive Green saddle. There's actually a natural staircase built into the rock that makes this a really easy alternative if there's still snow remaining on the east-facing slopes.
A look back at a socked-in North Massive from Massive Green:
By now, Eric couldn't feel his hands and I couldn't feel my feet. So, equally handicapped we pressed on - but it was starting to affect our pace. I took an hour of creative route-finding around the snow to get from the summit of North Massive to Massive Green. By 9:45, we were eating lunch on Massive Green's unimpressive summit.
The route from North Massive to Massive Green:
Eric approaching Massive Green's summit:
We paused just long enough to get the heart rate down and then set off towards Massive's summit ridge:
A look back at North Massive (in the clouds) and Massive Green:
By 10:20, we'd made it to Massive's true summit and encountered our first company of the entire day. They seemed surprised that anyone had come from the direction of North Massive, and considering the conditions, I was a bit surprised myself that we'd made it.
Eric and I on the summit:
The 2nd time in less than a week that I'd seen people pounding PBR on top of a Sawatch 14er. What's the deal ... is Dennis Hopper making a comeback?
From several trip reports I've read, getting to South Massive on the same day would be gut-check time. I wanted to press on to at least the Massive / South Massive saddle before I had the chance to talk myself out of going. So, we spend all of about 2 minutes on Massive's summit before continuing.
Eric contemplating the hike over to South Massive with Elbert and La Plata in the background:
The hike down to the saddle (13,900) and up to South Massive was not terribly noteworthy other than I could really start to feel my pace falling off. We summited our fifth 14,000 foot peak of the day by 11:15.
Eric paying tribute to the god, Ullr on South Massive's summit ... or just taking a long drink of water:
A look back at Massive from South Massive. The junction for the CFI trail takes you almost all the way back to Massive's summit ridge:
An unleashed Basset Hound left high on the mountain:
Mugging for the camera with La Plata in the background:
A look back at South Massive from the top of the CFI trail with Twin Lakes in the background:
The hike down the Southwest Slopes route can't be described as anything other than miserable. It's relentlessly steep and not something to look forward to after having been above 14,000 feet for four hours. Sore knees and feet start thinking about hot tubs more than the next step in front of them. After an uneventful, though long 4,000 vertical foot downclimb we made it back to the truck by 2:20PM.
On the way out, I had to get one last look back at the mountain to get a sense of the scope of this climb. I couldn't help but laugh at the bluebird conditions at the top after we'd been fighting mother nature for the better part of 10 hours:
Ah well, a fitting end to an epic day. 8)