Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
"North Massive" - 14,340 feet
"Massive Green" - 14,300 feet
"South Massive" - 14,132 feet
PT 14169
Date Posted:  08/17/2016
Modified:  08/18/2016
Date Climbed:   08/13/2016
Author:  hokiehead
 Massive Mania (14er points only)   

Executive summary: Awesome hike spending all day at elevation on a mountain ridge with varying and interesting terrain. I recommend this hike and would do it again myself. Roach's mileage is off. Consider exiting the N. Half Moon trail instead of the standard East Slopes trail.

    Start at Windsor Lake TH: 5:20AM
    Windsor Lake: 6:30AM
    PT14169 summit: 10:45AM
    "North Massive" summit: 11:30AM
    "Massive Green" summit: 12:35PM
    Mt. Massive summit: 1PM
    "South Massive" summit: 1:50PM
    Finish at Mt. Massive TH: 5PM

Distance and elevation:
From reference GPX tracks/report 14.8 miles, 6000 feet vertical gain (my GPS batteries died and I didn't bother changing them)

10 essentials and other gear
1. Navigation: Trails Illustrated map, compass, GPS (GPX route from fleshwound TR), Roach route and TR routes printed, cell phone w/ 14ers app and East ridge route loaded
2. Sun protection: Water Babies (applied twice)
3. Insulation (clothing): hiking pants, wool socks, Solomon GTX hiking shoes, synthetic T-shirt, synthetic insulating layer, rain jacket, gloves, winter hat, VT cap (wore all at some point)
4. Illumination: headlamps w/ spare batteries
5. First aid supplies (not used)
6. Fire: butane lighter (not used)
7. Repair kit and tools: zip ties, multi-tool, duct tape (not used)
8. Nutrition: PBJs (second breakfast), slices of cheese, summer sausage, snack bars, Snickers bar (ate most of the food)
9. Hydration:
hokiehead: started w/ 3 liters, finished with ~0.5.
Little H: started w/ 2.5 liters, finished with ~0.25.
One Vitamin Water since my doctor wants me to drink electrolytes while hiking
Iodine water purification tablets (for emergency -- not used)
10. Emergency shelter: space blanket (not used)

trekking poles (used extensively)
camera w/ spare charged LiIon battery and spare SD card

Planning and prep:
Roach's 14er book section on "Massive Mania" (note that section points to three others in the Massive chapter), with the goal of hitting all the referenced points above 14k.
Several trip reports (pro-tip: use the Advanced Search function field "search for text in TRs" with terms like 'Windsor Lake')
alexhenes (GPX)
Wentzl (route up to ridge)
"Explore" the route in google earth -- this has become more of a practice for me, and allows me to visualiaze the route. especially handy if I can open a GPX file and follow that.

Convinced Little H to join me for the day. Coordinated with her on the car-shuttle-deal, leaving her car at Mt. Massive TH and taking mine to Windsor Lake ("you have your keys with you, right!??!").

Backup: emailed route and estimated itinerary to Mrs. H., who spent the weekend working.

Weather sources: I'm currently using NWS and Mountain-Forecast. I typically assume the worst of the reports, and assume that it could get up to 10degrees colder, 10MPH higher winds and some precipitation.

Turnback/bailout options on the route: I love the fact that I now undertake mountaineering routes where this is a consideration (maybe not "elite", but I'm entering the realm of "experienced"). scottasinger mentions that he thinks North Massive is close to the turn around point and that there are no really good bailout options after that -- I'd agree with both. Checking the weather regularly is key, certainly once you hit the ridge. From North Massive, one could turn back and hussle to some gully where you could descend back towards Windsor Lake. After the Class 3 downclimb to Massive Green, your nearest exit from the ridge is probably over the Massive summit and down the North Half Moon trail.

Route and Trip Details
weather was perfect. woke up to high 30's but temp steadily rose to low 50's. minimal wind, no real precipitation, no electricity worries.

Windsor Lake TH notes: I didn't take a picture of the actual TH or the sign, but wish I had. There is a Forest Service info kiosk style sign, but nothing that I saw which actually says "Windsor Lake" on it. As reported in Roach and various TR's, the TH is across the road from the parking area. Parking area has plenty of space for camping. Road is decent 2WD the whole way (paved for most). Follow directions from Roach's book and you're good.

Mt. Massive TH notes: This road is a rough 2WD route. Washboarded in much of it, but quite passable (saw a Prius at the top).

