Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  01/13/2021
Date Climbed:   01/10/2021
Author:  PeakSixTD
 To the North!   

First off, this is my second TR done entirely by cellphone. Photos will be at the bottom of the report for that reason.

Most people on this site know that there is a continuous debate about what counts as a separate 14er. In summer, the majority of us seem to settle on a list of 58. This becomes complicated when a 14er finisher goes on to climb the centennials. Five of the peaks you would have summited in your previous endeavor do not count towards your new goal. This came as a surprise to me when I first started chasing the cents after finishing the 58. You mean im starting further back than I thought? Oh well, the more peaks the merrier I suppose. In winter, the matter is complicated even further. The list of 14,000 foot mountains grows to 59! Why is this? Perhaps it's time for some history…

I'm sure many of you have seen the movie 127 hours starring James Franco. It's about an explorer in Utah that gets stuck in a remote slot canyon due to a boulder falling on his arm. He ends up cutting off his own wrist with a dull pocket knife to save his own life. Intense right? By this point your probably wondering what the heck this has to do with anything. Well, buckle up ladies and gentleman. The real person this happened to is Aron Ralston. After this incident, he went on to have an ice axe mounted to his missing hand… see where this is going yet?

In the winter of 2005, Aron Ralston became the third person to climb all of the 14ers during calendar winter. This is an enormous feat in itself, but to add to the grandeur, he did them all solo! Say what!! This has not been repeated to this very day. An epic story indeed, but now for the relevance.

I have no idea why, but he decided to add North Massive to the list. Since then, most winter mountaineers seem to conform to this list after the precedent set by Aron. If you have ever wondered if one person making what was likely a split decision could alter the course of Co mountaineering forever, the answer is yes. Don't worry if you choose to try and finish in winter without North Massive, you won't be getting any flack from me. To each is own!

Now that my thumbs are about to fall off, time for my trip report! Keyton Discosia (GiantHills) and myself had been bouncing a few thoughts around as for what to climb on this upcoming Sunday funday. We threw out a few prospective ideas, but Massive seemed to be obviously staring us in the face. NOAA was calling for a small amount of fresh snow on Saturday, so driving to a paved TH seemed like a good call for the sake of accessibility.

We planned to meet at the fish hatchery around 3am. I walked outside of the cabin im living in to see three inches of fresh snow at 8500 feet. Hmm. That wasn't supposed to be there… I grew a little worried about the road conditions. After all, I had a two hour plus drive to meet up with my team. This concern proved to be warranted, as I was in 4WD from Howard Colorado all the way past Buena Vista. I never once exceeded 40 mph.

To my surprise, there was almost no fresh snow to speak of at the fish hatchery! This seemed to bode well for our summit attempt. We sailed up the highline trail until the junction at 11,300. It was well trafficked, so our energy reserves stayed nice and fresh. The remaining route to treeline was also tracked, but not nearly as much as the other trail. We had a little more work to do through this section. Shortly after turning off, I hear the unmistakable voice of my old friend Noah! He and another friend of mine told us they would be coming, they started around 20 minutes after our group of three. We exchanged joyous greetings, and I introduced them to the other team members. Off we went!

Up until this point, I hadn't really planned on hitting North Massive. It looked so close as we were hiking up. I figured I would come back and hit it by itself some other time. The conditions were looking to beautiful to not give it some thought. The high was supposedly single digits, but it felt much warmer. This route gets a lot of sun!

We continued to work our way up. Everyone was in high spirits! Our conversation topics varied greatly, but they were almost always followed by some quality laughter! Our team has too much fun I tell ya! That's what mountaineering is all about. Despite being a "list ticker" I think I have as much fun as anybody =]

We came to the scrambly section around 13K and noticed there was about a half inch of fresh snow on the boulders. It was pretty slick! The slope to our left looked like it could slide so we chose to ride the ridge anyways. It turned out to be some fun climbing! Until I heard an "ohh noo!" I guess Keyton had accidentally dropped one of his 8000M mittens into a deep rock crevice. Keyton and his friend Travis Sherman (I'm Travis Terrell incase your confused) tried sneaking under some other rocks to get it. No luck. It was nearly 12 feet in there! I always carry a few extra bungee cords, and proposed designing some whacky contraption to get it out of there. You know, something like Wiley Coyote might have crafted to finally catch that pesky roadrunner! Fortunately they did not have to indulge my idea that could have been taken straight out of an episode of looney toons. They were able to fish it out with a snow probe. Crisis averted.

After surmounting the mass of blocks that lie in our way, the rest of the way to Massive was a breeze. We were up before we knew it. Keyton decided to FaceTime his mom (who lives in the Midwest) and take the final steps to the summit together with her. She seemed in awe of the beautiful sea of peaks we found ourselves in. Then again, so were we.

I found myself staring face to face with North Massive. It was soo close! Our other friends decided to slowly start working down, not very interested in the next goal I proposed. I was the only one who seemed excited about it, but Keyton kindly decided to chill on a rocky point and keep eyes on me while I redlined it over to my target and back. It was a very noble gesture indeed, and one I am appreciative of. 75% of my 130+ alpine summits have been solo anyways, so I was completely comfortable.

There were a few minor obstacles on the traverse, but nothing too challenging. I mostly stayed ridge proper to avoid any suspect snow slopes. Im not sure how long it took me, but it went by fast. I'd guess 30 to 40 minutes each way. It was a fun traverse! I was back to Keyton before I knew it. Im sure it seemed longer to him, and he may have started to get a little cold there towards the end (Sorry bro!)

We met back up with our other friends about 1000 feet down from Massive. The remainder of the descent to treeline was uneventful, except for the pleasant conversation of course! I donned my snowshoes for the descent while Keyton and Travis S. got out there skins. About 2 miles down through the tree's, Travis S. realized his phone fell out! Another ohh noo moment! He thought he knew exactly where it could be. Keyton, Travis S, and myself went back to look for it. We probably tacked on another 1.5 miles and 500 feet here, but we found it. Woohoo! Second crisis averted in one day. Are we lucky or skilled? Either way we are thankful.

This was a day full of great memories and scenic views. We even got to witness the remnants of a cloud inversion as we broke treeline. What a treat! To make it even better, I ended the day with two shiny new snowflakes. Before we reached the cars, we were already planning the next climb. What a life I tell ya! One things for sure… we are living it to the fullest.




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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