| Mt Massive Standard Route
After missing out on July’s planned hike, I was determined not to miss out on hiking to Mt Massive for August. Living in Texas makes it rather tough to plan hikes and make all the pieces come together. August was no different. My hiking partner would not be available until late, which meant we would arrive in Colorado a day later than planned. None-the-less, my hiking partner (Rob) and I left Friday morning bound for Salida, Colorado. We left Temple around 4:30 am and arrived in Salida around 4:30 pm local time. The drive was uneventful as any drive would be going through the Panhandle of Texas, a bunch of weeds and semi-trucks.
After arriving in Salida, we checked into the Hampton Inn and Suites. Normally, we camp at the trailhead on Friday night before our hikes, but since we left a day later and drove all day, staying in a hotel was the best option for this climb. Rob and I would meet Matt (our other hiking partner) the next morning at the trailhead. After eating a well-deserved steak dinner at Quincy’s and grabbing some supplies from Salida’s Wal-Mart, we hit the sack early knowing we would have to get up early the next morning.
On Saturday morning we got up at 2:30 am, got our gear together, and then proceeded to drive to the trailhead outside of Leadville. We planned for about an hour and half drive from Salida to the trailhead, and we pretty much hit it head on. After finding Colorado 300 in the dark and driving on the well-traveled dirt road, we arrived at the trailhead around 4:30 am. Matt was already there (as he drove the night before from Colorado Springs) waiting for us. After a quick check to our gear, we proceeded up to the trailhead. We decided on the standard route to be our best fit. Although it would be a longer hike, we knew for sure what we were getting into.
We hit the trail just after 4:30 am. Since it was dark, we had headlamps and flashlights guiding us up through the winding trail. The trail is an excellent trail with only a couple of easy creek crossings. We arrived to the cut off to Mt Massive about an hour and a half later. I would recommend to everybody that you actually take the time to read the sign if you plan to hike to Mt Massive. If you are in the dark, you could possibly miss it and continue down the Colorado Trail for miles and miles before you realize something could be wrong. After turning at the cut off, the trail continued to be excellent with only slight elevation gains. After some more time hiking in the dark, we began to see the clearing where we would leave the trees.
The next area traveled was winding through some willow trees (I don’t remember them at all going up). This area was fairly easy, but then the obvious begins to take place. Where the willow tree area ends (1), you can now see Mt Massive to the west (2). The next leg of the trip literally takes you up the side of this mountain face (3). Yes, it zigzags through switchbacks, but it seemed to never end. The goal is to reach the saddle, and then hook to the right to scale the ridge all the way to summit. This is the area where Rob began to distance himself. He got farther and farther away as we climbed. Before I knew it, he was out of sight. Matt also began distancing himself. I stopped and took some pictures and took numerous breaks while traveling up the side of this mountain face. I planned to not push myself this hike since we started so early, and that I didn’t. Finally, I arrived at the saddle at 9:00 am and looked over to my right. You could now see the false summit of Mt Massive, but it was good knowing that I all had left was 400 feet and about half a mile. The view directly in front of the saddle was amazing. It was a complete drop-off (4). Just knowing your death was right in front of you if you slipped was spooky. After a few more pics, I began to make a push for the summit.
This is the part of the hike where some light scrambling takes place (5). It is nothing serious, but you do have to take your time and watch your steps. It is rocky all the way to the top of the false summit. There is one particular area that could be a little hairy if you’re not careful (6). I recommend just to take your time. I took some fascinating pictures of drop offs and then proceeded up to the false summit (7). Rob and Matt already reached the summit, but I was not far behind. It started to get chilly, so I threw on my beanie cap and my light fleece jacket. Although it was chilly, it was the perfect weather for a climb which included cool temperatures, very light winds, and no thunderstorms in the immediate area. After about 30 minutes, I could finally see the summit where numerous hikers were already enjoying the view. After another push, I reached the summit at about 10:00 am. Mt Massive was in the books, 14,421 feet! (8 & 9)
The summit had breathtaking views. I could see 14’ers all around me (10). I do have to say the summit is rather small and not many people can relax comfortably. After some more pictures and eating a light snack, Rob, Matt, and I decided to head down. At this point, Matt’s church climbing crew also reached the summit. They arrived at the trailhead at 6:00 am and must have really pushed it to reach the summit that fast. On the way down, thunderclouds began to form up, and I encountered climbers on the way up that were contemplating whether to continue. In the end, the clouds burnt off, and the rest of 6 mile trip back down to the trailhead was pretty standard.
Overall, it was a great day to climb and will be one of my favorites for a long time. The weather could have not been any more perfect, and the views were awesome. I recommend Mt Massive to anybody. Although it’s a long hike (almost 14 miles), it’s definitely worth it.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):