North Mt. Massive
Colorado 14er
14,340 feet
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Mt. Massive is the 2nd highest peak in Colorado. It is part of the Sawatch Range. It's claim to fame is that it has five summits above 14,000 feet along a 3-mile-long ridge. Massive has more area above 14,000 feet than any other mountain in the lower 48, just winning over Rainier. I climbed to the North Massive, 14,340, summit on June 18, 2004 with my friends Robert and Pam. We intended to do all five but the weather stopped us from going past the North. This was one of a series of "easy" 14'ers for my conditioning work as I was training for a Rainier climb in July. I climbed to the main summit of Massive in 2006. main

Panarama of Massive approach As usual for so many 14'ers, you take Interstate 70 from Denver to Leadville, exit at #195, and go south on CO91. It merges into US-24 so driving south from Leadville for 3.6 miles to Colorado 300 where you turn right (west) then turn left (south) on Lake County 11. Turn right (SW) at 1.8 miles onto a dirt road marked with signs for Halfmoon Creek. After about 7 miles you find the Mt Massive trailhead. Continue another few miles along a 4-wheel drive road to the Halfmoon Lakes trailhead. There are many trails to the summit and we took one of the longer trails. It was 9 miles roundtrip with a total altitude gain of 3840' from the trailhead at 10,500'. It was 4 hours up and 4 down for an 8 hour roundtrip for me.

Massive is considered one of the "easy" 14'ers by the normal route since it is relatively short with a manageable altitude gain. We found the Halfmoon lakes route slightly more challenging.Face of South MassiveFrom the trailhead the route passes through some of the best scenery I have seen climbing 14'ers. Wide valleys surrounded by towering snow covered walls created the backdrop for the well worn trail that meanders through thick forest. The sound of Halfmoon creek keep your ears alive for the first 4 miles.

Soon the trail climbs gradually but at a steady rate until you are looking down on the creek and up to the Massive ridge. Finally, after a couple more miles you reach the "end of the trail" at halfmoon lakes. Impressive spires and the south face of North Massive loom directly ahead.
Pam almost to the top
Even though this was late June, there was considerable snow on the slopes leading to N. Massive. Most of the books and reports talk about frustrating scree but we found deep mushy snow.

We choose a route that followed the firmest snow we could find but constantly post-holed on our way to the ridge line. There were several alternatives: straight ahead which was steeper and snow covered, to the right (East) which was more scree and very steep or to the West (right) which was a combination of snow and scree. This was a good choice as we made good time. However just before the saddle snow squalls hit us as the wind picked up.

Robert tromping through the snowOnce upon the saddle we picked up our pace to reach the summit of North Massive and make a determination about continuing along the ridge to bag all five summits above 14,000'. The final few hundred feet to the summit were over mixed terrain with no visible route. But it was clear where to go and easy to avoid boulders

Click for a full 360' video from the summit As Pam picked her way to the summit, I looked over the snow speckled Colorado Rocky Mountains. There were clouds building and verga in the upper atmosphere so I knew we needed to make a quick decision. However, we took a few minutes to eat a fast lunch and enjoy the view.

We checked out the ridge line to Mt. Massive proper. It was straight forward except for the spires that required downclimbing twenty feet or so on a somewhat exposed ridge. We estimated it would take us at least two hours to complete the ridge line before we returned to tree line. Given that it was 12:30, that would put us on the ridges or summits in mid -afternoon on a Colorado summer afternoon. Not a good place with lightening a very common occurrence.

After a quick discussion of the alternatives, it was clear that the best decision was to backtrack our route up and abandon our Grand Slam. Before we left, we took in the spectacular view only found on the summit of a Colorado 14'er. Click on the summit picture for a 360 degree video from the top.

All in all, Mt. Massive is an easy 14'er. Relatively easy to get to and easy to climb, depending on the route. The Halfmoon Lakes route is a Class 2 climb. Massive, any Massive, is a winter training climb or a challenging first 14'er. The Halfmoon lake routes adds a little more difficulty with the incremental distance. However, no matter your reason or experience always take the 10 essentials in your pack and lot's of food and water.