Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,427 feet
"North Massive" - 14,337 feet
"Massive Green" - 14,311 feet
"South Massive" - 14,157 feet
Date Posted:  07/15/2018
Modified:  07/16/2018
Date Climbed:   07/14/2018
Author:  mlayman09
 A Leadville area gem- Massive Mania   

The town of Leadville, and the surrounding area, is one of my favorite places in Colorado. Gritty, rugged, and beautiful, it is a place that never seems to get old for me with each visit. Having climbed Massive's standard route a few times, it was time to truly get to know this mountain with a traverse of it's entire ridge. I convinced a couple friends that this was a good idea, so we set off on Friday evening from Denver to camp at the Windsor Lake Trailhead.

We began our day packing up wet tents and eating a hurried breakfast before setting out on the trail at 5:30AM. Soon enough we reached Windsor Lake just after the sun had risen. Roach describes Windsor Lake as one of the most places in Colorado, and I would have to agree.

Matt nearing Windsor Lake

The pond below Windsor Lake


Josh taking in Windsor Lake

From the lake you're presented with a few options to get to the ridge to being your traverse. I had the coordinates of the weakness in the ridge that Roach recommends ascending to plotted on a map in my phone, and sure enough this seemed to be the most expedient option once I saw the ridge for myself. The lake and the fields of wildflowers we encountered make this place a destination in and of itself. After a brief grunt up to the ridge, we were greeted with views of most of the route leading to Mt. Massive.

Pleasant ascending, just past Windsor Lake

Aim for the lowest point of the ridge in the center of this photo.

Looking north towards Holy Cross from the first portion of the ridge.

Matt and Josh taking it all in

As others have noted, the views of the Elk Range as you traverse this ridge are simply magnificent. A bit of smoke obstructed this view for us, but it was impressive nonetheless. Enjoy the easy route finding and terrain and gawk at those mountains while you walk! Once we got to North Massive, the terrain became a little more engaging. The descent off North Massive is nothing more than a steep, loose gully, but thankfully it is over quickly, and the route resumes it's line along the ridge.

Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness and the Elk Range, from the northernmost 14,000' point

Looking back at the descent off North Massive

Matt approaching Massive Green

We stayed on each 14,000' point for a few minutes before pressing onto Mt. Massive's summit. Clouds were developing but an easterly wind seemed to be keeping them at bay. We joined about 20 people on the summit and quickly commenced getting some more calories in us before finishing the last couple of points on the ridge. I threw on a long sleeve shirt but even that felt somewhat unnecessary. This has been a common theme this summer- mild temps and little wind. I'll take it!

Only two points of Massive remained at this point in our hike, but about half of the distance (6 miles) lay ahead. Long, steep descents lay between these last two points, and thoughts of High Mountain Pies began to dance in our heads.

Josh on the way up South Massive

The guys on the final uphill push with South Massive looking on

Once on the Colorado trail, we made quick work of the rest of the route down to the Mt. Massive trailhead. After further reflection, I would highly recommend doing this route from North to South, which is what we did. This way you can see Windsor Lake in the early morning light, and you can do the bushwack to the Colorado trail at the southern end in the daylight. Thanks to Matt and Josh for accompanying me, and for dealing with my optimistic assessments of the terrain ahead. And thanks to Alysha for picking us up at the end with cold Gatorade!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Now that's how you do Massive!
07/15/2018 20:31
And how I hope to do it when that day finally arrives. Scampering up only the highest summit just doesn't seem to do justice to that mountain. Congratulations!

Is that a little "detour" I see on the GPS track about a half-mile in? Possibly intentional?

07/15/2018 20:42
Yeah we made a wrong turn early on. The main trail seemed to fork to the north, but after a bit that didn't seem right. So we went back to the fork, crossed the stream, and had no issues from there.

Trailhead and Distance
08/25/2019 11:25
Loved your write up. I am considering doing your route to hit all the Massives. What was the road like to the Windsor Laker trailhead? It looks like a 2 wheel drive trailhead? And what was your total distance for the hike? It looks like you had a very good pace throughout. Thanks again for the write up - it€„˘s really got me interested!

08/25/2019 14:14
The road is a well maintained gravel road, similar to the road up to the Elbert TH. Total distance was between 12-13 miles. Glad you liked the write up, hope you can get out there and complete this route!

09/04/2019 14:14
mlayman09 - I did the route yesterday, helping me graduate from the Sawatch in fine, exhausting style! Was there ANY high point out there that this didn€„˘t hit? Thank you for the GPS route as I never would have attempted the hike on this route without it. My legs and feet were screaming at me after crawling over all that rock. But as this was my last peak in the Sawatch, I wanted to hit all the Massives at one time. I absolutely salute your route finding. I stuck as close to your route as possible. So happy that it€„˘s done!

09/05/2019 11:34
Glad I could help, it's a truly fantastic route.

06/08/2020 09:10
I will be climbing a few peaks in July and Massive is one of them. I might have to try this route myself.

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