With school in session, Angi and were having trouble finding time to camp before our fourteener outings, and this was no exception. We left Denver quite early, and soon were in Leadville watching the morning twilight illuminate Mt. Massive.
I took the above photo when I got out of the car to pee, and it was absolutely freezing! However, when we parked the car, just before the turnoff to Half Moon Basin, it was quite a bit warmer. Not only had there been a bit of sunshine by then, the cool air often settles in the mountain valleys.
We headed off up the road to the Half Moon Creek Trailhead, and got to the wilderness boundary about a half hour later. After another hour or so, we arrived at the turnoff point up Massive's southwest slopes. The climber's trail Roach describes is very good and, near the base of the valley, is well marked and very well made.
We progressed up the rock stair steps, and soon made it above timberline to the steep grassy slopes above. While the ridgeline seemed so close, climbing the steep slope on the loose, gravelly trail was quite tedious. Remember, this route climbs 3000' out of the valley below.
Finally we crested the ridge, reaching the saddle between Massive and South Massive. South Massive is the southernmost summit along Massive's long summit ridge. We found the best shelter from the wind we could find, and took a much needed long break.
There was quite a bit more snow at this higher altitude and eastern aspect, rather than the southwestern aspect we had ascended. We couldn't see the trail or cairns, so we simply headed up the ridgeline. With spectacular views in all directions we headed up the snowy ridge. Fortunately, the snow had recently fallen, and was quite soft. This aided our progress since there was not much of a worn or icy trail.
We soon found ourselves on the summit. It had taken about 5 hours to ascend. After a wonderful break, we said hello to some of the few other climbers we saw that day, and descended. After a grueling 2.5 hour descent, we again found ourselves at Half Moon Creek. We could see down the valley, and could easily tell the car was still quite a ways away.
This was by far our most physically demanding trip so far, and took us just under 10 hours to complete. This climb is a bit deceiving in it's distance, and vertical gain. I strongly recommend driving a car that can make it to the 4x4 parking at the Mt. Massive Wilderness boundary. All the hardship aside, it was a great trip, and exciting to be on such a large mountain.
See more trip reports, my homepage, etc at http://www.cunap.com/~hardingr