Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
"Massive Green" - 14,300 feet
"North Massive" - 14,340 feet
"South Massive" - 14,132 feet
Date Posted:  08/08/2016
Modified:  09/13/2017
Date Climbed:   08/07/2016
Author:  JQDivide
Additional Members:   FoodieHiker
 Massive Loop: Westside Style   

Massive Loop (Tour de Massive)

Up the South West Slope
Down the West Route
Total Time: 11 hrs and 45 minutes.
(Could easily be shortened, but a realistic time.)
Total Elevation: Guessing between 4,600 and 4,900.
Stole this map from another TR....

1:15 am left TH
1:57 am the rock you climb over before the trail split
2:05 am trail split, 11,200 (1 hr 10 min)
3:17 am Out of the rock garden / rock stairs, near 12,100 (2 hr)
5:25 am Massive Ridge (4 hr 10 min)
5:55 am South Massive summit and snack, 10 min on top (4 hr 40 min)
7:07 am Massive summit, 25 min on top (5 hr 50 min)
7:55 am Massive Green (6 hr 40 min)
8:55 am North Massive (7 hr 40 min)
9:39 am Drop In point/gray area to slope (8 hr 25 min)
9:57 am Boulder Field (8 hr 45 min)
10:42 am Met the West trail, east of the lake (9 hr 30 min)
11:25 am back at the rock (10 hr 10 min)
12:00 pm the TH (11 hr 45)

I hiked the SW route up Massive in 2015 and totally enjoyed the route. It's steep, but as usual the west side of the Sawatch Mountains have better views.

With the weather forecast for the week, it looked pretty grim over most of the state. We kept watch and looked at possibilities. My wife hadn't done Massive yet, so I kept looking at its weather. A window opened and we made plans. But, since I'd already done the route we talked about a sunrise summit.

Then I thought about hitting the other Massive summits. With a little research I found the loop idea with the descent of the West Route.
Check out some other TRs, especially for an alternate route up N. Massive.

We got to the TH an hour late, which cut into sleep. Then we got up later than expected. Jon who joined us thought we had already left. We were still in the tent we dropped next to the Jeep at the TH. And I wasn't feeling very good that morning. Just didn't have the energy, so was a bit slower than I expected.

We had planned on 4 hours up to S Massive, an hour to Mass and an hour to N Mass. As you can see it didn't turn out that way, but we had great weather.

The one disappointment of the morning... the sunrise. It's was great to be at 14,000 for dawn. But with all the recent storms and cloud cover we were hoping for some great color. Not a cloud in the sky at 6:15 a.m. when the sun rose in the west. Nothing spectacular. But it's hard to complain about a sunrise summit.
Sunrise coming off S Massive

One major issue was getting off route. At the trail split at 11,200 we followed the sign, kind of blindly. This way to Massive. We kind of went that way. But what we didn't realize was someone had moved the sign, about 20 yards past the junction split. Of the three of us, no one noticed the cairn and the split in the dark. And no one looked for the trail leading off in the direction of the other arrow. The bad thing is, we laughed about getting off route or lost. Manly because I've been off route three times already this summer. Fifteen minutes later we were bushwhacking our way back to the trail instead of retracing our path. Staci and Jon thought I took us on a wrong turn in the trees were the trail was questionable in the dark. (On our way out we met a group of hikers who were off route as well. Then 10 minutes later we saw the sign, hikers on the "Massive Trail" and trail split... all very easy to see in daylight. That's when I figured it out. I moved the sign back to the trail junction and laid it on the large cairn. Hopefully fewer people will get lost.)

The way up is steep but doable. The rock steps in place below 12,000, a lot of work went into that. The one thing about night hiking... you can't see how much farther, which puts your concentration on your feet and the trail. Until you get high enough to see the saddle between Massive and South Massive... then when the trail doesn't go that way, it's like CRAP... I have to see the sunrise. The trail goes more toward Massive's side of the saddle. When you hit the ridge, look down and you'll see the standard trail and the way toward S. Massive.

South Massive wasn't that impressive. A summit mound of large rocks was a quick up and down to get out of the predawn wind. Staci and I sat below the rocks for a snack.
Thought about waiting for the sun, but decided to move on for time.
Massive at Sunrise

Sun Tips

The sun came up as we made our way to the S Mass/Mass saddle. We met back up with Jon and headed to the Mass summit. A group of three guys joined us on the summit for photos and picking out the 14ers we could see. The sky was mostly clear, but a few small clouds were building.

