Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  05/31/2009
Modified:  05/07/2014
Date Climbed:   05/29/2009
Author:  USAKeller
Additional Members:   BillMiddlebrook
 Mt. Massive Summit Ski (Southwest Slopes)- N. Halfmoon Creek TH   

Mt. Massive Southwest Slopes Corn Fest Summit Ski

Date: Friday, May 29, 2009
Group: BillMiddlebrook and USAKeller
Route: Southwest Slopes ascent (4mi.) and upper East Slopes + traverse to Southwest Slopes ski descent (1.5mi.) from North Halfmoon Creek TH
Stats: 7.25 miles; 3,950' climbed; 2,300' skied; 8 hrs 20 min RT
Ski conditions: Awesome spring corn!

Our routes seen from the summit of Mt. Elbert May 11, 2008 (red=climb; blue=ski):

Topo of the route (red=climb; blue=ski):

When I got a "Wanna to give Massive a go tomorrow?" text from Bill Thursday, I was all over it. The weather called for 50% chance of rain, and a freeze above 31,100' overnight. I met Bill in Frisco that evening and we were at the trailhead a few hours later. Alarms went off, food was consumed, and we started up the trail at 4:50am. Making pretty good time, we reached the trail junction and began the grind up the SW slopes. It wasn't until near 12,100' we crossed the first snowfield. At 12,800' we decided to switch hiking boots for ski boots and spikes and took a direct line up the snow field, bypassing the standard switchbacks.

A steeper portion of the lower slopes:

Climbing the Southwest Slopes:

We stayed in areas of less sun-hit near climbers' right for the lower of the snow climb. A firm top layer provided for wonderful purchase, but we couldn't let that fool us. Once we reached the upper portion and couldn't avoid the sun, Bill dug a pit. Below the hard top layer, the snow fractured at the dirt layer, and we had to issues to deal with if we hit it too late. This is what he found:
1) That upper layer (newest snow) could have slid off if warmed to that dirty layer
2) The potential for larger wet slides due to the underlying depth hoar that had high water content

At this point, a ski down the middle of the snowfield was out and a more conservative line was to be taken. We tried to make it up this last portion bit quicker (max. slope angle: 39 deg.). We "topped out" and headed northeast to reach the bottom of the summit ridge.

En route to the ridge. La Plata's appealing North Face looms behind me:

Bill navigates the summit ridge:

And we've had enough of the false summits - more to go:

We reached the summit at 10:25am; no wind and still no clouds over Massive. Things were heating up quickly - we knew we had to hurry and head down, and skied off the summit at 10:50am.

Mt. Elbert getting some action in the distance:

Bill rips some fine spring corn on the upper East Slopes:

I enjoy near-perfect corn off the summit:

Traversing around to the Massive-"South Massive" saddle:

Staying as high as possible, we traversed over and had a few more turns on a narrow strip of snow before taking the skis off for 30 feet to get to the saddle.

A few turns down to the saddle:

From the Massive-"South Massive" saddle, we skied another 50 feet and had to briefly take the skis off again to.

Skiing from the saddle - the strip of snow in the top photo is not continuous:

Looking up towards the saddle - skis went off and we walked down the red line:

Finally we were on continuous snow. Because of the poor snow we found on the climb, we decided to stick closer to the rocks on skiers' left (the same side we ascended in the lower of the snow field). Snow here was, again, sick corn!! And after a few cuts and jumps, nothing was going to move.

I reap the harvest down the Southwest Slopes:

Bill gets his next:

Looking back at the upper Southwest Slopes ski:

We finished the continuous line, and had one more dry traverse west to finish off the ski at 12,150'.

Traversing to ski the last of Mt. Massive at 12,150':

My final turns:

Bill finishes up his corn:

We finished the ski at 11:40am, and switched back to hiking boots (max. slope angle skied: 34 deg.). It felt good to be back on flat ground once past the trail junction. Somehow, the weather held out for us all day, and the clouds never gave us a break from the heat. We finished off the 2 miles in an hour and were back to the truck at 1:10pm, we were still stoked about the awesome creamy corn we had! It was nice to tick off another Sawatch ski this late in the season. Another good day out, Bill!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great pictures!
02/05/2011 00:22
Awesome pictures and report (as always!). I skied it the next day and saw your tracks. In fact, I think I pretty much followed your line from the summit to the Massive/S.Massive saddle.


Just in time
06/01/2009 14:22
The recent snows sure saved and extended the skiing in the Sawatch! Nice TR as usual.


Awesome job again!
06/01/2009 14:49
Both with the ski descent and trip report!


Nice job on the report!
06/01/2009 16:03
Another great day in the mountains and some surprisingly good weather. Creamed corn cooked to perfection.

You‘re right, Scott. That most recent snow coverage was very helpful!


Nice weather
06/01/2009 17:23
was a surprise. The only thing I would have changed was that wretched spider bite first thing in the morning!
T-E-R-R-I-F-Y-I-N-G!!! I will be burning my sleeping bag!

Jake: Hopefully you had similar corn conditions we had!


Nice work you two
06/01/2009 19:36
Ticking em off


06/01/2009 19:53
Caroline, what are you doing sleeping with spiders? I spent the weekend being eaten by mosquitos while drinking beer, no pain no buzz I guess...
Great report as always! That‘s a pretty cool mountain.


Great corn!
06/02/2009 18:53
Yes, I had some excellent spring corn on my descent!


11/30/2010 17:28
Keith, it was absolutely not my choice to sleep with spiders . All I remember is waking up and my leg itching like crazy. I inverted my bag and shook it out so hard 3 times. Bill thought I got the bite when I was out playing in the woods the night before. I'm only hoping that's the case! It would be nice not to burn my bag and sve an extra $200 on a new one!

Thanks for the comments guys!

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