| Massive Solo
Yuk yuk yuk...if it hasn't been done yet, well, there it is- your humor for the day.
Link to Google+ Pics
I put together about 50 of my best pictures to describe and capture my experience if anyone cares to take a look. I did a solo backpack/hike through the Mt Massive trail on up to the summit. TR to follow...
After putting in a few extra hours through the week, I managed to squeeze out the door around 3pm on Friday to make my way out of Golden to Leadville. I thought this would be plenty of time, but apparently traffic starts early on Fridays. It was junked up from Floyd Hill through Idaho Springs, and then again slow through the twin tunnels. After busting through to Georgetown the drive got a lot more casual and traffic spread out.
The weather looked good coming through Leadville- the mountain looms into view...Massive is, simply massive. Ear to ear this mountain is formidable and looms large on the skyline. I keep driving, past town, onto the country roads, dumping out to the washboard dirt road. The road is very easy all the way to the Massive trailhead- I observed all types of vehicles small and low easily making it up to this point. On past the trailhead, where I was leaving easily a few hundred campers behind dispersed on the roads, the crowds thinned and the pace slowed. From here on up, you can make it very far with a regular car (I saw some random Toyota car parked behind my SUV)- far enough to walk from your car up to the trailhead without much problem. Only high clearance vehicles can make it to the true trailhead with little difficulty.
Parking spot was established around 5:50pm and the weather was great. Cool and sunny with only a gentle breeze on occasion. The clouds looked forgiving, so I traveled with shorts and a t-shirt up to my camping spot around 11,000'. The stream was running pretty hard- there is a lot of water back here this year and Colorado has been given a good taste of rain lately.
I set up camp on the North side of the trail and faced French and Elbert to the south. There was 1 vehicle at the trailhead when I came in, and I hadn't seen a soul since I shut my trunk. Things got quiet- very quiet indeed. I passed the rest of my time boiling water from the stream and preparing dinner. Note to self, I'd feel a lot better with some sort of food container to keep my stuff in. The willows were pretty thick and the next morning I would have discovered a more ideal and open camp site about 300 yards from where I was. I used my cook pot and placed my bars and food for tomorrow inside, and carefully built a big rock cairn about 100 yards from my tent with the pot inside. The animals could have my food, but they weren't coming in my tent.
Waking up for a pee break around 3:30, I had full moonlight (no headlamp) and found myself in some low clouds. The valley was very misty, cold, and wet. I dove back into my warm bag for another fit of sleep- 5:00 alarm was coming up quick. I gave that one a snooze for 10 minutes and while I was laying there heard someone on the trail moving past my tent. That was all I needed to hear to get moving- I woke up and found that I had a lot of water on the outside of the tent, and actually had frost forming on it as well. I'm hoping this is a sign for a really good ski season to come! I was fueled up and had my pack broken down to the essentials and was on my way before 6.
I really liked hiking in the cool air- I was in my shorts and long sleeve after a few minutes of moving. The sun comes in this side of the valley really late- my first taste of direct sunshine came when I was hitting the saddle around 14,000'. I knew from where I was camped I had about 2.5 miles of trail and about 3,500 vertical to gain.
Once you give up the friendly flats in the valley and begin attacking the climb, you quickly grow numb to the incline. That's all you see for most of the rest of the way. I got into my rhythm, kept my layers light, and stayed mostly dry for the ascent. I had passed two pairs of people on my way up, and was passed by two other solo hikers. An older gentleman who was going very light and fast and a younger guy about my age who was also packed light and moving quickly. I had too much stuff with me to maintain that pace and I was glad to let them pass.
Around 12,000' there was a pair of goats that were just hanging out at the pointed rock pile. Above this the dizzying trail weaves above the shelves and cliffs to keep working higher and higher. A lot of the time I lost forward visibility on the trail because I couldn't see where the path was. There are always cairns to keep you on track; I had to pause a few times in the morning light to figure out which way the path turned. Otherwise the trail is excellent and very well travelled- there's not really any exposure to speak of. The two false summits are a kick in the junk, but so typical in Colorado. I enjoyed the few moves I chose to make where I got to do a bit of scrambling up the route- only for a step or two.
On the summit there were a LOT of people coming up from the Elbert/Massive trailhead- I was third up this day from the Halfmoon side, but there was easily a dozen people up there coming from the other side. I stopped for a few pictures and ate a little bit of food- found I got cell reception up there and texted home to let my fiancee know I am OK and doing fine, on course and heading home. The summit saw a slight breeze and was cool- I was comfortable in wind pants and a hooded sweatshirt.
The climb down took longer than I thought, and I usually move pretty quickly going down. I could tell I was tired, but it took me about 2 hours to get back to my tent. I know I went really slow as going down face first this trail can have some pretty big step-downs. There's also a lot of lose gravel and footing can be slippy. I was really happy to get to my tent- there were a lot of groups just breaking the treeline when I was coming down. They looked very hot- I was very comfortable.
I met up with the goat again at the same place. Goat Video on YouTube. I'm not sure he's healthy or not, but I wasn't about to bother him at all. The last pitch down to the valley floor is steep and your knees are feeling it by this point. My ankle was sore, but the tent, rest, and shelter were not far off. I was back to my tent by 11:15 and ready for a rest. It turned out to be a not very big rest- I gave it 5 minutes and saw the clouds starting to darken to the Northwest. I hastened my packing routine and was heading down within an hour. The clouds started to get better, but I was on my way out. I ended up at my car at 1:00pm- no problems with the parking spot, and I was glad to get in some fresh clothes and start driving home. After all, I had a family waiting and some birthday cake to eat!
I checked off Mt Massive on my 32nd birthday doing a solo overnight...I am hoping it's a sign for a good year to come!