Mt. Massive - Southwest Slopes
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
Ski: Advanced, D6 / R3 / III
|Trailhead:||N. Halfmoon Creek|
|Total Gain:||3,950 feet|
|RT Length:||8.00 miles|
|USGS Quad.:||Mount Massive|
|County Sheriff:||Lake: 719-486-1249
|National Forest:||San Isabel|
|Wilderness Area:||Mount Massive|
From U.S. 24 just south of Leadville, turn onto Colorado 300 and cross the railroad tracks. Drive 0.7 mile and turn left onto County Road 11 toward the Halfmoon Creek. After another 1.2 miles, turn right on the dirt road to Halfmoon Creek. Drive on the good dirt road (except for the usual washboard and potholes) for 5.3 miles to the Mt. Massive parking area on the right. Drive another 2 miles on the now rugged, 4WD road to a small junction. Continue straight - do not turn left on Forest Road 110J. If you have 4WD and good clearance, drive another 0.5 mile to the small, marked trailhead on the right.
Photo #1 is a high-angle view of the route from Mt. Elbert. From the trailhead (Photo #2), walk through the forest on the great trail for 1.25 miles. Leave the forest and weave through bushes to reach a more-open area at 11,200'. Some of the Southwest Slope can be seen after leaving the forest - Photo #3 and Photo #4. Follow the trail to the other side of a meadow (Photo #5) and reach a trail junction ( 39.16793° N, -106.47952° W) at 11,200' - Photo #6. The main trail continues west toward North Halfmoon lakes. Turn right on a new trail that climbs north and then northwest below some grassy ledges. Continue through trees and a small boulder field near 11,300' - Photo #7. Reach another, larger boulder field near 11,700' (Photo #8) where the trail can be a bit more difficult to follow as it weaves up through the rocks. Photo #9 is a look at the upper half of the boulder field. Near 11,900', the trail heads up to the right (northeast) as it exits the boulder field under steeper terrain. Near 12,200', enter the west side of gentle terrain on the Southwest Slope and follow the trail northeast toward a rock pile - Photo #10. As you approach the pointed rock pile ( 39.17311° N, -106.47578° W), you can see much of the route up to the left. Continue all the way to the rock pile at 12,300' - Photo #11.
Pass the rock pile and hike north over a small hill where you will regain your view of the route ahead. - Photo #12. Keep hiking up the center of the slope to 12,900'. As shown in Photo #13, the trail now climbs more difficult terrain up to the left. Your next goal is to climb north and then northwest to gain a large ridge that runs southwest off of the summit ridge. If snow is present on the slope, take a close look at Photo #13 to determine the general location where the trail hits this ridge. Begin climbing up the steep slope - Photo #14. Photo #15 was taken during this climb and Photo #16 looks down from about 13,200'. Follow the trail as it zigzags up through rocks and, eventually, heads northwest to reach easier terrain on the broad ridge - Photo #17.
From the ridge, the route to the summit ridge is not obvious because you can't see the trail - just follow it (Photo #18) up, and up, and up. Taken near 14,000', Photo #19 looks down on the ridge. Above 14,000', the switchbacks get closer together and the trail comes to a notch (near 14,100') on the left side of the ridge - Photo #20. Finally, the top of this ridge/slope is in view up to the right. Continue northeast to reach the "top" near 14,200'. Photo #21 looks down on the location where you should reach the top of the slope.
Walk up and around a corner where the summit ridge comes into view - Photo #22. Drop slightly to reach a notch and a signed (hopefully) junction ( 39.18264° N, -106.47538° W) where the East Slopes trail comes up from the right to hit the summit ridge. Photo #23 looks back at the trail junction. Past the junction, stay right of the ridge crest and weave up through the rocks (Photo #24) to reach easier terrain on the ridge crest (Photo #25), near 14,300'. The summit is not far off, but still is not visible. Photo #26 looks back on the area. Gain a large false summit where you can finally see the summit - Photo #27. Drop to the left (west), continue to a saddle just below the true summit (Photo #28), and follow the faint trail over to the top ( 39.187298° N, -106.475548° W). From the summit, Photo #29 looks back on the summit ridge.
To ski back to the SW Slopes, drop east off the summit and traverse back to the terrain above the Massive-"South Massive" saddle: Photo #30
Just below the summit: Photo #31
Looking back at the traverse: Photo #32
Above the saddle, drop south onto the SW Slopes. The higher you drop in, the steeper the terrain. Looking down on the saddle: Photo #33
Dropping in from the saddle: Photo #34
Near 13,600': Photo #35, Photo #36
Near 13,200': Photo #37
Looking up from 12,700': Photo #38
Near 12,600', crossing to the west side of the slopes: Photo #39
Near 12,200', just above the trail: Photo #40
The last 1/2 mile of the road to this trailhead requires 4WD and should not be attempted with a passenger car. Park cars at the road junction 1/2 mile before the actual trailhead and walk up the rocky road. This is not an easy hike - from the lower meadow to the summit there's nearly 3,300' of elevation gain in 2.5 miles. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Mount Massive Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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