Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  06/01/2009
Date Climbed:   05/30/2009
Author:  Aubrey
 Massive - east slopes  

Round-trip Distance: 13.75 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 4,500 feet

*Some photos (especially the panoramas) look best when viewed large.

Spring weather in Colorado is weird. It's hard to predict and you never know what it'll do from one hour to the next.

We expected nasty weather, based on the forecast, but when we started up the trail at 5:45 a.m. the sky was blue and the air was still. Incredulously perfect.

The first stretch of trail was eerie, as it passes by a lot of deadfall:


Shortly thereafter we enjoyed some long sections of flat (as we learned on the return, they were actually slight downhill sections because we definitely felt the ascent on the way back).

By 8 a.m. we could already see clouds forming. Not a front. Just clouds developing and growing, similar to how your typical afternoon thunder clouds develop in the summertime.

Not far below tree line we saw our first peninsulas of snow fingering down the slope:


The trail crossed some small drifts but they were mostly boot packed and they weren't very deep.

Near tree line we could see the route before us.

This is a very rough look at the route:


Here's a look back at Leadville:


Remember those clouds I mentioned? By 9 a.m. they were much larger and darker. Fortunately, South Massive's bulk and its slope winds kept the clouds at bay. Meanwhile, Massive's summit was clear and sunny.

But that didn't mean we weren't concerned. As we climbed we constantly looked over our shoulders to check on the clouds behind us. We also kept our ears perked for the slightest rumble of thunder.

Here's a view of the mountains to the north:


After we broke above tree line we had to deal with a bit of mud and some postholing through and around some willows, while making our way up that hump. But overall it wasn't too bad.

Beyond that section, there were a lot of dry sections and easy, low-angled snow fields to cross. Snow covered most of the land above 13k.


Check out these interesting ice patterns I came across (I put my boot in the frame for perspective):


Me climbing up the snow:


Instead of hitting the low point on the saddle, we decided to angle straight up the snow (using crampons and ice axes). The snow was great at first, but as we got closer to the rocks near the ridge we postholed to our thighs.

Jen climbing up the snow:


Jen, with South Massive behind her:


As we climbed we could see the clouds behind us dumping a lot of rain and snow. Massive's summit, however, was still clear. As was its west side.

At that point we discussed our three options: 1 - continue climbing up Massive, 2 - start descending the way we came, heading right into the storm, or 3 - go down the southwest slopes route and then hike back down the road to our truck (which was at the Mt. Massive trailhead). Because the system seemed to be stalled behind South Massive, we decided to have a go at the summit. If conditions worsened, we decided we would just escape down the southwest slopes.

Up on the ridge (Jen on the left; trail sign in the foreground):


Looking back at the system stalled behind South Massive:


Looking over the edge of the ridge (looking northwest, I believe):


Pan of the area (South is on the left, West is on the right):


Working our way to Mt. Massive's high point:


At 10:45 we gained the summit and had it all to ourselves. We didn't stay long, of course, because we didn't want to get caught in that nasty weather.

Jen on the summit:


Me on the summit:


Heading back down the ridge (multi-photo pan):


We took a look at the southwest slopes ...


... but we decided to just go down the way we came up. For one, the storm clouds appeared to be breaking up a bit and heading south, and for two we didn't know what the conditions were like on the southwest slopes. So down the snow we went.

Me steering around some rocks while glissading:


We came across quite a few ptarmigans. I imagine it's mating season because some were sporting sexy red eye shadow:


Descending back to treeline:


The view at treeline (panorama):


Here's a shot of Mt. Massive, taken on the drive back to Leadville (the summit is the third hump from the left):


The weather was mostly decent on our descent. Though we did get rained on for the last mile or so. Made it back to the trailhead at 1:45 p.m.

Our goal for the following day, Mt. Elbert:


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Dodging weather...
02/05/2011 00:22
Was the theme of the day on Massive! We were over on the northwest slopes, Aubrey, doing the same. I guess this is a testament to just how massive that massif really is - three ascents (yours, ”JakeK‘s” and ours - although we weren‘t shooting for the main summit), three routes - and we all enjoyed solitude on the peak, for the most part. That is one big mountain... perfect training ground for some bigger peaks, I guess

Nice report - great pics - and those Go-Lite packs make me laugh every time I check out your TRs: they are identical to mine and Doug‘s!


06/01/2009 19:31
Way to beat the weather, guys. Massive certainly was a popular climb over the weekend.


See that Black Cloud over Elbert?
01/05/2011 17:15
Yeah, that's where we were just as you were summiting. Elbert was a mess of snow pellets. The whole summit was charged and we could hear buzzing in our ears and trekking poles! Ran down the mountain as fast as we could. LOL


06/01/2009 20:26
susanjoypaul: Wow, too bad we missed you! Yes, perfect training ground. Those GoLite packs are awesome, eh?

Bill: Yes, it sounds like it was popular ... though we only saw two people on the ridge as we were climbing, and then we passed two people on our way down, so it didn‘t seem crowded at all.

53_Peaks: Elbert did look nasty! Glad you made it down OK. As it turned out, we hit another weather window on Elbert yesterday ... and, for a while at least, Massive looked socked in. Basically, we got lucky two days in a row.


06/01/2009 21:18
Now I know why Yale was so deserted, you were all on Massive!


Great pictures!
06/01/2009 21:41
Sounds like you had a great day this weekend also! The pictures are fantastic.


Nice report
06/02/2009 20:27
Thanks for the pictures & description to monitor how things are melting off. Yes Saturday was an interesting day!

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