Consistent with my last few reports, we left Colorado Springs a few minutes after 0400, arriving at the North Halfmoon Creek Campground and Trailhead a little after 0700. The road in was easily passable in our Jeep Cherokee and could be managed by any 4WD/AWD with reasonable clearance. All of the cars at the end of the trail were SUVs or trucks. The road is narrow, bumpy, but dry and the potholes are manageable.
The skies were clear except for a few small, ragged clouds that were being pushed by a stiff breeze directly out of the west. It was calm at the trailhead, but we knew that would change above treeline.
We started at 0717 and filled out a registration card at the entrance to the Mt Massive Wilderness area. A few steps later we came upon the solemn marker memorializing the lives of several Ft Carson soldiers who died in the area in a helicopter crash in 2009.
Consistent with the trail description, the path is very gentle with only a few hundred feet of elevation gain over the first mile or so. It shadows the creek on your left as you ascend through some rather lush forest.
At about 11,200 ft, the trail turns abruptly uphill and the climbing begins in earnest. This is really one of the best maintained and constructed trails I've hiked. In the steeper sections, it has large rocks that serve as stairs and are well laid out and solid.
We made good time and passed several small groups in the next mile or so—and a marmot.
We quickly cleared the remaining trees and began the many switchbacks that lead up the southwest slopes. They were very steep, but again the footing was excellent. The views improved as we climbed and the valley to the west and Mt Elbert to the south came into better view. The wind also picked up. By the time we reached 13,000' it was blowing at about 20mph with some strong gusts that must've been nearly 40 mph.
We got off the trail at some point, but only for about 100 meters or so and quickly refound it. Near a very windy crest, the trail turned east towards the saddle separating the main Mt Massive area and South Massive. We then began the traverse along the ridge and the series of false summits that lead to the top. Again, the footing was good and the views were better. We met the classic trail and could see several hikers below coming from that direction.
We arrived at the summit at 1010, just shy of three hours before we started. The wind was lighter on the summit than in the saddles between peaks and the weather was especially nice and sunny in the protected areas just west of the summit, down a few feet/boulders. We took the opportunity to get a snack, have a summit soda, and take plenty of pictures. The panoramic views from atop Massive are as good as it gets. We met several hikers there as well as their intrepid canine companions—all were friendly and the climbers that attained the summit by this time were in high spirits.
We started down at 1045 and again made good time. The pounding on the descent was difficult. The weather warmed and the winds decreased as we went down—not unexpectedly. We had a few minor slides and slips on some of the dirt trail, but nothing serious. It felt great to get to the end of the steep section and hike the last 1.5 miles through the meadow and forest back to the Jeep. Halfmoon Creek served as a great ice bath for some sore feet, too. We made it down by just before 1300, making the round-trip in just about 5:40 including 35 minutes at the summit.
This was a great, great hike. Sometime, I'd like to do the big loop going up this way and then down the classic route, but for now the southwest slopes of Mt Massive rank as my favorite 14er climb and route.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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