• Route: Southwest Slopes
• Total Distance: 8mi
• Elevation Gain: 3,950ft
• Trailhead Time: 5:30am
• Summit time: 10:45am
• Completion Time: 2:30pm
• Total Time: 9 hours
It felt like summer was back in the mountains again – well – mostly. The overnight temps were surprisingly cold, and getting up was a bit of a challenge, but the day warmed up nicely, especially after sunhit. Winds were from the west/northwest and were blustery as we were hiking between 13,500ft and 14,000ft. Hiking along the east side of the summit ridge sheltered us from the majority of the wind. The summit was especially beautiful – warm, sunny, and calm!
Sunday, May 16, 2010: Mt. Massive. Nice day, nasty postholling snow. Turn around elevation: 10,700ft.
Sunday, May 23, 2010: Mt. Massive. Nice day, exceptionally windy, and a newbie climber who was excited to have a personal elevation record, but was ok without the summit – especially given the wind. Turn around elevation: 13,400ft.
And then came Sunday, May 30, 2010. In order to stay on schedule, I needed to take care of the Sawatch range this week. The elusive Mt. Massive was first on my list, and finding a day for it was proving to be challenging… until I had the idea of asking my dad if he was up for the challenge – tomorrow. Much to my surprise, he said yes, and by 7pm, we were packed and on the road to Mt. Massive for the third Sunday in a row.
We arrived at a surprisingly crowdless N. Halfmoon trailhead and setup camp in the campsite I had used the week before – just feet from the trailhead. After being stopped by a snowdrift a few miles from the trailhead on the 16th and then high centering on a snowdrift 1 inch higher than my clearance the week before right AT the trailhead, it was a pleasantly uneventful drive. By 11pm, camp was set, and we both headed to sleep.
At 4:30, my alarm sounded and I rolled out of bed – allowing my dad a little bit of extra time to sleep while I snagged a few loose branches from the ground around the camp and got a fire going. Around 4:45, I woke my dad and he joined me in warming up as we prepared for the climb. By 5:30, we were packed and then started making our way down the trail. After hiking the same section of below-tree line on a hike for 3 weeks running, I found that I had memorized everything from shortcuts, to rocks, to trees, to slight changes in the slope of the path. By the end of the day, I was able to estimate (down to the minute) how long that section would take to hike. Suffice it to say, I never want to see that below tree line section ever again…
The moon setting over the edge of Deer Mountain's east ridge.
The sun hitting the top of Mt. Oklahoma.
At about 6:30am, we were at the trail split, and following the sign, began to gain altitude. We were able to avoid snow for the most part until we reached 12,000ft. The journey up the gully on the back of Massive was uneventful. The first half was doable without crampons, but as we reached the upper 12,000s, we both decided to put on crampons to help with traction. The cramponing experience was much more interesting than usual. Lessons learned:
#1 – when implementing crampons while already on a steep slope, plant your ice axe in a way that makes it reachable.
#2 – when trying to hastily implement crampons while on a steep slope, make sure to check which foot is which before placing crampons.
By 8:30am we had breached 13,000ft and were able to look back on another six people below us. Most of them must have turned around early, as only two of them (on skis) made it to the summit. We moved out of the gully onto some rocks, removing our crampons (briefly) before continuing up.
Looking back down the basin. Two skiers are visible on the left.
My dad working his way up.
The saddle between Massive and South Massive.
Thanks to the snow, we were able to avoid some of the switchbacks above 13,000ft on ridge and took a direct line to the summit. The last few hundred feet below the ridgeline were riddled with helicopter electronics and other bits and pieces from the crash back in August. We finally reached the ridgeline at 10am, put crampons right back on again,a and made our way down the numerous false summits before reaching the top at 10:45am.
I love taking pictures of other 14ers from the top of one, so here you go!
Pyramid and the Maroon Bells
Castle, Conundrum, and Cathedral
Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker in the distance.
Grays and Torreys
Huron Peak on the left with The Three Apostles and Ice Mountain directly behind it to the right.
Mt. Oxford, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, and Mt. Belford
On the summit with the elks in the background.
My Dad descending.
After a good 30 minute break on the summit, with promise of a fun glissade descent, we worked our way back down the ridge. The skiers we had seen in the valley below had passed us and summited not long before we did. They ended up skiing the east bowl, climbing back up again, and then descending the southwest slopes. After making quick work on the ridge, I picked some reasonable snow routes and my dad and I glissaded the majority of the way from the ridge top back to 12,000ft – where we met up with the ski team once again.
From there, a quick descent of rocks brought us back to the trail junction, and after a 42 minute walk, we were back at camp – another summit off the list!
Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive from two weeks ago
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):