Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  07/31/2006
Date Climbed:   07/29/2006
Author:  aubrey
 Mt. Massive - west slopes  

Drove to the North Halfmoon trailhead after work on Friday evening (July 28th). The 4WD road wasn't too bad, even in the dark. There was only one section of rocks to contend with, as I recall, but it really wasn't bad at all. Just minutes after parking in the lot, we crashed in the back of the Xterra.

Got an early start at 5 a.m. (so that we could make it back to Boulder for a party that afternoon). Our headlamps lit the way on the easy-to-follow trail. Even though we couldn't see it, the stream down to our left must've been flowing pretty good because it was making a lot of noise.

As the sun began to rise, the high, wispy clouds reflected a brilliant pink. We were still cruising at a pretty fast clip, passing through meadows, mudpits and mosquitos. We also passed by some pretty incredible water features and wildflowers.


I was beginning to wonder where this new CFI trail was that everyone's been talking about. The trail we were on was well defined and cairned, and I didn't notice any turnoffs (other than one small trail that went to the left, shortly after the TH). After reading the printout of the route description from this site, we realized we had overshot the turnoff in a big way. I wish we had consulted the description earlier so that we'd be ready and looking for the turnoff after a couple miles, but I guess I was just expecting a sign or something. Sure, there's a small cairn (which I noticed later, on our way down), but we passed by it in complete darkness, and the ground foliage obscured the trail and cairn.

Rather than backtracking a mile or two, we turned our attention to Roach's map, which denoted a couple routes from the west slopes. Unfortunately, they didn't have any descriptions (we were using a map from the map pack).

We continued on, following random cairns that led us across a boulder field to a wide basin nestled within a steep cirque. From there, it seemed like we had two or three troughs of rock and scree to choose from.

Let me point out that my wife was not very happy at this time. She wasn't "feeling" it, and none of our options were very appealing. I somehow convinced her to push on a little further and just "see how it goes," before giving up entirely. After all, it was still early, the weather was great, and we both still had plenty of energy to expend. Thus, we pushed on up the best-looking trough (which still looked much worse and at least twice as long as the "Trough" on Longs).


As we gained elevation, our route became steeper, more slippery and more difficult. We found ourselves either crawling on all fours or hugging the walls of the couloir, searching desperately for solid rock, which wasn't easy to come by. All of the rock was dangerously loose and terribly rotten. There were even some rocks that looked like they were solidly embedded but they would shift when you pulled on them. And some steps into the scree sent your foot back down to where it started (i.e., one step forward, one step back).


While we did consider turning around at one point, we decided that continuing up seemed safer than going back down.

Routefinding was stressful and it required a great deal of concentration and strategic planning. No more casual talk; it was all business. Fear, hunger and other bodily functions took the back seat and were entirely forgotten.

On multiple occasions we had to choose between chutes filled with loose scree (which was barely hanging onto the slope) and rocky chutes that required class 3 climbing up unstable rock. We seemed to favor the rocky routes - the lesser of the two evils, as it seemed. I guess we didn't feel like black-diamond scree skiing for a thousand feet.

Based on GPS waypoints I took, from the boulders at the base of the trough to the ridge, we gained about 1,200 vertical feet. A good portion of it was precarious, high class 2 and class 3 maneuvering. Often, I ended up using my arms as much as my legs, and I actually relied on them more in some sections (because of the loose dirt, gravel and scree on such a steep slope).

After what seemed like forever, we finally popped up on Massive's ridge, somewhere just northwest of Massive Green. Actually, I think we came up between a couple of the pinnacles. Here's a picture I took looking back, shortly after gaining the ridge. Inset, the red arrow rougly depicts the route we took.


After reaching the ridge and mentally brushing ourselves off, we made the easy stroll over the Green and on to the main summit. It was 9 a.m. at that time. We only hung out for a few minutes before hitting another point on our way back down.

Things went much better from then on. I was surprised to find a trail sign up there on the ridge (wish there was one at the bottom). We then headed down the new CFI section of trail that eluded us before (great trail, by the way, especially for being on such unforgivingly steep terrain).

Snapped this photo on the descent, not far from the main summit (see the people?):


At 10:45 we made it back down to the main trail (the sign-less cutoff we missed earlier in the morning). After that, it was a nice and leisurely stroll back to the North Halfmoon trailhead. We were back to the truck at 11:15.

BTW, even after swinging by the house (north of Denver) to take a quick shower, we still made it to the party in Boulder before 4 (thanks Ernest, Fran & Amy!). Then, later that evening, we drove to a hotel in Pueblo, staging ourselves for a Lindsey climb on Sunday.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Me too
11/09/2008 17:16
We tried to do that West Slopes route last Summer and it went pretty good until we had to do what you did in those troughs. we must have gone up a different one than you though, because we had to traverse over North Massive and Massive Green before we reached the summit and we weren‘t prepared for that. That scree sucks.

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