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 Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
 Post Date:  12/07/2009 Modified: 12/13/2009
 Date Climbed:   12/05/2009
 Posted By:  globreal

 One Big Day on One MASSIVE Mountain   

One Big Day on One MASSIVE Mountain
Mt. Massive: 14,421' Route: Southwest Slopes
Trailhead: N. Halfmoon Creek
Climb date: Saturday, December 05, 2009
Start Time: 6:54am
End Time: 4:15pm
Total Time: 9 hours, 20 minutes (total hiking/climbing/summit/rest time)
Trip Length: 8.0 miles (according to 14ers.com) 6.5 miles (according to GPS)
Elevation Gain: 3,950 feet

This turned out to be one big day on one Massive mountain. I'll explain in a minute. First…

The week leading up to this outing, Colorado had seen lots of sub-zero temperatures across the state. I think the low in Leadville on Thursday night had been a chilly -14˙. Because of that, and getting tired of sleepless nights before a big climb, several of us decided to get a cheap motel in Leadville. (of course sgladbach, the amazing mountain man that he is, still camped out on in his vehicle on Halfmoon Creek Rd. inspite of the cold temps.)

I for one, was a bit apprehensive about climbing in temps where the potential wind chill could be in the -20 to -30˙ range. However, the forecast on Mt. Massive for Saturday was looking relatively good…partly cloudy, high of 25, and winds somewhat mild…15-25mph. Definitely, much better than Sunday's forecast, with another artic cold front was coming in Saturday night. As it turned out, instead of the -5˙ forecasted low temperature when we left the motel, it was only 10. How nice to have it 15˙ warmer than we thought it was going to be!

weshun (Wes) posted on 14ers, to see if the two of us of could find another partner or two. (I personally prefer 3-4 people on a 14er trip, in the event someone gets injured and can't get out of the backcountry. If that were to happen, then someone can go for help, and someone can stay with the injured party. As it turned out when were all at the trailhead and ready to head out just before 7am, there was 7 of us and 1 dog.
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Boggy B (Mike) and slimshady (Jeff) decided to start off with their snowshoes on as we proceed up the valley along the North Halfmoon Creek. The waxing moon was setting below the 12,000 ft. peaks to the west of us.
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As we exited the forest and were about to proceed uphill, Mike and Jeff decided to stash their showshoes here, as there just wasn't enough postholing going on, to warrant flotation devices.

(Note: Prior to driving over to Leadville, I had actually called the San Isabel National Forest office and talked with their "Wilderness Director" who was adamant that they just hadn't had much snow there yet. There was really only about 4" of snow on the ground. So, with that information, 4 of the 7 of us never packed in the snowshoes. And I'm glad we didn't.
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From the little snow the Sawatch Range has seen by this time of year, the sun had baked off most of the snow on these lower south-west facing slopes. Which is exactly why I wanted to do this route instead of the east slopes route.
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The sun was out, the skies were blue, the wind was low just out of the trees, and there was very little snow down on these lower slopes. What a way to start the day.
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photo by Boggy B

After a hour and half or so, we decided to take a break. The sun was shining, very little snow on these south-west slopes, hardly any winds. Nice!
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photo by Boggy B

sgladbach (Steve) had left the house without his gaiters. So, being the mountain man that he is, he did what he does much of the time…he improvised!
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oldschool (Mike) enjoying the rest and the sunshine.
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Here is a shot looking south at Mt. Elbert from this point.
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photo by Boggy B


Bill Middlebrook says this on this route description: "This is not an easy hike – from the lower meadow to the summit there's nearly 3,300' of elevation gain in 2.5 miles." He's not kidding, it's a pretty steep slope and a good workout to climb this route. Sgladbach (Steve) and lostsheep5 (Eric) lead the way…as they do most of the time.
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photo by Boggy B


We eventually got high enough where there was some old, accumulated snow. It was crusty and hard in some spots, and soft with some minor postholing here and there. But nothing to deep or difficult to cross. I had gone on to the CAIC website the day before this climb, and the avalanche warnings had actually gone from Moderate to Low. So, I was not to worried about avy danger out on this trip.
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Here is a nice panoramic shot looking back south-west. Slimshady (Jeff) I think is putting on his balaclava or massaging a headache.
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photo by Boggy B


Just like a bunch of quail, we would occasionally stop and reform the covey. We found a nice wind break to take a break. Here, most of us took in some calories and fluids. I don't know about you, but I am often not to hungry at altitude….but I've found that adding salt to my hard boiled eggs REALLY helps make them so much more palatable to get down some much needed protein to sustain the long day.
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photo by oldschool

slimshady (Jeff) and weshun (Wes) are really happy to finally make the ridgeline. We all were!
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This is a view looking east, down to Leadville on the valley floor, and Mt. Sherman above and to the right of Leadville…a 14er in the Mosquito Range.
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photo by Boggy B

lostsheep5 (Eric) is looking north surveying the route. Seeing the false summit and the true summit waaaay off in the distance. I was saying, "getting to the false summit will be good enough." However, Steve said, "aw, now Britt, come on, you can't do that. It will only take about 5 minutes." Crap! I didn't want a purist right now and it looked like it would take an hour to get over there. I was just ready to touch the summit and start heading down!
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photo by Boggy B


