Route: E Ridge Trailhead: Halfmoon Creek / Mt. Massive
I climbed Mount Oklahoma (13845 ft) with Jim Brock on Saturday, 7 August 1999 via the East Ridge. The approach up Halfmoon Creek and the ridge route we took roughly correspond to the route described in Garrat and Martin's book. The trailhead is the same as that for the Southern/ Western routes on Mt. Massive (not the Main Range Trail route). We drove about a half a mile past the point where the road splits and the left branch crosses the creek. This last half mile or so is passable with a four wheel drive vehicle, but probably not with a passenger car.
We started out at about 7:00 AM with partly cloudy skies by following the Mt. Massive trail to treeline at about 11800 feet. There is a large flat rock outcropping next to the trail with a small cairn on it. From here we probably should have left the trail and descended to the left (west) into N. Halfmoon Creek drainage. However, it looked like too much elevation loss so we kept going on the Mt. Massive trail and started angling northwest until we stumbled into lower N. Halfmoon Lake. At this point we crossed the creek and climbed steeply to directly below the cliff bands surrounding the terminus of Mt. Oklahoma's East ridge. We traversed southwest and then west under the cliff bands on steep slopes and some grassy benches and then finally over a huge boulder field. This led us into the grassy area at 12400 feet at the top of grassy gully leading down to the creek. Incidentally, the boulder field is very cool!
From this point we hiked west a few hundred yards up the grassy area to a very steep grass/scree slope capped with small cliff bands. We hiked the roughly 400 feet up to gain the ridge. This slope is very steep and resulted in the typical "frantically grabbing for blades of grass while sliding uncontrollably backwards" sort of experience. After gaining the ridge at 13000 feet, we climbed steep the talus reaching the 13845 foot summit at about 10:30. You cannot see the summit of Mt. Oklahoma until you are on it.
Instead of contouring over the boulder field and around the steep benches on the way back, we descended the grassy gully from the 12400 foot point down to the creek. This took us through a sea of willows and rock imbedded grass. We then had to regain about 200 to 300 feet back to the Mt. Massive trail. I think the descent route was probably safer and slightly shorter than the ascent route, but the ascent route was much more interesting.
The day turned out to be rather nice, but we didn't think it would be that way. By about 9:00 AM large black clouds with virga streaming down were forming over Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, but the storms never did materialize. The clouds just kind of waxed and waned all day. I am now convinced that Jim is the ultimate mountain weather good luck charm!
Another fabulous day in the Colorado mountains! We did not see another person after leaving the Mt. Massive trail. There was no snow anywhere on the mountain except in a few shaded couloirs in the cliff bands (not anywhere where a sane mountaineer would be traveling) so an ice axe is definitely not needed.
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