(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
From U.S. 24 just south of Leadville, turn onto Colorado 300 and cross the railroad tracks. Drive 2.3 miles and turn left into the Fish Hatchery. Stay left and continue over 0.1 mile to the trailhead on the left side of the hatchery.
This route requires more effort than the East and Southwest Slopes routes but is often used in winter because of the year-round trailhead access and ability to avoid avalanche-prone slopes.
From the Fish Hatchery trailhead (Photo #1), walk 0.1+ mile southeast up a road to reach the first of Evergreen Lakes - Photo #2. Since much of this route uses the Highline Trail, pay attention to the signs leading you to that trail. Turn right and walk 0.25 mile past the second lake and continue northwest on the trail - Photo #3. If you're breaking trail in winter, blue markers on the trees will help you follow the trail for the first couple of miles. Less than a mile into your hike, continue straight at a junction - Photo #4. At another trail junction, keep right - Photo #5. When you reach Rock Creek at yet another trail junction, turn left to cross the creek on a small bridge and continue ON the Highline Trail - Photo #6. Hike 0.4 mile to enter the Mount Massive Wilderness (Photo #7) and another 1.6 miles to reach a junction with the Colorado/Continental Divide trails, over 3 miles from the trailhead - Photo #8. Continue straight on Highline for another 0.5 mile to reach a spot where you'll get a preview of the upper route - Photo #9 and Photo #10. After another 0.25 mile you'll reach 11,300' where the trail turns northwest and drops to a marshy, willow-covered area - Photo #11. This is where you'll leave the Highline trail.
Before the trail drops to the marshy area, turn left and locate a small lake/pond. Leave the trail and walk over (winter) or around the pond - Photo #12. Weave south and southwest through the forest to reach rocky Point 11,827' - Photo #13. If you're using a GPS, it's a good idea to mark this point in your GPS before you set out. From Point 11,827', hike less than 0.25 mile southwest to exit the trees near 11,900' - Photo #14. Continue west to gain the east ridge at 12,200', where you'll see the remaining 2 miles of your route - Photo #15.
Continue west along the ridge - Photo #16. After passing a couple of small bumps along the ridge, you'll reach Point 12,528' before the ridge curves south. Hike over the point or bypass it by dropping left and regaining the ridge a bit to the west - Photo #17. Near 12,600', continue south as you approach more difficult terrain - Photo #18. Left of the ridge crest, hike steeper terrain (Photo #18 and Photo #19) to reach a rocky point, near 13,000' - Photo #20. There are several ways to overcome this section but when snow is present on the east side, the easiest way is to climb to the right before turning left and passing through a notch - Photo #21. On the other side of these rocks, continue along the ridge to a large bump, at 13,500' - Photo #22. Turn west, drop slightly, and work your way through a couple of remaining rocky sections (Photo #23 and Photo #24) to reach a flat spot and the final pitch - Photo #25. Ascend 600' of easy terrain (Photo #26 and Photo #27) before turning left to reach the summit - Photo #28.
The east ridge isn't really conducive to skiing, so it's best to drop east from the summit or head south along the summit ridge before skiing the east face, closer to the saddle with South Massive. Ski east down the drainage (North Willow Creek) and turn north near 11,900' to return to your east ridge ascent line. If you ski too far down the drainage, it becomes much more difficult to return to the Highline Trail.
IMPORTANT: This route enters the Mount Massive Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.