| Tour de Massive
After reading Roach's guidebook and pondering different routes, I'd been intrigued with the idea of attempting the 'Tour de Massive'. I'm not a big fan of crowds, so I try to avoid popular routes and trailheads, also the idea of hitting so many summits above 14K sold me on this route.
Me, my brother and a few buddies drove up the night before and got an older Toyota Corolla about a mile from the TH. With slow/careful driving I'm sure we could have made it further but I didn't want to wreck the car since I was borrowing it. For all the other 2WD cars, don't be scared by the 4WD sign just past the regular TH for massive. I think it's just there to ward off the Texans from the N. Halfmoon TH.
We carried our stuff up to the N. Halfmoon TH and set up camp. We woke up the next day just before 5 and hit the trail around 5:15. We made a decent pace and got to the trail junction around 6 and kept going to left towards the Halfmoon lakes. Once you get up to the first lake start looking for a real big tower. If you notice the tower soon enough, you can save a bit of time and break off the trail and head towards it. We didn't notice it in time, so we walked a bit further up the trail and were forced to cut to our right a good bit in order to be on the east side of this ridge. You can see our route in the picture:
Once you're on the east side of this tower, you can choose your route up to the top of the ridge. It starts out pretty solid, but higher up it gets rather loose. In order to avoid a steep/loose section we took a higher route that required a couple class 3 moves. The route in blue may avoid these moves, but it didn't look like a whole lot of fun.
Once on the ridge you are offered some great views and some fun hiking. It's not too hard or exposed, just a bunch of fun in my opinion, I wished it lasted longer! On your way up this ridge don't confuse Point 14,169 with the random 'bulge' on the left. Point 14,169 isn't too impressive and you can't really even see it until you're all the way up the ridge. Just aim your hiking a little to the right of the bulge and you'll find Point 14,169 in no time. From this unexciting Point, N. Massive is just a few steps away.
Bells + Pyramid
N. Massive is a very cool summit, more relaxing than actual Massive due to the solitude. Unfortunately the 'Tour' had just begun and we needed to ramble. From (West) N. Massive we went over to (East) N. Massive and checked out the enormous boulder of a summit. From here we found a little nook on the left (east) side that we downclimbed. I think there was on a couple of Class 3 moves here but there was almost no exposure. Here is a picture looking up at our decent route (West N. Massive is on the left and East N. Massive is the big ol' boulder):
As we followed the ridge, we went East of the towers and ran into a steep snowfield that runs out into some nasty rocks. We didn't have axes so we hugged the area between the towers and the snow. The best way may well be on the West side of the towers but we didn't check it out.
After getting past the rock towers on this ridge the most complicated part of the route is over. From here it's just a matter of fighting fatigue and making it over to Massive Green, Mt. Massive, and S. Massive.
Ending this route turned out to be the most difficult part. On the way over to S. Massive, we noticed a sign that seemed to indicate the start of the SW Slopes decent route so we set the bags down while we went over to visit S. Massive. We returned from S. Massive picked up our bags and started down the (supposed) route but things just got worse and worse. The scree was miserable and there was no apparent trail. Rocks were sliding down everywhere. It took 2 or 3 times as long as anticipated to get down this ugly slope, which only led to the Halfmoon lakes (Not the trail junction). A pic from early in the morning shows our poorly picked decent. Finally we made it back to the trail, but nowhere near the SW Slope/W Slopes trail junction.
In Roach's book it looks like the SW Slopes decent would start near the saddle between Massive & S. Massive, but when we got down there it had a sign that it was closed for restoration? Maybe someone else knows more about it than me.
Overall the traverse of the summits was a blast, but getting back to the car was a real hassle! North Massive seems like a pretty underappreciated summit. I thought this route would take 9-10 hours, but it ended up taking almost 12 (including taking down camp and getting back to the car), so make sure to plan for the extra water and time.
Also, I'd like to thank Aubrey for his old TR, that helped us out in a few spots especially getting up onto the first ridge near the tower.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):