Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
"North Massive" - 14,340 feet
"Massive Green" - 14,300 feet
Date Posted:  10/18/2011
Date Climbed:   10/16/2011
Author:  Wentzl

 Massive North Ridge  

This is going to be a short report that will interest anyone thinking about doing Massive up the North Ridge and down the East Ridge. As described in the Gerry Roach guide, this is a long tour. Gerry puts the mileage at 11.8. Another writer took his GPS and put it over 14+ miles. I didn’t measure it, but it seemed longer than 12 miles. The trip took a little over 10 hours and my pace this day was a little sluggish.

The view as you come upon Windsor Lake was lovely.


First issue after you reach Windsor Lake is the approach up to the ridge crest. I went for what looked like the easier access, (red line) but if I did it again I would take the saddle to the left (blue line). Here is a view of the ridge from Windsor Lake with the approach options illustrated.


And the approach options up a little closer.



The start of the ridge was an interesting jumble of house and car sized blocks of rock, some unstable, that presented the most technically challenging part of the entire day. While it was fun to negotiate this maze, if expediency is the goal, accessing the ridge further south would serve better.

Once on the ridge Massive looks forever away.


Earlier this season I did the Ellingwood Ridge of LaPlata which is notorious for being a long difficult day. The North Ridge of Massive is technically easier, but every bit as tiring. Of course this perception was formed partly by the perfect sunny and warm blue sky July day I had on LaPlata vs. the clear but cold and very windy day on Massive. Wind does tend to exacerbate exhaustion and this past Sunday a cold front was blowing in with enough force to knock me off my feet at times. This hike might make more sense when these fields are covered in flowers rather than snow. But I digress.

Here are a couple pictures along the ridge.



What does not show well in these photos is how splendidly the entire Elk Range looks spread out before you to the West for the entire day along Massive’s ridge. From Mt. Sopris to the north to Castle Peak to the south, each peak stands in perfect profile, unmistakable to even the most casually trained eye. It was quite a spectacular view.

Roach describes the section between North Massive and Massive as class 3. I didn’t find anything to merit that grade, but there was a steep loose and dirty gully off the N. Massive summit that should be taken one at a time by any group. Looking back to the N. Massive summit from the saddle to it’s south shows the difficulties. There is a pretty obvious climbers trail just to the right of the snow field in this photo.


I suspect there were some sporting gymnastic moves along the top of the ridge here, but on a cold windy day this was a direct and reasonable alternative.

I found no summit register on Massive main summit, just this peculiar stick with various hieroglyphics. Anyone care to weigh in on the possible meaning of this relic?


For anyone doing this route, take note. The East Ridge of Massive is not well defined and there is no hint of a trail to assist you. It would be easy to drift further south than you want to be and care must be taken to stay on track. I descended looking to intersect the Highline Trail back to the Native Lake trailhead. When I got to treeline on the ridge and still hadn’t found the trail I got a bit nervous. Bombing through the woods in several inches of snow worried the trail would be obscured made for an uneasy 20 minutes. But I did pick up the trail around 4:00 and enjoyed the 2 hour hike back to the truck.

Here is a look back at Massive from the Highline trail near Native Lake.


The Native Lake trail is long. There is a pretty good climb up and away from Native Lake and then lots of switchbacks to get back down. From the time you first spot your vehicle and think you are done there is almost still an hour of fun left in the day.

I carried an axe and crampons but never came close to thinking I needed them.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Deja Vu
10/19/2011 02:40
We did this same route last month, plus South Massive. And we made the same initial approach you did from Windsor Lake, realizing that southern saddle would have been much quicker. It was a LONG hike, alright, but a splended day. Enjoyed your report and the memories!

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