RendezvousJeff and I decided late in the week to join a gathering of 14ers.com members to hike Mount Massive via the Southwest Slopes route. Driving from Denver, we missed the rendezvous in Leadville but met instead at the trailhead. There were seven of us: Jeff, Mike, Britt, Eric, Wes, Steve, and myself. And Cooper the Mountaineering Dog.
Good weatherTemperature at the trailhead was around 10F, 15 degrees warmer than expected. We started at dawn. Below timberline, the trail meanders through the forest. Here there was a thin layer of sugary powder; while some folks left their snowshoes in their vehicles, I brought mine but hardly needed them. As we emerged from treeline, the morning sun offered incredible views of the surrounding peaks.
Beautiful dayAt this point the trail steepens considerably (although we opted to climb more steeply where there was snow cover)--our route gained 3,200' in 1.5 miles. Most of our ascent we bathed in sunshine and gorged on the stunning alpine vistas. Wind was minimal. The snow higher up was reasonably well-consolidated and this we navigated easily.
The summitI had not researched this route beforehand, so around 11:30 I was pleasantly surprised to reach a nice class-2/3 ridge leading to the summit. An hour later the whole group, including Cooper the Mountaineering Dog, stood jubilantly on the peak. Here the winds picked up and the skies began to gray. We took some photos and started back down.
Rapid descentThere were many steep, well-packed snowfields which offered excellent glissading opportunities, and this was the primary means of descent for most of the group. A few hours later all of us had arrived back at the trailhead.
DetailsRound-trip for the group was about 8 hours at 5 up and 3 down.
Had a great time. Thanks guys!