There is little doubt that today was the most physically challenging of the trip so far, and possibly of all the adventures we’ve had. But, I would argue, it was the best too.
We woke up at camp at 12:30 when someone’s car alarm was going off, and 2:30 when a group of early hikers parked near our site and were very loud, and at 4:00 when our alarms went off. Our goal was to hit the trail as early as possible, so we tore tents down and threw them in the back of the car, quickly laced boots, and grabbed packs.
We camped at the same site as two nights ago, as the trailhead for Massive is a half mile down the closed road from the Elbert trailhead. That’s an extra three miles of hiking added onto the hike this season. It was still dark out when we started and our headlamps lit the way for the road portion and the first couple of miles on the trail. Venus was bright andn we could see so many stars. It was a fun way to start a hike.
Eventually the sun rose, we put the headlamps away and peeled off the gloves and hats. It was warmer than two mornings ago and we had already completed a good handful of miles and we’re warmed up. Miles 4-6 were the most confusing. They were mostly flat. While climbing a mountain! I can’t think of another mountain summit hike that had just 400 feet of gain over a couple of miles. We emerged from treeline and we’re greeted with a decent steep incline AND some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the mountain ranges lined the horizon to our right. It was gorgeous.
The incline got steeper as we got higher. There were no switchbacks once we got above the shrub level. It was just a straight shot to the summit. A long, steep straight shot. The marmots provided the entertainment during this part. Oh my, I love marmots. They always make me smile and I find myself insanely jealous of their life style. Dude, I want to hang out at the top of mountains all the time, just hopping from rock to rock, making hikers smile.
We made it to the saddle and then things got FUN! We switched to class 2 hiking. This means that there is more scrambling, a less defined trail, and a bit more of a challenge. It was THE BEST! We put away our trekking poles and used our whole bodies to climb the final few hundred feet. Then, 8.5 miles into the hike we were at the summit.
The summit. It was perfect. I just can’t describe the feelings of pride that come with climbing a 14er. Mount Massive is much less popular than Mount Elbert and there were only a handful of others at the summit. The father and son who are climbing Mount Whitney the first week of September and were using this hike as training. The Colorado Trial hiker who was about half way done and has been hiking every day for a month. The other Colorado Trail hiker who was having a Zero Day, but still summitted a mountain. The couple from Glen Ellyn who had just moved to Leadville. (They didn’t know you, M and W.) The five guys who were impressed by my photo taking skills when they asked for a picture. The three olderish men who brought a whole charcuterie board with them to enjoy. And then us. Zoe and Ellie were by far the youngest hikers on the trail today.
Elbert and Massive are close to one another. They basically share a trailhead and you can easily see one from the other. Elbert is taller by 11 feet. But back in the day, there were fans of Massive who thought it was a better mountain, so would stack rocks at the summit making it edge out Elbert. Then the Elbert fans would pile rocks up over on that mountain. This apparently went back and forth for a long time. We all decided that we are definitely bigger fans of Massive and, if we had had some extra energy to spare, we would have piled a few small boulders to give it the edge.
The hike down was hard, especially with exhausted bodies and minds. But we made good time and took in all the beauty.
I’m so proud of us. Today we summitted Mount Massive, the second tallest mountain in Colorado at 14,429 feet. 17.37 miles of hiking and 6,372 total feet of elevation gain. Our second 14er in three days and fourth summit in eight days. I keep telling the girls that they can do hard things and they can, I can, we can.