But I was glad Steve said what he did. Looking back down shows me, Jeff, and Wes, climbing up the ridge over to the summit proper. Yep, were going for it.
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photo by oldschool

While we were all really tired from that steep south west approach, the trek over to the 14,421 foot true summit wasn't really that bad at all. The climbing is really quite level…and it really did only take about what seemed like 5 minutes.
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photo by Boggy B

And the covey once again regrouped…and this time on the summit! There was a fair amount of wind up here…probably 20-25 mph which caused us all to put on our extra layers. And because of the wind, we ended up only spending about a half hour on the summit.
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photo by Boggy B


Here is a shot looking west…showing how much of a difference the snow accumulation is from the south and west aspects to the north and east aspects.
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And here we are in the infamous summit photo. All 7 of us and Steve's dog Cooper- " the mountain sheep," made the full climb! It was a little before 12:30pm when we got to the top, and a little before 1pm when we started heading down. So, here it is in December, with a mild pace and rest stops, we moseyed up to the top of Mt. Massive in 5 ½ hours. Nothing to brag about, but as Bill Middlebrooke said, "this is not an easy hike."
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Now for the best part of the day…the downhill. And since the CAIC said low avy danger, we jumped on the snow and got in some glissading!
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Do you see that smile? Boggy B (Mike) likes it too!
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Even though everyone didn't have an ice axe with them, there were some safe, moderate slopes with run out, where every one got to glissade.
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I gotta say, I like getting off a mountain this way! You just sit and travel….and you can take out 1,000 feet of vertical in no time at all. Man, I like that!
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Even though my camera didn't focus properly, I thought I'd show, that even thought there hasn't been much snow yet in the Sawatch range, wind blown, snow cornices are already beginning to form in spots. Be careful out there!
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Back down in the N. Halfmoon Creek Valley we once again re-coveyed. Another nice rest stop. And we had all really worked up an appetite. Cooper the Australian Shepherd, is really wondering what Steve has to eat here. Yep, when food is out, Cooper is not shy!
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Looking back up from our rest stop, there were some interesting ice-formations above us. I'm not into this, but maybe this could be a good place to work on ice climbing.
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Back at the trailhead, oldschool (Mike) decides to go horizontal waiting on the rest of the group to get back.
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I began this trip report saying, this was "one big day on one MASSIVE mountain. One of the reasons it was big day for me, was that I am usually worried about getting cold during winter hikes. One of my phobias is freezing to death as I am cold natured for some reason. I especially sleep cold compared to most. For example, in the motel room last night, Mike was sleeping in just his shorts, and I was in sweat pants and a sweat shirt. So, what made this a great day for me today was, I really didn't get cold; and most everyone else (except for Steve of course) mentioned to me about being cold. I guess over time, I've geared up properly which is a comforting feeling. And the other reason this was a big day for me was this was my last peak in the Sawatch Range, Kinda of another mile stone reached on my goal of climbing Colorado's 58-14ers. So, all in all, it was another awesome climbing day in the mountains with 6 great guys. And so I just want to say "thank you" to each of them, and "thank you" to God for allowing us to summit successfully and to return safely. Mt. Massive....you were good to us today!
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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions (9)
UpaDowna

COLD BEERS!!!!     2009-12-12 09:24:16
Great job fellas! Up a Mountain, Down a Beer!!


Gueza


Thanks...     2012-03-04 11:31:45
For putting up this TR it was an awesome day!



P.S In picture 29 that is Mike ”going horizontal” not me.


Dancesatmoonrise


Party!     2009-12-07 22:35:14
Sounds like you guys had a great time. Interestingly, over on Bierstadt we also summited at 12:30, then headed down and hit the beers -- I mean cars -- right around 4:15. Only we pretty much had to hoof it all the way back.


Steve, I love your latest design with those ultralight gaitors. This could catch on, you know. : )

Nice TR, Britt! Miss not climbing with you guys; hope to catch you on the next one.

--Jim

PS...Michael, love that sky in images five and six. Beautiful!


emcee smith


Great     2009-12-08 06:44:46
Nice TR. Britt, I look forward to hiking with you soon.


Boggy B


Nice     2009-12-07 22:16:19
Great TR, Britt! I will point out that, because we deviated from the trail a bit on the ascent, we gained 3200‘ in about 1.75 miles. That‘s pretty steep!


gsliva


What group climbs should be like     2009-12-08 01:44:33
Nice job guys. Thanks for posting this trip report. I‘m sure that this was the last time without snowshoes before next summer.


BostonBD


Awesome!     2009-12-08 08:10:44
Great trip report! Great pictures!


Presto


Fantastic!     2009-12-08 16:17:42
What a great group you had that day! Good seeing Eric again. And, I would love to hike with Cooper (it‘s so much fun hiking with dogs ... we have cats ... not as much fun ). Congrats to all on a well-earned summit. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


aerophex


great TR     2010-01-01 07:40:15
Great TR... looking forward to this one myself



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