| A Massive Spring Skiing Day
Climb of North Massive from North Halfmoon Lakes; summit ski descent of east face of North Massive; reascent to Mt Massive; somewhat silly summit ski descent of Massive via east face with reascent to complete descent on southwest slopes...
Pioletski, solo, 6/8/2010
~12 miles, 5660' climbed, 4040' skied
OK, so some of us are just not ready to let go of the ski season. Even with highly trustworthy beta, courtesy of randalmartin, that skiing on Mt Massive was basically over for this year, I was determined to get these ones done.
Elsewhere I have discussed including unranked 14ers and subsidiary summits among my goals. Massive and North Massive present a particular case: the interesting skiing is all off the subsidiary summit. Sure, the Southwest Slopes of Massive are fun, but if I needed to go back a second time I would much prefer to repeat North Massive.
Expecting a hot day and rapidly softening snow, I made a careful plan that would put me on top of North Massive at about 6:30 am, so as to allow time to go after Massive as well. Accordingly I set my alarm for 2:00 am. However, as I snuggled down into my bivy sack at the North Halfmoon Creek trailhead, I realized that I was setting myself up for a navigational mistake... I would need some daylight when I attained the upper basin at about 12 grand. So I reset the alarm for 3:00, and started hiking at about 3:20.
A thin crescent moon rose over my right shoulder as I hiked up, and before long dawn was breaking:
I was pleased to find firmly frozen snow. My first objective hove into view:
I climbed the couloir to (looker's) left of the summit and began my descent to the right. Because of the protection of the long ridge of Mt Massive, this face will remain skiable for a couple of weeks yet, in spite of its southern aspect.
My climb became a race with the sun, as the surrounding peaks received their morning sunhit:
Just look at all those potential ski runs!
I summited North Massive at about 7:30...
... paused to photograph La Plata...
... and the Elks:
I photographed the summit register with my boot. Having a cast on my left hand, I wasn't able to take the cap off to sign it!
I put my skis on a few feet east of the register, pausing for a photo of my shadow...
... and started down the steep and exciting east couloir:
I skied down the first 150' or so and then traversed out to the left, so as to get onto the east face. I would have preferred to continue down this chute, but Massive called. With a little billygoating and rock traversing, I skied a couloir that I had spotted from Highway 24. One advantage of dirty snow is it makes it easier to record your tracks...
At about 13,000' I turned and began the ascent to Massive. I began on skins, because of the softening snow; when I paused to remove them I found a great view of Leadville, Turquoise Lake and the basin I had skied into:
Holy Cross observed my progress from a distance:
Attaining the main ridge of Mt Massive I looked back at my route off the summit of North Massive...
... and soon attained the summit of Massive. By this time it was about 10:30.
I paused for a general view to the southwest:
and a self-portrait:
Here the silly part begins. I was determined to score a summit descent off Mt Massive. I quickly found that, as I had been forewarned, the usual route onto the southwest slopes didn't have continuous snow cover. So... I skied down the east side to 13,500', where the snow and the slope both petered out...
... and then schlepped back up to the col just south of the summit:
The col is at about 14,000'. Climbing over it, I was happy to find snow in the southwest gully, where I could resume skiing at a higher elevation than the point where I took my skis off on the east side. (Did I mention that this was rather silly?) The skis went back on at 13,750'...
This time I had a decent long run, down to 12,000'.
Not having an opportunity for my usual farewell picture of the mountain, I took one of Elbert instead...
... and of the first shooting-stars that I have seen this summer...
... and finally of Massive and North Massive from the road out:
Thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):