Mount Massive

Snowboard descent of Colorado’s second highest peak, the third highest peak in the contiguous 48, Mount Massive 14,421′ (39.1875°N 106.4757°W)

February 15th, 2011

Partners: Weston Bierma, Jordan Winters & Sam

Route: Winter road closure via snowmobile to Half Moon Creek Trailhead, ascent and descent on the southwest slopes

Round trip distance: 6.92 miles

Total elevation gain:  4,200 feet

Total time (including the snowmobile) – 9 hours

Mt Massive Elevation Profile

Mt Massive Elevation Profile

Mt Massive Google Earth View

Mt Massive Google Earth View

One of our running jokes is “You might be a ski bum or a mountaineer if you look forward to going to work because you get to sleep in” (I start work at 6:30 everday).  This was just the case.  I awoke at 4am to load up the sled and pick up Jordan for the one hour ride to Leadville.  We drove the truck as far as we could on the winter closure and unloaded the sled under first light.  The sled took us the next 9 miles in between Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.  The sled ride in was a huge success, only getting stuck once.

Sunrise over Mt. Sherman 14,036'

Sunrise over Mt. Sherman 14,036' (Photo - Weston Bierma)

Upon cutting the engine at the summer trail head we were deafened by the silence.  Our skins gliding through the deep powder on the valley floor only occasionally disturbing a surprised hare or ptarmigan.  The first 1.5 miles were nearly flat leaving us nearly 4,000′ of climbing in just two miles.

A surprised hare

A surprised hare (Photo - Weston Bierma)

Jordan skinning past an ice fall on the begining of our ascent

Jordan skinning past an ice fall on the beginning of our ascent (Photo - Weston Bierma)

The ascent of over 4,000 feet was like traveling through a series of different environments, deep powder in the forest, mashed potatoes, wind hammered slabs, and scoured summit ridges.

Jordan making his final approach to false summit number one (Photo - Weston Bierma)

Jordan making his final approach to false summit number one (Photo - Weston Bierma)

With unseasonably warm temps Jordan and I sat on the summit in just our soft shells eating some flat and chilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The descent off the proper summit was less than thrilling in terms of skiing, but some days it isn’t all about the turns.  The views from Mt. Massive were second to none of the Elks to our west.  Nothing is better than having one of the biggest peaks in the lower 48 all to your self during mid winter.

After picking our way through the top talus filled snow field we found slightly better turns in the lower flanks of the mountain.  Jordan and Sam went ahead as I peeled off into a safe zone that I had specifically picked out to nab a couple of descent photos.  Lucky for me the sun was already casting a late afternoon shadow and yielded some very nice shots.

The view from the summit of Mt. Massive, looking west towards Aspen (Photo - Weston Bierma)

The view from the summit of Mt. Massive, looking west towards Aspen (Photo - Weston Bierma)

Jordan Winters in the upper right making his a Massive descent (Photo - Weston Bierma)

Jordan Winters in the upper right making his Massive descent (Photo - Weston Bierma)

Sam laying down a big heel side turn in the lower right (Photo - Weston Bierma)

Sam laying down a big heel side turn in the lower right (Photo - Weston Bierma)

All of us celebrated our descent when we hit the valley floor, but we knew that our day wasn’t quite over.  We had to skin the 1.5 miles back to the sled, then we had to rally another 9 miles out to the waiting truck.  Jordan was a champ as I towed him behind the sled all the way out with out a stop.  We blasted through drifted snow and zipped across the flats back to the truck.  We all sat on the back tailgate enjoying a celebratory cold one looking up at the sun setting behind Mt. Massive.  It was hard to imagine that a mere 3 hours earlier we had been sitting atop the summit, that’s way I always say “I only go up so I can go down”.

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3 Comments

Filed under All Posts, Snow, Winter

3 responses to “Mount Massive

  1. Pete Lubin

    I did find your site after all. Nice post with good and artistic photos. Today was just a perfect 4″ Vail day. There is no other mountain that you can have so much fun on with a measly 4″. Loveland for me tomorrow, so perhaps I’ll see you at chair 6 next week.

  2. Bob Paterniti

    Rightous skiing/riding. Incredible terrain. Pics r as good as anything I’ve ever seen.

  3. Jan

    I may not understand the language, but the visuals say it all! The photos take us from a bit of tachycardia to complete calm and peace. A nice, safe, way to share your adventures!
    Thanks!
    Jan

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