PrologueMountains: Mt. Massive (14,421’)
Route: Started at Fish Hatchery TH (9600’ approx) and climbed the East Ridge to Summit,
Elevation Gain - 4900’ (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 13 miles (approx)
Trench Crew - Steve, Ariel, Prakash
I’d been eyeing the weekends’ forecast. Clear days had been hard to come by this season. The weekend was flanked by two decent-sized storms on either side. It seemed like a reasonable plan to get some turns at A-basin on Saturday in preparation for 14er Sunday. In the days leading up to the weekend I’d wrestled with several choices including Quandary and Sherman. Steve’s plan to hit up Massive was pretty tempting firstly because there’s a ton to learn from this guy and secondly I liked what I saw on Layne Bracy’s report on 14ers.com two weeks ago. We met at the Timberline motel at Leadville on Saturday night and got some rest before the climb. We reached the fish hatchery TH at 6AM, geared up and hit the trail a few minutes after. We followed a ploughed track for a while to a pond where we had to bushwhack a short section to catch the highline trail. Like Steve mentioned in his report, the first mile of the trail was broken flat. We soon got to a 1.5-2 mile section of unbroken 6” to 12” (at spots) deep snow.
Highline Trail - Broken
Highline Trail - Unbroken
There were signs of a beautiful, cloudless day by now. We took turns breaking trail and making steady progress.
Rest Stop on the Highline Trail
This was when we lost the trail a little bit and broke trail over deeper snow, mostly around 15”or so but we occasionally sank deeper… Steve took over and broke trail like a machine ever since we lost the trail. Frequent insincere offers of aid from Ariel and I were swiftly repudiated. This was Ariel’s favorite part of the adventure… The Chefrel Step.
The Chefrel Step
The views were breathtaking and only got better all day. We stopped for a quick break to eat and hydrate at the base of Massive’s East Ridge at 10AM.
The Halfway Mark
This was an approximate halfway mark and we seemingly had plenty of daylight to summit and return. From here Steve bid us goodbye temporarily and headed over to get N. Massive. Ariel and I stirred at 10:30 and began heading up the ridge towards Massive. Here’s looking down the ridge towards Ariel. We ditched our snowshoes a few minutes from where this picture was taken.
The East Ridge
From here we took the approximate route marked in red
Here’s looking back down the gentle sloping ridge, and a look at the traverse to N. Massive if you’re ever considering that.
The Gentle East Ridge
The Traverse 1
There was some fun 2+ boulder hopping on the ridge.
Well anchored wind-crusted snow was found aplenty close to the ridge crest.
Stay on Rock
We tried to avoid snow as much as possible and stayed atop solid rock for most of the ascent.
We stayed on the East side of the ridge crest for most of the time to avoid wind and the difficulties on the west side. The summit is a gentle ascent from this point although the fact that I’d left my brain behind with the snowshoes at timberline complicated matters a little.
Onward to Summit
My hypoxic escapades are filed under P as ‘Prakash’s mindless meanderings in the Rockies with disgruntled climbing partners’. In winter, even more so than in summer, I hit respiratory ceiling at 12000’ and then attain the summit by highly protracted capillary action, but I digress. Here’s a closer look at the traverse to N. Massive from higher up on the ridge.
The Traverse 2
Summit and Descent
We summitted at 2:30PM and checked out both the high points to make sure we got the summit after all that bother.
A view down to the lesser peaks… Massive is one gigantic beast.
We didn’t wait for long on summit and started making our way down to get away from the annoying winds.
During the return we had a mildly stressful time crossing some moderately steep, wind-crusted snow slopes without crampons. It would’ve been much easier, quicker and safer to stick to our ascent route and stay on the ridge crest.
The Descent Route
It took us a while to find a safe way across the snow slopes back down to the ridge below where Steve and Cooper were now waiting for us. Ariel put in a swift call to Steve to tell him where we were. Amazingly there was cell phone reception all over this mountain. We soon made it down to where Steve was. He’d gotten tired of waiting for us and had gone for a quick 1000’ stroll up towards Massive.
On The Rocks Again
We made it back to our snowshoes, picked them up and began the really long walk down below timberline. My brain had long since gotten up and left a trail of cerebral cortex in its haste to get to the Jeep. We trudged along getting back to the trailhead at 9:30PM for a round trip time of 15 hours. After a quick stop at the Leadville Kum & Go for some much needed caffeine and salt, we drove back to our respective hamlets at the foothills many leagues away. It was a fantastic and very fruitful day out in the Sawatch. Steve and Ariel, it was good to climb with you folks. Happy Trailbreaking!