Mt. Massive Memorial Day Ski Descent

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Partners: Carl Dowdy, Wes Martin
Route: Southwest Slopes
Stats: 3950‘ climbed, ~2,700‘ skied, 8 Miles, 6.5 Hours

Carl was up for another ski on Memorial Day as we begin the final push towards getting descents in before the end of the spring season. Wes from (skier25 from would end up joining us, we met at the Lookout Mountain exit off I-70 and motored to Leadville. Already the weather was promising clouds, which we could live with as long as the visibility was better than what we‘d experienced two days earlier on Evans.

We made quick work of the 4WD road with Carl‘s Land Cruiser, and set off from the North Halfmoon Creek TH around 6:45am. Carl and I were in tennis shoes, unfortunately for Wes he‘d be hiking the entire thing in ski boots.

Heading up through Halfmoon Basin, 7:20am.

We made good time up the well defined dirt trail to the base of the Southwest Slopes and hung a right, the snow through here was completely melted out although there was evidence of a few inches of new up higher. This is an incredibly beautiful basin with plenty of rock formations and high peaks to distract you.

Elbert to the southeast.

Oklahoma and other Sawatch giants to the west.

The weather and visibility held, and we made excellent time up the slope to the base of the continuous snow around 11,700‘. At this point we decided to keep the boots on our back and scramble up wet talus to the summit ridge. I finally felt like I was getting my 14er legs back on this stretch, it was also nice to be in tennies for once.

We kept tennis shoes on for most of the ascent. Photo by Wes.

Carl atop a rock formation, the ridge proper is near. Photo by Wes.

We gained the ridge as it began to narrow into the mile long spine that Massive is famous for…thankfully we only had to deal with half of that mile to get to the summit.

Looking up into the gloom, in the direction of Massive’s mile-long summit ridge. Photo by Carl.

Fifteen minutes of hiking along the spine gained us the highest point of the Massive summit ridge, we were confident in our find thanks to GPS and the stick mentioned in Roanmtnman‘s TR from a week before. Although the weather looks nasty in these photos, it was as warm and calm as a summer evening on the back porch…now if those clouds could just lift a little bit…

Carl expressing his emotions on the summit.

Just like that nature decided to give us some views, we could see Leadville and many of the surrounding peaks as well as the ski route! After a good break and some grub, we were ready to ski. The key to the route seemed to be staying high on the traverse back over to the Southwest Shoulder.

Off the summit. Photo by Wes.

We traversed the quarter mile or so and dropped in on the Southwest Face, the snow here was hard from the freeze the previous night but softened as we dropped lower. This face lent a large vertical ski descent down to just above tree line, I‘ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story…

Carl opening it up after we contoured across to the top of the Southwest Slopes.

Wes’ turn.

I took up the rear in typical fashion. Photo by Carl.

Nearing snow line. Photo by Carl.

Soon after we abruptly ran out of snow, and exchanged boots for shoes. The hike out to the car wasn‘t bad by Sawatch standards, we arrived back at the car 6 hrs 30 min after we set out. After yesterday I feel like there are still many lines holding snow in the Sawatch if you know where to look…

Heading out of the basin after a great ski. Photo by Wes.

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