Friday, September 11, 2009

Mt. Massive - 14,421 ft.

Top of Mt. Massive 14,421'. Number 15!

On Friday, my friend and old roommate from Silverthorne, Gary Waterman and I summited Mt. Massive. On Thursday evening we drove from Gary's place in Frisco, over to Leadville and up the Halfmoon Road to the Halfmoon trail head. A 4x4 vehicle is needed to navigate the top portion of this dirt road. They have greatly improved the conditions of the road this summer, so even AWD vehicles like Subarus could make it. We camped in one of the many dispersed tent spots near the trail head.

Around 4:30 a.m. on Friday we woke, made some oatmeal and tea, packed up and were on the trail by 5:30 a.m. It was a beautiful morning, crisp fall-like temps with a bright moon and stars aglow. Out headlamps blazed the trail ahead of us until we reached a clearing area around 11,200 and the trail junction towards the top.

Trail junction to Mt. Massive summit. Gary on the trail ahead.

From here the climb gets steep, 35 degrees over the next two and a half miles to the ridge line, gaining about 3,200 ft in elevation. We steadily climbed towards the top and were met with debris from the Aug. 19 Black Hawk helicopter crash near the ridge line. After meeting up with the standard North facing route, we climbed across the "massive" ridge over four or five false summits and up to the real summit at 14,421' at 8:45 a.m. It was a clear day, but a little hazy with the lingering smoke from the California fires.

Debris from the Black Hawk helicopter crash near the summit.

The view looking Southwest from the top.

Panoramic view from the top. Click on image for larger view.

We enjoyed a snack and the view from the top for about 30 min and then began the long steep descent. While traversing across the Black Hawk crash site, we picked up debris that was along the trail to help with the clean up. There were tons of tiny scraps still lying around. Most likely the debris will be up there for years.

We made it back to the trail head at 11:45 pm, 6 hrs. and 15 min. round trip. An excellent hike, with great company, on a beautiful day!

NOTE: Stats and info about Mt. Massive are listed below the slide show.

Since Melissa was back East for a visit with friends, work and a wedding, she had my camera and I was trying to use hers, which is on it's last leg. So, I only got a few shots compared to the amount I usually take. I supplemented the images with some shots from the website, where we get all out hiking info (marked with

Photos from the trip are in a slide show below. Enjoy!
(You can click the icon in the lower right for a larger view.)

Mt. Massive
General Information & History

Map of Mt. Massive trails. We took the Southwest Slope route #2, blue line on the left.

Mt. Massive was named by Henry Gannett in 1873 as part of the HaydenSurvey of the American West. First recorded ascent in 1863 by Henry Gannett.

Mt. Massive is the second highest peak in Colorado and the third highest in the 48 states, exceeded only by California's Mt. Whitney and its near neighbor, Mt. Elbert. It's name tells all. It has five summits above 14,000 feet on a 3-mile-long ridge. Massive has more area above 14,000 feet than any other mountain in the 48 states, narrowly edging Mt. Rainier in that category. The mountain, along with Mt. Elbert, forms much of the western skyline of Leadville, which is 11 miles east and slightly north.

Mount Massive is part of the Sawatch Range with Mount Elbert. This range of mountains was formed by uplifting along the continental divide, where two tectonic plates are being pushed together. There are several glacial lakes in the wilderness area. The lower slopes of the mountain are covered in lodgepole pine forests, which gradually yield to Engelmann Spruce and Subalpine Fir. Treeline is just below 12,000 feet.

The mountain and 30,540 acres of the surrounding area were designated the Mount Massive Wilderness by Congress in 1980.