Jon decided to skip the other Massive points and headed down with the guys. Staci and I went north toward Massive Green, which was just a high point. Nothing spectacular about it, just up and over, on a hint of a trail.
Only good photo we took with South Massive.

From Massive Green to North Massive the fun and route finding picked up.
North Massive from Mass Green

Our route

The first obstacle, we went up and to the right (east), then up and over to the left (west). Stayed hard Class 2 easy Class 3.

Once on the west side I could see a cairn on the far north edge. What we didn't know was how to get there. I went low, C2. Staci waited until I could see if she could stay high for some C3. She could and did.
First Obstacle, me going low on the west side.

The westside of first obstacle

The westside of first obstacle

The westside of first obstacle

From here it was some rock and boulder hopping toward the next obstacle. The east side still had a snowfield I didn't want to tackle. We stayed high on the ridge, Staci went west, I went east and we met just above the end of the snow field and a gravel slope that led to more boulder hopping and a choice.
Looking back at first obstacle with Massive Green in the background

Looking back at first obstacle, westside route and after

To summit North Massive you can take a south facing gully or pick a route toward the east. We went for the gully, the direct route. The gully was loose and miserable. I wish I had a helmet, the only time I really thought about it. Staci went first and I stayed out from beneath her. Rocks, dirt, small boulders, would move, but she did a good job of not kicking stuff down. I on the other hand out weigh her by at least 100 pounds. I would step and rocks would roll. Pick a line and go.
Gully up N. Massive

Top of N Massive

The last 50 feet or so was rocks and an easy up. There was a summit registry, but no pen. I left a sheet of paper I had with some route photos...the back was empty and can hold a bunch of future names. From here we scoped our descent.

The northern end of the Halfmoon basin has two bowls separated by a rocky ridge. The Southern edge of the ridge looks like a sketchy climb if you're into that. But the way down is before you get to that and drops into the NE bowl from that ridge. The photo shows a few remaining snow fields. Look for the light gray area, very visible from the summit of N. Massive.
Northern portion of Halfmoon Basin from N. Massive

Northern portion of Halfmoon Basin with route

We rock hopped to the saddle with Pt 14,169 and then head toward the basin and the West Route.

We followed the lower edge of the top snow field until its end then went south to the light gray rock/dirt. The steep slope was an easy descent.
Just west and below the N Mass summit saddle

Upper NE portion of basin, the way down

Upper NE portion of basin, the way down, yellow circle on light gray rock

The light gray area in the photo center, the way in

Hiking down to the basin

The upper portion was moist dirt and small rocks, and an easy surf.
The steep slope down

As it neared the bottom the small rocks were the dominant feature and it became a fairly easy walk. We headed kind of toward the 'center line' of this basin and toward some huge boulders south of us.
upper area of NE basin

We picked correctly and soon discovered several cairns.
The West route trail, is less trail and more a scattered display of cairns that give you a general direction to follow out of the upper basin. This part of the basin was my favorite part of the hike, a beautiful open area with lots of rocks, boulders, grass and some running water from the snow fields.
Boulder field

Just south of the boulder field, the way out

We continued south out of the boulder area and had to drop down into the large basin. We went SE into a ravine that ran west. Not sure what SW route looked liked, but it would have ended up in the same spot. The ravine was grassy and rocky and an easy drop. From here you could see the Halfmoon lakes, a water fall, creek... and as we got near the bottom, we saw two N/S trails"one near the bottom of the ravine, one more in the center of the basin closer to the lake. We headed to the closest one and did a little bushwhacking. Once on the trail we headed south toward the TH.
Looking back North after we found the trail

Looking back North after we found the trail, route

This was a fun route with a lot of time above 14,000.
The ascent up North Massive took the energy out of us... have to remember to breath.
I would not want to go up the West Route.
Halfmoon road into the TH... 100s of dispersed camping options over the several miles, and that's not an exaggeration.
Lots of flat places to set up a tent at this TH, some are a few steps away from the TH, just need to look. As well as a few large areas for small groups. Plenty of parking.

I said this once already, but the Westside views from the Sawatch peaks are always better than the Arkansas Valley.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Nice job!
08/08/2016 20:17
Was planning to hit N Massive myself a couple of weeks ago but got rained out. Nice job in getting them all in! Took some great shots as well! Thanks for sharing your climb!


A very well written report.
08/09/2016 08:41
I will use your report when I give this a shot. Thanks!

Thank You Joel
08/10/2016 17:29
I am planning to climb JUST North Massive on Friday solo... you have no idea how excited I am to see those snowfields to get up and down that scree easier!

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