Setup camp at Windsor Lake TH about 8PM the day before. Set alarm for 4AM, with goal of being on the trail by 5AM. Alarm went off at 4AM, snoozed once ... snoozed twice... finally got up and started breakfast (oatmeal and instant coffee). Ate, drank, broke camp, hit the trail at 5:20AM.

crowds were minimal. we didn't see another soul until we left "Massive Green" and started heading toward the main summit when we passed a group of six heading in the opposite direction. From then on, crowds were thin given the lateness of the day.

I break this route down into six disctinct sections. Overall, the route is easy to follow, but there are some navigation challenges. From the Windsor Lake TH, the trail was not easy to follow to the lake. From Windsor Lake to "Massive Green", there's no trail and no cairns. That being said, you're on a ridge all day that's easy to follow with your destination in sight the majority of the time.

1. Approach to Windsor Lake

not surprising from the various TR's, and my past success at route finding in the dark, but we got off route almost immediately and ended up south of the Lake. We were on a definate trail the entire time, but managed to miss a turn at some point and the trail we followed led into a meadow. Once we realized this (seeing ridge was a big clue), we traversed over to the lake, proving that we're not just in it for the peak bagging, we wanted to see what Roach called "one of Colorado's most beautiful places". Glad we did. Lake was a perfect spot for second breakfast and worthy of a short hike in itself if you happen to be in the Leadville area with a few hours to spare.
Windsor Lake at sunrise

2. Gaining the ridge
Every TR seems to offer a different suggestion on where exactly to gain the ridge. We spotted a shallow, green gully to the South that looked like a good choice and targeted that. It was a good choice, mostly. We did have to pass through a short batch of willows and then past the willows got our feet soaked in boggy area, but we had no difficulties in ascending the slopes. I think there are multiple spots to gain the ridge in that area that would work just fine and may avoid the soggy area and willows, but I'd do that route again. We did have a steep climb, but difficulty was "medium class 2" with only a bit of talus hopping. I *think* I ended up close to the blue line that wentzl's report shows, but I may have been even further to the south.

We weren't interested in the full "Massive Mania", just trying to get the points above 14k referenced on the lists, so we stayed below the ridge for a while. We stayed 20 - 50' feet below the ridge and didn't actually gain the ridge until we were South of PT14169, realized that after we were up there, so I ran back to bag the point (this was an internal debate whether or not it was worth it, but "it will never be cheaper" came to mind).
Wildflowers above the lake

the ridge we're trying to gain behind willows

look back at Windsor Lake from near top of the ridge

3. Ridge walk to "North Massive"
I loved the summit ridge of Massive. Fantastic views in every direction, varying treks of choppy talus with smooth grassy areas as the terrain slopes up and down for miles, all above 14k! What more could you ask for? I felt like I could've spent all day up here.

We had no issues following the ridge line, even the route is not marked there's really little question of your overall direction. At some point between PT 14,169 and North Massive, the ridge takes and obvious Y. There won't be much question, but you're following the Y to the left (SW) towards Massive The right branch goes to Mt. Oklahoma which is quite prominent for a while. This is the point where you depart from following the Continental Divide. I'm not sure where, if at all, in the picture below we gained the ridge.
the route in front of us

From PT 14169

Little H climbing "North Massive"

4. "North Massive" to "Massive Green"
This is the only Class 3 portion. Note, going in this direction, this is a Class 3 downclimb, but not a difficult downclimb. Stay to the left (SW side) of the downclimb portion, hugging up against an outcropping and you'll find a route that "goes" with minimal difficulty. There is a bit of exposure (I'll rate it 3/6) just before this part, but it comes at a mostly Class 2 part. I don't remember feeling exposed at all during the downclimb.
Little H downclimbing from "North Massive"

Hunter-Frying Pan Wilderness from "Massive Green"

5. "Massive Green" to Mt. Massive to "South Massive"
The route is easy to follow from here. Leaving Massive Green there's an obvioius saddle with cairn at the foot of a distinct trail leading towards Massive's main summit. Follow this down and back up and you'll be at Massive with hordes of people before you know it. The route is quite easy hiking, which, after the morning of talus hopping, will feel quick and easy. My batteries in the GPS went dead somewhere around the Massive summit; I had spares but didn't bother.

We didn't linger long on the summit. We were tired and ready for the day to wrap up, so grabbed a few pictures and started hiking down.
summit selfie

From Massive's summit, you'll follow an obvious trail continuing South, down a shallow saddle and back up to a local high point -- this is NOT "South Massive". Continue until the trail reaches a signed junction where the Half Moon Creek Trail breaks off.

