Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  07/28/2008
Date Climbed:   07/19/2008
Author:  emcee smith

 Massive SE Ridge  

Massive via the Southeast Ridge 7/19/08
Departed at 7am; summit at 1pm; returned to trailhead at 5pm.

The hike along the SE ridge takes you up and over the small hump on the left, and all three of the higher summits shown in the center of the picture.


Fellow member Don Eberl and I were attempting Massive leaving Denver at 5am. We both knew that this was a late start, but were hopeful (and lucky) that the weather would cooperate. We arrived at the trailhead at 7am and set off along the East Slopes route.

Side note, there was a volunteer from CFI there and mentioned that the turnoff from the Colorado Trail was 3 miles from the trailhead. I felt like Will Ferrell from the Old School wedding scene when the Dan Band drops the first "F" bomb. I didn't believe what I heard, and Don and I both thought that he couldn't really mean 3 miles. Did he really say that?

We dismissed this and mentioned that we were turning after about 1 mile to ascend the SE ridge. We walked our approximate mile, after the switchback, and stopped to look at the map to see if we were at about the right spot for the turnoff. Somewhat comical as we were puzzling over it, we pulled the map aside to reveal about a 6" cairn and figured we must be in the right spot. Although we just dumb lucked the cairn, since the Colorado Trail from the trailhead to the first creek is roughly running around the SE ridge below tree line, you cannot really go wrong by just finding a seemingly good exit and taking the turn to the west. Note: both of us were looking for the cairn on the way down and missed it, so I wouldn't put much faith in finding it.

From the cairn, we walked up through the trees along the ridge. Mostly there was not a trail, but the walking was good, with plenty of gaps between the trees and easily avoidable low branches. Every now and then, we could see Elbert to the south.

At tree line, the views to Elbert were great


Don brought his ice axe and there was a tiny snowfield that he ascended to get some practice with it


The walk up to the first point was easy. The following photo shows what we think is the "petite parlor" that Roach describes, but we weren't too sure. Don climbed up through the snow and I took the rocks up and to the right in the following photo.

Petite Parlor?


Looking back from near the top of the first point.


Climbing out of the gully to the top of the ridge gave us our first good view of South South Massive, and the climb to reach it. To me, the views up to the top of the peaks always seem long and high, but this one seemed very long and high, especially knowing that it would only get us to about 13,600'.

South South Massive


Looking back from the slope up to S.S. Massive shows the rough route along the ridge and through the first saddle. You can see three piles of rocks in the saddle, and the trail generally goes around the first one to the east and the next two to the west. It also shows that if you are not interested in the first SE point along the ridge, you could cut the corner just above tree line and contour to the saddle.


The climb up to S.S. Massive was fairly steep, grassy, and only bits of trail. I would say that this was the tedious, tiring part of the hike.

The hike down the other side was pretty tame, with one pile of rocks in the middle of the following photo that has a trail running around the east side. We came down in the middle, off trail.


This is when the hike gets good, from the saddle up to S. Massive. You can see the ridge line in the following photo, and true to form, the hike was easier than it looks.


A closer shot showing what I thought to be the two challenging parts of the hike. The first is right at the crown of the snowfields, and the second further up near the lighter diagonal rock bands.


The first challenging section appears to be a rock wall, but the trail winds back and forth up the steep slope. At times the trail was very steep, with plenty of loose dirt and rock.

Me starting up the section.


Don about ˝ way up the section


Above this section, the route was pretty straight forward. I enjoyed it because you could stay to climber's left and find plenty of scrambling, or to the right for relatively easy hiking.

Don climbing the second challenging section.


And hamming it up on a rock that could be avoided, but why?


Again, there were several places where you could move a little to climbers left and find some really fun stuff. The following was a little ledge that we couldn't resist for the hero shot of the day.


The top of South Massive gave us our first real glimpse of the true Massive summit. The down climb to the saddle between the two was uneventful.

Looking back at the descent from South Massive


And ahead along the ridge to Massive


Joining the east slopes trail in the saddle, we worked our way up the final section of ridge to the summit. Again, there were plenty of places to work off trail and get some easy scrambling in.

Don working off the trail (visible on the left side of the picture)


We reached the summit at 1pm, but still enjoyed only light clouds.


We spent some time on the summit relaxing, but also looking at the Elk Range and admiring the view. The one disappointment was that looking back to the south, you cannot see the effort (or the fun) involved in the SE ridge ascent.


We worked our way back down the trail, Don glissaded down the snowfield below the false summit and I took the trail.

Roach says that descending the east slopes trail will put your ascent into perspective. I assume that he means physically and not visually, as you cannot see much of the SE ridge on the descent. However, the east slopes trail is a very welcome path, at it is very easy and not many rocks.

We worked our way down the trail and generally enjoyed the afternoon.

Once we got to tree line, we began discussing the 3-mile comment from the CFI volunteer that morning. If you think that you are near the trailhead once you are back on the Colorado Trail, you are in for a disappointment. Another 3 miles and about 1 hour separated us from the car. Perhaps if we had come up that route, we would have been prepared.

At about 5pm we made it back to the car, tired, but extremely happy that we opted for the SE ridge.


This was a long hike. I wouldn't suggest it for a first 14er, and I would agree with Roach that being fit will help. If this is a peak you are looking to knock out somewhere in the #5 or above range, then I would highly recommend the SE ridge. Plenty of fun scrambling, a tiring ascent followed by a mellow descent.

You simply cannot see how fun the route is from the road, trailhead, etc. Most of what is fun you will "discover" while on the trail, which was a blast.

We were very lucky with the weather. I would recommend starting no later than 6am to be off the summit by noon. (Don and I figure that we are average pace hikers)

Good and bad, we saw zero people on the ridge. The tough spots are hidden from the other routes, so I probably would have felt a little uncomfortable by myself. Not that the route was that tough, but you never know.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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