Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,427 feet
"North Massive" - 14,337 feet
Date Posted:  03/16/2015
Modified:  03/18/2015
Date Climbed:   03/15/2015
Author:  Yikes
Additional Members:   MarkMadness
 A Massive farewell to Winter 2014/2015   

Peaks: Massive, North Massive
Mileage: a lot (15? 16? 17?)
Vert: a lot (5500?)

Earlier this winter, 3 of us set out to hike up Mt Massive. Things went well below treeline, but high winds on the ridge led to our decision to turn around. I prefer to stick it out and push through the unpleasantries, but now I know that I shouldn't have second guessed that decision. The route up to North Massive is tough enough in good conditions, I don't think we would have made the two summits had we continued on that first attempt. It's just mentally tough having to repeat those 10 miles.

Fast forward 6 weeks or so, attempt #2. Final winter weekend of 2014/2015. Record high temps across the state and almost no wind in the forecast. So we shouldn't be struggling against the wind, but would likely have to contend with some postholing in the soft afternoon snow. Mark and I weren't feeling 100%, fighting the aftereffects of bad colds; seemed like most of my office had taken days off with the current bug going around.

5 am start time. Up at 3am after a good 4.5 hrs of sleep. That's actually pretty good for the "night before". A good audio book helped keep me awake during the drive up to Leadville. No white-outs across the highway, no breeze in the parking lot at the Hatchery, things were starting out good. Mark showed up on time, we quickly packed up and headed up the trail.

Business as usual up the Highline Trail, past the Colorado Trail and up to the meadow. Last time, we crossed the large meadow and followed a trench that went a little too far north before ascending a nasty, steep, north-facing slope. This time, we followed a trench that broke off the main trail in a small meadow (immediately before you drop into the larger meadow). The trail headed perhaps a little too far south and ended up in the basin instead of on the ridge, but it was a more enjoyable path.

Mark nearing treeline

Nice meadows on this "southerly" route

Hiking up the basin south of the ridge

Hiking up the basin, you avoid some of the lower bumps on the ridge. You can then ascend up to the ridge immediately before the "big bump" to join the route. Nothing technical about the rock outcroppings, just have to pick the easiest line and scramble around a little.

North Massive (at far right)

Mark holding down a rock

Is this fun or what?

I was feeling pretty tired hiking up the last stretch to the Mt Massive summit and knew there was still a lot of miles to go. I had casually mentioned North Massive (I'm working the 59 list), but knew that this was the right day to add the additional mileage. A quick stop at the main summit, a long glance at North Massive (which looked so far away), and off we went. I went into my "winter 14er death march" mode and moved about as fast as an 80 year old summiting Everest. It was one of those days where I just wanted to lay down and sleep. But move I must, and move I did. A little scrambling towards the end, and North Massive...done. Now I just have to fill in some of the other holes in the list (some pretty big holes).

Contemplating the void

Starting the traverse to North Massive

Ridge to N Massive

Mark planning his traverse to N Maroon

Quick stop at the N Massive summit...and back to Massive. Slowly. Very slowly. Mark guessed a 9pm arrival at the TH (I think he was a little mad how slowly I was moving. ). So I picked up the pace to "excruciatingly slow".

Jim fighting gravity for the last time of the day

Once back on Massive, it was 99.99% downhill, so I could let gravity take charge and push me down the mountain. The hike down went pretty smoothly. We followed a trench that dropped into the basin higher than the "big bump", so traded the rock navigating with a steep snow descent. The snow wasn't consistent enough to maintain an even pace; you had to kick hard on some steps to avoid sliding and step gingerly immediately afterwards to avoid postholing. I was very. very, very (, very) tired but managed to move as fast as I could. Snowshoes were definitely required in the soft snow (some of postholes were deep enough to bury a small rhino).

The sun was baking (and my skin was burning)

Saying farewell to the mountain

Back to the TH at 6:30p for a 13.5h RT (9pm guesstimate??? bah)

So, fairwell Winter 2014/2015. Only 9 peaks done (compared to 13 last winter), so feeling a little blue on that. But it beats a stick in the eye. 43 down, 16 to go. Will see if global warming continues, else the pace shall slow. Congrats on all the successful summits this winter; it was inspirational seeing all of the Elk/SanJuan summits. See you next winter.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Brian Thomas
43 down, 16 to go
03/17/2015 20:31
I am enjoying following your progress on these Jim, keep delivering the goods!

nice work
03/26/2015 23:46

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