Monday, July 13, 2015

Peak of the Week: Mount Massive

Mt. Massive's South Slopes route
The South Slopes route from just above treeline
Mount Massive is one of Colorado's most magnificent and gigantic peaks. With seven distinct summits, four of which are over 14,000 feet, Massive is almost more of a sub-range or a massif than a singular peak. As most everyone knows by now, Massive is the second-highest peak in Colorado and the third highest in the lower 48. By almost any measure, Massive is one of Colorado's most impressive mountains.

There are several routes up Mount Massive, from the relatively easy South Slopes standard route (class 2) to the scrambling ridgeline that connects North Massive to Massive proper to the marathon nine-summit "Massive Mania," which truly traverses the entirety of this great mountain. By the time you have completed your visit to this majestic peak you will understand its reputation and its name.

Mount Massive TH
From Leadville, drive 3.5 miles south on Highway 24. Turn onto CR 300. Follow this road for 7 miles to the obvious trailhead just past the trailhead for Mt. Elbert on the left side of the road, Half Moon Campground (right side of road) and over a creek crossing. The trailhead on the right.

North Half Moon TH
Follow the directions for the Mount Massive TH. Continue past the Mount Massive TH for 2 miles to a junction. The road may be 4WD beyond this point. Continue straight for another half mile to the trailhead.

Windsor Lake TH
From downtown Leadville drive 4.5 miles west to Turquoise Lake. Cross over the dam and follow Hagerman Pass Road for 7 miles. Park on the north side of the road, cross over the Carlton Diversion tunnel and find the start of the trail after crossing a small stream.

East Slopes (13.5 miles; 4,531' elevation gain; class 2)
This is the standard route on Mount Massive and is a walk-up classic. One drawback, however, is that being the easiest route on Colorado's second highest peak, it is popular. Don't expect solitude unless you go in the off season.

rotten snow on Mt. Massive in the late spring
Slogging up snowfields on the South Slopes in late spring
This route starts at the popular Mount Massive TH very close to the Mount Elbert TH and Half Moon Creek campground. It contours along the base of the peak, following the Colorado Trail for 3.5 miles. Turn left (don't miss this junction) onto the Mount Massive Trail at 11,300' and follow it through the trees until you emerge in the gigantic basin on Massive's east side. The summit doesn't look far away, but the distance is deceiving.

Follow the well-trodden trail for 3 miles as it climbs to the saddle on Massive's southern shoulder (between Massive and unranked "South Massive". This saddle is at 13,900'. Follow the rocky ridgeline to the summit and take in the view.

Southwest Slopes (5.8 miles; 4,001' elevation gain; class 2)
This steep, abridged route is the shortest way to climb Massive and avoids most of the crowds of the South Slopes. From the Half Moon TH, follow the trail northwest  to 11,200' and locate a tricky-to-find hiker's trail that cuts north up a gully. Weave through some broken cliffs, climbing very steeply and join the Eat slopes route just above the saddle and follow this to the summit.

Massive Mania (11.9 miles; 4,953' elevation gain; class 3)
This impressive route is accomplished via a car-shuttle and collects all nine of Massive's numerous summits. This incredible journey gives you the full Massive experience. Starting at the Lake Windsor TH follow the Continental Divide along the lofty ridge of Massive's massif until you reach North Massive, a "possibly ranked" 14er. Descend southwest along a scrambly class 3 ridge to "Massive Green" and continue the traverse along easier terrain to Massive's main summit. Continue the exposed ridge traverse to "South Massive" and "South South Massive" and finally over Point 12,381. Descend to the Mount Massive TH and congratulate yourself on an incredible journey.

By every route, Massive is a big mountain. The standard route is long and exhausting, and almost every route on the mountain will carry you high above treeline for long periods of time. Take careful consideration about the weather forecast and don't get caught on Massive's long ridges in a thunderstorm.

Mount Massive on

Mount Massive on

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