Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  11/30/2013
Date Climbed:   11/29/2013
Author:  falcon568

 Mt Massive's East Ridge  

Short TR on my Thanksgiving Mt Massive East Ridge trip. Next to no photos (sorry).

With the recent snow dump and avy conditions making slope/couloir routes best saved for another day, I settled on the East Ridge routes for both Mt Massive and Mt Elbert for the Thanksgiving weekend. I drove up to the Leadville Fish Hatchery Thursday morning and set out around 11, following the Highline Trail W/SW. There was good, packed trail on the Highline Trail until it crosses the Colorado Trail...then nothing, nada, zip. I broke out the compass and snowshoes there and set out SW through the forest. Deep powder snow made for very difficult trail breaking, with the snowshoes sinking in 1.5-2 feet on every step. Tons of downed trees added to the fun. As CAIC and people on the forum noted, avy conditions weren't good and I had to go around a number of loaded slopes as I approached the treeline. Nearing the treeline close to the East Ridge, I tested out one slope that seemed benign; one footstep on the edge and the entire slope failed in compression with a giant whoomp. I found a decent campsite near the East Ridge and pitched my tent just as the sun set.

After a cold night and the pleasant feeling of frost falling on my face from the tent wall, I woke up and set out for the summit around 7 AM on Friday. Temp was about 15 F with a 30 mph wind, which kept things lively as I ascended. I kept my snowshoes on the first short bit as I made my way up pockets of deep snow to the East Ridge proper. Once on the ridge, snow conditions varied. There were areas of windblown rock bare of snow, which I liked, and a lot of wind-deposited deep snow drifts, which I liked not so much. With deep snow blocking some of the better routes around the spires and rock bands on the ridge, a couple of them required short Class 3 moves to navigate (mostly on the right side). I topped out around 11 AM and noticed a few goat tracks. I can't think of any good reason for goats to be up that high, but admirable of them none-the-less. Going down was considerably easier as I made my way back down to camp, arriving back around 1:20 PM and ready to push at 2. As my bushwack track from the Colorado/Highline junction to my campsite wasn't ideal, I decided to try to return via a better route. In hindsite, a poor decision as shooting an azimuth towards an easy to see point (Mt Massive from just past the Colorado Trail) is much easier than navigating to a notional trail point on the map. Illustrating my need for more Land Navigation practice was my botched way back. Navigating around terrain features quickly got me off course and what should have been a few hours trip back to the packed Highline Trail turned into an exhausting 6 hour trail-breaking monstrosity. Of note, crossing a clearing in the woods I came accross a dug-up elk carcass in the snow with what looked to be bear tracks circling it. Definitely caused me to pause and scan the area for "company". Continuing on and completely missing the majority of the Highline Trail, I didn't join up with it until 1 mile from the Fish Hatchery. This caused the trip back to take considerably longer than I expected, so the last 3 hours of trailbreaking was in the dark, arriving back at my car around 8 PM. Spooky and exhausting would be how I'd describe it. Lesson learned, bring a bigger/more detailed topo map and brush up on the Land Nav. Unfortunately, I was definitely too tired to go for Mt Elbert the next day, I'll have to save that for another weekend.


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