10/11/2012 Mount Massive (14,421 feet), Colorado

After having great views of the Sawatch Range from Mount Sherman last week, Ashley and I decided to get out there and start climbing.  We figured we would start big, so we set our sights on 14,421 foot Mount Massive.  Aptly named, it has numerous summits (5) and has more area over 14,000 feet than any other mountain in the 48 states.  It's is the 2nd largest mountain in Colorado, and 3rd highest mountain in the 48 states, behind Mount Whitney (California) and it's neighbor Mount Elbert (Colorado).

It's a straightforward climb (hike really) from most approaches, never exceeding Class 2 in difficulty from a technical standpoint.  We decided to approach the peak from the shortest (distance wise) route, via the Southwest Slopes.  The route is around 8 miles round trip, with ~3800 feet of elevation gained in the last 2.5 miles or so - so needless to say it is very steep hiking.

Click here to see the 14ers.com topographic map of our route (route #2). 

Elevation gain: ~4000 feet
Trip length: 8.0 miles

We left Denver around 5AM and made it to Leadville, Colorado around 7AM.  Leadville is a town that sits around 10,000 feet above sea level and sits almost directly below Mount Elbert and Mount Massive.  Not my picture, but here is the backdrop of Leadville.  Mount Elbert is on the left, and Mount Massive on the right.

From Leadville, we headed down a dirt road for about 6 miles to the Mount Massive TH parking lot (for the standard route, not the route we would be taking).  I put my truck in 4WD (a common occurrence to get to TH's)  and headed the last 2.5 miles to the start of the approach to the Southwest Slopes, the North Halfmoon Creek trail head. 

My truck at a stream crossing on the 4WD road, at the start of the Southwest Slopes approach.
Marking the start of the route.

A memorial marking the death of 4 service members killed in a crash when their Blackhawk chopper  crashed into the mountain.

The route initially heads on a well defined trailed through the woods and then up to a meadow as it passes through North Halfmoon Creek.

Quickly the peaks around us start to open up.  This is 13er French Mountain (13,940), a Centennial Peak.

A rugged shoulder of 13er "K49".  The actual peak is not visible here.
Looking back at French Mountain (background left) as we move out of the woods, into the meadow.

Ashley with the Colorado high point and 14er Mount Elbert (14,440 - left) behind her.

Crossing a tiny stream in the meadow.

The trail splits at this junction.  Staying straight takes you up into the North Halfmoon Lakes.  Turning right starts the ascent of the Southwest Slopes of Mount Massive.

Fall is almost gone, as we head up the steep slopes.

A bit of route finding is needed as you climb up through a couple boulder fields.

Looking back behind us at 13er "K49".

Looking west as we climb, on the right through the trees is Centennial 13er peak Mount Oklahoma.  On the right of the ridge is 13er Deer Mountain A.

Climbing higher, another view of "K49" and Deer Mountain A.

Near the top of the boulder field, looking up.  The summit won't be visible at all to us until we reach the ridge.  Constant, slow, steep uphill trudging for a few miles still to go.
Higher still, another view of French Mountain (left) and "K49" (right).

"K49" (left), Deer Mountain A (Center) and the ridge moving up to the right to Mount Oklahoma (below).

Deer Mountain A (left) and Mount Oklahoma (right).

Looking back down the woods where we parked, and the start of the North Halfmoon Creek TH.

A closeup of Deer Mountain A.

Mount Elbert (left) and in the distant right-of-center is 14er La Plata Peak.
As we keep moving higher up the steep slopes, the Elk Mountain Range comes into view.  In the distance are the 14ers Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells

Looking back down the slopes behind us, we start to see some of the lakes.

Looking Southeast from the steep slopes.

Taking a breather with some awesome scenery behind me.

Approaching 14,000 feet we start to tower over all the 13ers in the area.  Looking back to "K49" (left of center), 13er Mount Champion in the center, Deer Mountain A to right of center. 

Mount Oklahoma in the foreground, but in the direct background we have the Elk Range 14ers Snowmass Mountain (left of center) and the 14er Capital Peak (right of center).  Check out the Knife Edge on the Capital Peak climb, can't wait for that!

Approaching some of the sub peaks of Mount Massive and the ridge.
14ers Mount Elbert (left) and La Plata Peak (distant center), 13er French Mountain on the right.

Looking Southwest in the distance at almost the entire Elk range 14er group. 

Approaching the ridge, a look at South Massive.

Looking at the ridge we must walk to get to the true summit of Mount Massive.

Ashley walking the ridge line. 

Some basic Class 2 hiking/route finding as we pick our way across the ridge.
Enjoying the killer day.
Finally, pushing to the actual summit peak.
From the top, looking Southwest at the Elk range.  Visible from left in the distance are 14ers Castle Peak, Conundrum Peak, Pyramid Peak, Maroon Peak, North Maroon, Snowmass Mountain and Capital Peak. 

Just a killer shot looking South into the heart of the Sawatch Range.

Looking South again, Mount Elbert is visible left center behind a Mount Massive sub peak.

Looking north up the Mount Massive ridge at "Massive Green" and "North Massive". 

Southwest again.

Looking east at 14er Mount Sherman (trip report here), and 13ers Dyer Mountain and Mount Sheridan

Looking Northeast into the Tenmile/Mosquito Range.  14ers Quandary Peak (left of center, trip report here), Mount Democrat, Mount Lincoln and Mount Bross (right of center, trip report here).
Mount Oklahoma (center) and the entire Elk Range in the distance.

Close-up of Mount Elbert.
Ashley battling a little bit of altitude sickness.

After a bit, we grab some snacks, finish up pictures and start heading back down the steep slopes.

Heading down, the sun and clouds making for some nice shots on the peaks.
and again.

Back on the 4WD road to the main highway, taking a picture on the way.

And finally, back at the highway, with the snow clouds starting to roll into the mountains.