Up to this point, all the unranked 14ers on the Massive massif came pretty cheap, being essentially along the route to Mt. Massive. "South Massive" is not on the route and has a 230' of prominence that looks bigger than 230'. Little H took that one off but displayed wonderful pateience conversing with a marmot as I ran up and solo'd the peak. "South Massive" is a worthy summit and didn't feel that bad after our big day (humble brag). Little H estimated my round trip time around 20 - 25 minutes. I acutally had a few snow flurries fall on me during this side excursion, and the sky was getting darker, so I was trying to keep moving. I did not get a good picture of "South Massive"

6. Exit to Mt. Massive TH
This was a nice cool-down after a big day. Nice class 1 dirt trail to dig in my trekking poles and not worry about navigation. The easy, gradual downhill hiking felt great, but went on too long. Follow the Mt. Massive trail a few miles to just below treeline, turn right on the Colorado Trail. There's another junction closely after turning on the CT, near a creek; it was not 100% obvious that we should cross the creek at this point, but that's indeed the route.

Roach's mileage is way off. My GPS batteries were dead by this point, but I think we were on the Colorado Trail portion for closer to the 3 miles my map showed vs the 1 mile Roach mentioned.
Finishing the trip near an illegible Wilderness sign

Final thoughts and notes:

  • I strongly recommend this route. If you enjoy spending a full day at elevation traversing a mountain ridge, this is a great choice. We saw wildflowers, lakes, creeks, peaks, deer and marmots (no goats). Epic views into the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, which I've spent zero time exploring to date, as well as the Mt. Massive Wilderness. We had all the different varying terrains that I expect to find in the Colorado mountains, with a minimum of steep loose scree, and a taste of Class 3 to make it interesting. Route was long, but the talus hopping was not extensive, so that helped make it more manageable. Not that my completion list is all that long, but this may have been my second favorite route so far in my Colorado mountaineering adventures (top is still Halo's Ridge on Mt. of the Holy Cross). I had Jethro Tull's album "Songs from the Wood" running through my head all day -- perfect mental soundtrack to this day-long venture above treeline.
  • If your orienteering skills are reasonable, but not yet Eagle-scout-level, don't fear the navigation challenge. Since the ridge is so obvious to follow, this is a good "intro to non-cairned Class 2 hiking" for those who are nervous taking on routes that aren't well marked.
  • I might recommend exiting on the Southwest slopes to North Halfmoon Creek TH instead of the East route to Mt. Massive TH. It would've saved some mileage and I could've still hit all the same points.
  • Tennessee Pass Cafe in Leadville has outstanding burgers and great service.
  • Doing a one-way route with a shuttle opens up a lot of options, but does drive a little more planning. This was two weeks in a row now that I did a one-way hike with a shuttle, both hikes in the 15 mile, 5000' range -- neither of those routes would've been practical options without the shuttle car in place. Considerations include extra time the night before, extra time after the hike, extra mileage, remembering car keys.
  • My pedantic "boy scout" list for things to pack and prep activites now has a new section titled "stuff for camping at the TH the night before". Being experienced and prepared to do this camping the night before also opens a lot of options.
  • I forgot how fun writing these TR's is (seeing that 7000+ people want to read about my hike is kinda cool). I wrote them for my first three 14ers and then got out of the habbit. I was talking to some friends last week about writing trip reports and said that when I get around to a route where there isn't a ton of beta, I'd do it again. I think this qualifies (last TR was over a year ago).

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

09/08/2016 14:51
Have a Massive trip planned for next week, thanks for the great report.


07/03/2018 09:31
Thanks for the beta Hokiehead, this will be on the list for the next 4-6 weeks.


Third class route-finding
08/29/2019 09:36
Hey Hokiehead how are things. We finally go around to doing this for National Summit Day this year, and I wanted to share a possible easier option for the people checking out your trip report. In the picture where Little H is down-climbing, you can stay high on good solid rock (albeit exposed), and make your way around to a pretty tame down climb. Our group split up and did both options, and the higher option was quicker and easier I think. I attached a picture of me making my way over to that route.

alt crux route
08/11/2020 10:39
Re the crux down climb discussed above: There's also a low exposure, sunny and dog friendly class 2 option right off the southeast side of North Massive summit proper.

Also recommended is to leave the bustling trail at the first saddle after descending the summit of Massive, and continue the traverse to South Massive and onwards over a 13'er to yet another little peak and then follow the ridge down thru the woods and hitting the CT a mile before the parking lot. This trail less area is especially sweet, and a much better way to finish the day. No bushwhacking, if the beetles stay away.

We also started at Hagerman Pass (or rather 2 miles below on the road, which is where my friend's van gave up) and picked up the ridge there. In combination with the S Massive finish, this is actually the complete Massive ridge, road to road, with only a couple of miles on trail. Stats on my watch was 16 miles, 5800' up, 6800' down.

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