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
area: Leadville,Colorado,USA
map USGS 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.

native lake below

A view of Mount Massive and Native Lake below; the remnant glacier is visible on the right of North Massive.
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.

on the highline trail

Tim on the Highline Trail next to the lake.

trail marker

Trail markers help find the way through willow patches.


Off trail, bushwhacking towards North Massive; this is more like the hiking I do at home!!
Picture courtesy of Tim best.

reaching the basin

Reaching the vast basin with Massive Green (left of center) and North Massive  (right of center).

willow bashing

Umm, can't see where I'm going, bloody willows....
Picture courtesy of Tim best.

gaining the ascent ridge

Gaining North Massive's ascent ridge on a good trail.

nearing our first objective

Nearing our first objective but the weather is deteriorating fast.

messaging to have a weather update

Tim messages a couple of friends asking them to check satellite maps.

westerly storm clouds

The ceiling lowers with the westerly storm clouds; we even saw lightning in the distance.

waiting for a window

According to Tim's friend Pat, we'll get a possible window in an hour!!

after awhile we call it a day

Waiting out the storm but starting to doubt we'll get a window, we shake hands and call it a day...

blue sky appears

...but wait, there's some blue sky over North Massive all of a sudden!

impressive sucker hole

The sky clears up with an impressive "sucker hole".

it's a go

Tim messages our safety contacts to let them know we're on the move.

easy north-east slopes

Easy trekking on the north-east ridge.

come on tim

Come on Tim, no time for texting or chatting!

view on the remnant glacier

Poor Tim, he just wants to set foot on the remnant glacier...

looking north

Looking north, Mount of the Holy Cross is somewhere over there!

leadville in the distance

View north-east with Turquoise Lake and Leadville in the distance.

at the top

At the top, oh yeah!!

the traverse is visible

The traverse over Massive Green to the summit of Mount Massive is clearly visible behind Tim.

summit picture

Summit picture of two determined scramblers, kuddos to us!

start of the traverse

Start of the traverse to unranked Massive Green, one of the five peaks above 14 000' along the Tour de Massive.

easy route finding

Easy route finding to the saddle.

fun scrambling

Fun scrambling with minimal exposure, easy class 3 in my opinion.

almost at the saddle

Almost at the saddle with Massive Green ahead (with the snow sliver).

looking back at the descent

Looking back at the descent from North Massive.

going over an outcrop

Going over an outcrop.

broken camera

My camera is showing signs of damage from being flung in the air on North Massive.

last stretch to massive green

Last stretch to Massive Green; storm clouds are forming again, the race is on.

last glimpse at the traverse

Last glimpse at the fabulous and fun traverse, RIP camera.

top of massive green

Rounding up the top of Massive Green.
Picture courtesy of Tim best.

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