Mt Massive, 14,421’ – Aug 25, 1994


The data

Today the peak to climb was Massive – literally. Slept in an extra hour and left Colorado Springs, Co at the late hour of 3:00am. Started hiking from the trailhead at 6:15am just as the dawn was breaking over the eastern mountains. It was light enough I did not need a headlamp so off I went with the hooting of an owl to guide my way. The trail follows the Colorado Trail for 3.2 miles. It is quite level and wide in most places and I made good time knowing I would soon be climbing.

As I was striding out, I heard the thunder of running feet/hoofs somewhere very close. I spun around, saw nothing, spun back around and saw the largest deer I have ever seen and he was running down the trail TOWARDS me. This buck had a full set of antlers and I remember looking UP at him. As you can imagine, he was not running at me really but had been spooked. He executed a 90 degree midair turn and was gone. So was my heart, but I found it later in my throat. Along the way to the turn off you cross two nice streams – South Willow and Willow Creek I think.

I reached the turn off for the Mt Massive trail, turned left without stopping and was soon climbing to tree line. As I exited tree line, the sky was partly cloudy but the wind had picked up. Looking up at the peaks, the clouds were rushing from the western side over my head just like in the movies when they speed the picture up. I was a bit concerned since here it was only about 7:30am and the weather was already unsettled. Then it started to rain; out came the shell jacket.

Then out came the rainbow and I was able to experience something I have never had the opportunity to do before. One end of the rainbow ended .25 miles up the trail… on the trail. I kicked in the over drive and actually stood in the end of the rainbow in the rain, the wind, and the sun! There was no pot of gold, but I think I’ll buy a lottery ticket this weekend. After soaking in these rays for awhile, I continued up. The trail meanders up the tundra to the saddle between South Massive and Massive. All told there are a bunch of points above 14K on this mountain/region. I gained the saddle at 13,900 and headed up the ridge to the north. It was a fun ridge except for the tiny tiny slip I made on one hop, gashing my lower leg. It is all class 2, but fun nevertheless.

When I gained the ridge I was finally able to see west from where the weather was brewing. The sky above the peak was now blue but there was another line of clouds fast approaching. I speeded up and reached the summit at about 9:10, 3 hours after starting. I signed the register, ate a sandwich, doctored my leg, and watched the clouds. Mt Elbert was to the south and Snowmass and Capital to the west out by Aspen.

After about 15 minutes I stood up to retrace my steps and then I noticed there was a scree field right off the summit. I figured I could scree down this and intersect the trail below the saddle. It worked and I was soon about 900′ below the summit. This is not the way to ascend (all though some people I assume try it) but it makes an easy descent and if you stay on the scree will not harm the mountainside. Back on the trail I passed a guy and his dog, one elderly gent, and then two other hikers. I hope they got off in time as the black clouds were following me down and it was only 1030 am. I lengthened the trekking poles and started down, not resting until making it back to the first stream crossing only 2 miles from the trailhead. Gobbled another sandwich and cruised into the parking area at 5 hours 57 minutes. Soon I was sitting at the Tasty freeze in Buena Vista enjoying a LARGE Oreo freeze. A nice hike and a good one to do on a weekday as I bet it is crowded on a weekend. Gotta head out to the local 7-11 to buy that lottery ticket now….

The beta: Mt Massive, 14,421’, San Isabel National Forest, near Leadville, CO Mt Massive Trailhead, East Slopes Route, Class 2 13.4 miles RT / 4,400 elevation gain / 5 hours 57 minutes