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Ascent of Mount Massive-Northwest Peak on 2018-06-23

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:David Musser
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, June 23, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Massive-Northwest Peak
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:14320 ft / 4364 m

Ascent Trip Report

David wanted to get his second 14er, and I am close to finishing all the front range 14ers so we decided to grab the second tallest peak in CO. Using Gerry Roach’s book, we elected to do the West Slopes Route and down the Southwest Slopes as described in his book. In doing this I could grab the 4 largest peaks along the route and get a class traverse along the ridge.

We parked at the upper North Half Moon Lake Trailhead. It is a minimum of a high clearance vehicle route once you pass the standard parking at Mount Massive TH and drive the extra 2.5 miles parking at elevation 10,500. I used 4 high but really did not need it. All of the vehicles up at this upper parking where HCV SUVs and 4 wheel. It is a long bump slow ride.

Earlier GPS routes took the west slope and we used in part Greg Slayden’s route but notice very few people take this route anymore as the shorter, less technical, SW slope route is now a very well developed and marked trail to the summit.

I am glad we did the Roach 9.3 route up and 9.4 route down. We did the 9.4ec route first. As Roach describes the defined trail dies out east of North Halfmoon Lakes. We saw some folks have shown backcountry bushwhacking heading west of the impressive tower formation but Roach recommends east of the tower. One is drawn west as the alpine brush is easer heading west of the tower and we found it easier to take several class 3 slabs to get to higher ground to scout and stay out of the dwarfed shrubs. Once we got on the grassy bench area we studied the topo and could see that the slopes are gentler behind the tower if you scoot around them to the east so we crossed the swampy tarn as Roach shows and up on the grassy knolls we began to see cairns.

Once you pass behind the tower it gets tricky. You are in a small cirque and the direct north approach is very steep and scree and talus laden. So we crossed the gulch and headed south up the clearly easier pitched slope of the ridge that connects the tower to the Massive slopes. This area in here was some of the most impressive backcountry vistas and glacier lakes we have seen. There were no trails – no other hikers back here we had it to ourselves. Some use trails were encountered from time to time but only where obvious backcountry funneling occurred between obstacles.

Although this scree climb was not very tall, it was exhausting. Clearly the hardest part of the climb all day. We finally found a seam of larger boulders to grab or it would have been a scree slide all the way up. Once on the tower ridge we found solid rock saw-backing up to some grassy ridge that dumps you on the saddle between North Massive and Point 14,169. We were exhausted from the scree climb so the thought of the extra 1-mile round trip to get a 14,000 peak with less than 10 feet of prominence was not of interest so we went up North Massive. This formation is jagged with many pinnacles and some class scrambling opportunities. The peak is at 14,340 and has 240 feet of prominence. We enjoyed both pinnacles before looking for the safe class 3 connection that Roach shows as extra credit 4EC.
The safest route with only minor class 3 is behind the eastern most pinnacle. The other routes we investigated were sketch class 4 in places. We climbed a third pinnacle before rolling up the gentle “Massive Green” at 14,300. The final ascent up to Massive itself is easy class 2 and the peak had about 5 people on it. These were the first people we saw all day. Clearly the West Face Route (9.3) does not see many people and it is hard journey but some of the best backcountry views of the entire day.

Once we summitted Massive, we headed down to the saddle to find the common trail that Roach shows as 9.3. The saddle that this trail goes down is actually up above the saddle between South Massive and Massive which was confusing. David stopped and sat at the upper saddle to route 9.3 and I ran down to the lower saddle between Massive and South Massive and then up South massive which took me a total of 17 minutes to summit and then rushed back down and then back up to David but by now my legs were spent and it took 19 minutes to return and gave me another 1 mile of hiking and another 450 feet of gain or so.

The sign for the southwest slope tail is well marked at the saddle but we got confused and started heading down an unmarked couloir of horrible scree. It was getting dangerous and we found a marker where someone had died. This was no trail! We up climbed back to the saddle and found another horrible steep scree filled couloir and both looked wrong and dangerous. We were amazed that the actual trail was very close to the sign and winded back up and around a pinnacle that we missed 3 times before we saw it. Thankfully, from there it is a very well made, maintained trail all the way to the bottom. After a long day of mountain climbing an actual trail to end the trip was a what we needed.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4085 ft / 1244 m
    Total Elevation Loss:505 ft / 153 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Grade/Class:1,2,2+,3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Breezy
40 to 55F
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4010 ft / 1222 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3820 ft / 1164 m; Extra: 190 ft / 57m
    Loss on way in:190 ft / 57 m
    Distance:4.3 mi / 6.9 km
    Start Trailhead:North Half Moon Lake TH  10500 ft / 3200 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:315 ft / 96 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 240 ft / 73 m; Extra: 75 ft / 22m
    Gain on way out:75 ft / 22 m
    Distance:0.3 mi / 0.5 km
    End Trailhead:saddle between peaks  14080 ft / 4291 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Massive

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDateGain
1Mount Massive-Northwest Peak2018-06-23 a4085 ft / 1245 m
2Mount Massive-Green Peak2018-06-23 b240 ft / 73 m
3Mount Massive2018-06-23 c251 ft / 77 m
4Mount Massive-Southeast Peak2018-06-23 d592 ft / 180 m
Total Trip Gain: 5168 ft / 1575 m    Total Trip Loss: 5168 ft / 1576 m



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