Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,427 feet
"North Massive" - 14,337 feet
"Massive Green" - 14,311 feet
Date Posted:  08/14/2015
Date Climbed:   09/10/2014
Author:  scottaskinger
 Mt. Massive - North Ridge Route...a long, tough day   

This trip report is almost a year overdue but I wanted to share some information on this route as it is not frequently climbed and there are not many reports on this route. Hopefully, some of my info will be useful to others.

General Summary
-ascent of North Ridge Route from Windsor Lake Trailhead with descent of the East Ridge
-mostly class 2, with some class 3 mixed in on one segment
-route finding is a little challenging until you get to the ridge, pretty straightforward from there
-isolated route, I only saw two people all day (on the summit)
-cold (25 degrees), windy day with snow on the ground and fog cover (see pictures) which made route finding and class 3 section more difficult
-approximately 18.85 miles with 6,629 feet of elevation gain
*This is what my GPS read at the end of the day. There is a large discrepancy between my mileage and what Roach has listed in his book (12.3 miles). Other trip reports, including this one, have also reported this discrepancy. I speculate that my mileage is also higher because of 3 route finding issues described in more detail below.

Part 1 - Windsor Lake TH to Windsor Lake
If you can, scope out the Windsor Lake TH in light before you start. I scoped it out the day before but I can see how it might be difficult to find in the dark and keep in mind that the Native Lake Trailhead is within a few hundred feet. As a matter of fact, my route started at the Windsor Lake Trailhead and ended at the Native Lake Trailhead.

I started at 6am in darkness and I struggled to stay on a trail up to Windsor Lake. Dealing with a steep uphill, off-trail route was more daunting than expected and it took me longer to get to the lake than I planned.

Windsor Lake covered in fog

Part 2 - Windsor Lake to Ridge
Prior to my trip, I took this section for granted, assuming that the route finding and effort would be fairly easy. I was wrong on both accounts. There is a lot of ground to cover between the lake and the ridge. From the lake I went to the left of the first bump and after ascending this section decided that I needed to go further North/Northwest (right) where the saddle looked more attainable. I think I should have continued up the saddle to the West. This is one of the areas where I added on extra mileage, probably close to a mile. Below is a picture from wentzl's trip report. I didn't see this prior to my hike but I also followed his path in red. I agree with him and think the blue path would have been a better option.

Route pic from wentzl's trip report

The effort getting to the ridge is significant. I was at the saddle (approximately 12,660 feet) at 8:40am, about 2 hours and 40 minutes after starting. I wasted at least 45 minutes with my inefficient route finding up to this point.

Looking back to Windsor Lake

Looking ahead to the remaining climb to the saddle

Finally at the saddle...looking back at Lake Windsor (obscured by clouds)

Part 3 - Ridge to Summit
The ridge walk is beautiful, even in crappy weather. The first few miles are very straightforward and fairly easy hiking. At one point, I veered off route because of the fog when the ridge jetted left and kept going straight. No big deal but this might have added an extra .5 mile or so in my overall mileage helping to explain the discrepancy that I cited earlier in my report.

After a couple miles of easy slopes the fun begins. The rest of this route is climbing, descending, climbing, descending...until you finally reach the summit. As you would expect, this section is long and grueling. Pick your route carefully to avoid extra, unnecessary effort. The class 3 section after North Massive is fairly straightforward but extra consideration should be taken on adverse weather days. There were a couple of sections that were pretty stressful because snow had accumulated on the rock ledges that I had to cross and traction wasn't the greatest.

Sun from the ridge

Ridge pic #1

Ridge pic # 2. Is it Clearing it up?

Nope, the cloud cover is back

View of the more difficult route ahead

I finally reached the summit of Massive at 1:20pm, way too late in the day to be summiting, especially with shaky weather all morning. Several times I considered bailing but pushed on. To give you some perspective if you have a short weather window, I would say once you've passed North Massive that you're committed to the route but prior to that it is probably shorter/safer to turn back. You are on this ridge for a LOOOONNGGG time with very few bailout options.

I was tired and felt like shit on the summit, so after faking pleasantries with the other two people who reached the summit (the only people I saw all day) I started heading down, only 5 minutes after reaching my goal. Total mileage to the summit was 9.98 miles and it took me 7.5 hours to get there.

Im crabby, poor me. Whiner!

Part 4 - Summit to Native Lake Trailhead
Fortunately, the weather turned 180 degrees. Going up it was overcast, in the 20's and windy. Going down it was sunny and beautiful the entire way. Typical Colorado weather. A couple of things to point out on the descent to make your life better:

1. Descent from Point 12,528, off the ridge
I had read in another trip report that descending prior to this would get you first into scree and then into willows that are hard to fight through. Despite really focusing on where to descend, I managed to descend too early. My experience wasn't terrible but it did cost me time and effort (again). If you just follow the natural ridge line all of the way (instead of descending to the left of the ridge) you will have an easier time.

I descended to the left of the nipple. You should continue down this ridge further

2. Joining the Native Lake trail
After descending off the ridge too early, I attempted to meet up with the Native Lake trail by taking a route that was too much North and not enough West. More time wasted here wallowing around in willows, trees and general "off-courseness". Spend the time pre-trip marking waypoints in your GPS and/or spend time on the ridge to make sure that you know that you're looking at the right lake, trail, etc. I did both of these and still managed to mess it up.

Mt. Massive - East Ridge on left, Northeast Slopes to the right with a portion of North Ridge in back

Once you rejoin the trail, everything is straightforward and you will enjoy easy trail hiking the rest of the way. Just know that the trail keeps going and going and going. I finally reached my car at 6:30pm, about 12.5 hours and 18.85 miles later. My total elevation gained for the day was 6,629 feet. Overall, this was a great route and I highly recommend it. Just start earlier than I did and make sure that you have a clear weather window.

Saying goodbye

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
just noticed this report
08/24/2019 10:31
Hey, Scott,

After exchanging posts on the Iron Gates thread, I noticed that you did this route up N Massive. This same climb has been on my radar for the last few years. I would only do it in late July, so I wouldn't have to cope with icy rocks like you had to, but how would you estimate time and distance for the entire hike, to and from Windsor Lake going at a moderate pace? I was thinking it was more like around 12+ miles too, and nothing quite like 18. What's your take?

Massive Info
08/24/2019 16:34
Hey MtnHub,

I started at 6am and was back at car at 6:30pm, Windsor Lake TH to Native Lake TH and a short walk back to car. For context, I was about 45 when I hiked it, good shape but coming from Chicago. I'm a moderate pace hiker. It definitely kicked my butt but it was very doable and I would do the hike again. One thing that I think is helpful is that there isn't one spot that is miserable and exhausts you, pretty steady workload. The walk down the ridge and out is pretty pleasant. The things you should look out for that I took for granted, 1.) entry point on the ridge, I messed this up a bit which wasn't a big deal but cost me time 2.) exit point off of the descending ridge and into willows, I wasted a lot of effort here and once you're down in them it is easy to get lost 3.) how long you are on the ridge...which is pretty obvious in route descriptions, but I got a late start and should have started earlier. I hit the summit at 1:20pm. Let me know if you have additional questions.

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