North Massive GR:715395 and Massive Green GR:720390 (Traverse)
| elevation: 4,371 m. and 4,358 m.
||height gain: 1,275 m. and 70 m. for Massive Green
1:24,000 Mount Massive, CO
North Massive via the Highline Trail-Native Lake.
From Leadville, follow signs to Turquoise Lake. Take the southern lake route (Lake County Road 4) to the junction of Forest Service Road 104. The trailhead is about 3 miles up the Hagerman Pass Road (Forest Service Road 105), with parking on the south side of the road.
|A view of Mount Massive and
Native Lake below; the remnant glacier is visible on the right of North
Ascent: -North-east ridge of North Massive class 2
Traverse: -South-east ridge of North Massive class 3
-North-west ridge of Massive Green class 2
Scramble: RT: 13.5 (includes Mount Massive); 6.5 up North Massive, 50 minutes up Massive Green from North Massive. The plan for today was to execute the Tour de Massive, Tim Best style. The "granddaddy" of Mount Massive is a loop that includes 5 summits above 14 000 feet; it also boasts 2.8 kilometers above that altitude and it is the only mountain in the lower forty-eight States to grant that extended distance at such a high elevation. Just to break out of the ordinary, Tim decided to start the loop via the Highline Trail-Native Lake instead of the more typical North Halfmoon Creek trailhead; he was adamant about setting foot on the remnant glacier between North Massive and Point 14169. I was excited to have the opportunity to climb Mount Massive, second highest in Colorado, with the inclusion of North Massive which is an "almost ranked 14er". I was also thrilled to be hiking with Tim, he had been planning this trip for quite some time now; I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.
We camped at the Mount Elbert trailhead where we had a fine bonfire. We chatted and perhaps drank a bit too much wine before retiring for the night. The following morning, I drove us to the Highline Trail-Native Lake trailhead and we got on the way just at the break of dawn. We made good progress on the trail and had a quick stop to drink some delicious coffee before descending to Native Lake. The sky was already overcast with the presence of puffy clouds, I think we both worried about the forecast in silence at this point. From there, the trail was a little less distinctive; we lost it a few times in the willows before reaching the area where we had to veer towards our objective. Once off trail, we picked our way in the forest following the path of least resistance. The bushwhack towards the ascent ridge wasn't all that bad, at times we found trail segments. We reached the basin above treeline and crossed a thick patch of willows to gain the ascent ridge; by now, storm clouds had built up and we started talking strategy. We both agreed to continue a bit and re-evaluate the situation further. As we proceeded to the base of the ascent ridge the sky darkened, we discussed alternatives: going back, continuing until thunder and lightning, bail out options, hunkering down to wait it out.... Tim reached two friends on his smart phone to have them check satellite weather maps, one said it looked dismal while the other said there could possibly be a "short window" in about an hour. In the meantime, we went as far as we could and hung out; we didn't want to commit to climbing the final pitch in these conditions. Just as we had both shook hands and decided to leave, I noticed a blue hole above North Massive. I told Tim this was called a "sucker hole" and had appeared to lure us into changing our mind again. Tim quickly said with assertion: this is what we were waiting for, lets do it!!!! With no hesitation, we plodded on with very little talking. Short to say, we were both thrilled to reach the summit. Unfortunately, we had to give up on the prospect of doing the complete Tour de Massive; it was unreasonable to go for Point 14169 when reaching the true summit of Mount Massive was far more important. Hence, we started the traverse towards Massive Green after a short break at the top. I set my camera on a rock and took a couple of pictures of us. I also managed to hook it and fling it in the air; following a couple of pics, it died. Picking our way down the class 3 scramble from North Massive was easy for me, the blocky terrain is fun with very little exposure. Once at the saddle between North and Green, it is a simple walk to the top of the unranked 14er. The only worry we had at this point, was storm clouds building up again, real fast.... We both hiked at a fast pace, no time to really take in the view. After a quick high-five at the top of Massive Green, we resumed the traverse to the summit of Mount Massive.
|Tim on the
Highline Trail next
to the lake.
markers help find the way
through willow patches.
North Massive; this is more like the hiking I do at home!!
Picture courtesy of Tim best.
vast basin with Massive Green (left of center) and North Massive
(right of center).
see where I'm going,
Picture courtesy of Tim best.
North Massive's ascent
ridge on a good trail.
first objective but
the weather is deteriorating fast.
a couple of friends
asking them to check satellite maps.
lowers with the westerly storm clouds; we even saw lightning in the
Tim's friend Pat,
we'll get a possible window in an hour!!
the storm but
starting to doubt we'll get a window, we shake hands and call it a
there's some blue
sky over North Massive all of a sudden!
|The sky clears up with an impressive "sucker hole".|
our safety contacts
to let them know we're on the move.
trekking on the north-east ridge.
|Come on Tim,
no time for texting or
|Poor Tim, he
just wants to set
foot on the remnant glacier...
north, Mount of the Holy
Cross is somewhere over there!
|View north-east with Turquoise Lake and Leadville in the distance.|
|At the top,
Green to the summit of Mount Massive is clearly visible behind Tim.
picture of two determined
scramblers, kuddos to us!
|Start of the
unranked Massive Green, one of the five peaks above 14 000' along
Tour de Massive.
finding to the saddle.
scrambling with minimal exposure, easy class 3 in my opinion.
the saddle with Massive Green ahead (with the snow sliver).
at the descent from North Massive.
|My camera is
showing signs of damage from being flung in the air on North Massive.
to Massive Green; storm clouds are forming again, the race is on.
|Last glimpse at the fabulous and fun traverse, RIP camera.|
the top of Massive Green.
Picture courtesy of Tim best.
|Continue on to Mount Massive|
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