| Massive All to Ourselves (SW Slopes)
On Wednesday, the 18th of August, I awoke excited at the prospect of backpacking into the Holy Cross Wilderness for an attempt on Mt. of the Holy Cross. However, a review of forecasts indicated that storms were likely after midnight and all day on the 19th. At 9 AM my daughter and I made a decision to call off the backpacking and go after a one day objective. Since we were staying in Leadville and hadn't yet climbed Massive, our choice was obvious. The weather looked to be perfect all day, so, after a quick look at Roach (no time to research 14ers in a campground without WiFi), we grabbed our gear and headed up the 4WD road to North Half Moon Trailhead.
I held my breath up the last half-mile of road next to the waterfall drop-off, but our 2WD pickup did fine. At 11 AM we were finally on our way – by far the latest start we'd ever gotten on a fourteener. We did get to take pictures at the start along North Half Moon Creek.
Soon we turned up the Southwest slopes for the interminable switchbacks and 3,000 ft elevation gain in 2 miles.
The steep trail taxed our flatlander conditioning, but our acclimation hikes in RMNP paid off. We met several couples and groups coming down and talked about the fine weather. Just after we spoke with the last descending group, we stumbled upon this family of mountain goats.
They were fairly unperturbed by us, and the adults allowed us to get within 15 ft along the trail. The baby did hop down and circle behind the rocks as we passed.
As we reached the summit ridge around 3 PM, we saw the last other human hiking down the East Slopes. We had the ridge all to ourselves! We topped out in 4:15 elapsed time and continued enjoying the glorious weather. The temp was about 70 deg with a few puffy cumulus, fantastic visibility, and no wind. We could clearly see Holy Cross mocking us from a distance.
Longs, the Elks, and the rest of the Sawatch were perfectly clear below a few high clouds. Some high cirrus did remind us that a system was moving in from the west. We took our summit photos and headed down reluctantly.
We stopped for a shot at the trail junction.
On the way down we saw our first white marmot, and then we saw a second one. He doesn't look as white in the photo as he appeared in the flesh.
We were back at the trailhead by 6:30 PM, for a total elapsed time of 7:30. I was glad we wouldn't have to drive out in the dark. The next day was indeed stormy with rain and low clouds most of the day. On Friday we awoke to this view of fresh snow on Massive. We had to head home to Texas that day, but at least we had another 14er crossed off our list for summer 2010 - the eighth different 14er for both of us and tenth total for my daughter.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):