| Massive - Kansan's Goal Accomplished, Huron next
Mt. Massive (14,421’)
Left TH: 5:45 am
Summit: 11:45 am (6h0m)
Time on summit: 30 minutes
Arrive TH: 4:45 pm (4h30m)
RT hiking time: 10h30m
Date climbed: 8/22/2013
When Paul (Kansan) inspired this now annual trip in 2008 to hike CO 14ers, his goal was to get on top of 10 different mountains. Well, after having his second hip replacement in January 2011 and losing 30 lbs. over this past year, Paul (65) reached his goal on Massive. He’s not even close to being done yet, and may be more eager to hike the 14ers than he was in the beginning. Hiking buddies Harry (65) and Michael (64) think we still have it in us to keep it going. As in the past, we all start thinking and planning for next summer even before this trip is over.
We picked Buena Vista as our home base for two reasons. First, it’s very accessible to not only many 14ers, but other “Plan B” hikes as we like to call them; options for a either a warm-up hike or a substitute hike if we struggle on the first 14er. Second, BV’s elevation is 7,965’ which we’re convinced helps our recovery after hiking a 14er; as compared to past years staying in Leadville where you never get lower than 10,000’. There’s a good chance we’ll be back to BV next summer.
After staying in CO Springs one night, we did a warm-up hike at Pancake Rocks/Horsethief Falls south of Divide on the way to BV. We had three straight days set aside for 14ers, the first being Mt. Massive. At 13.75 miles RT, it was half again as long as any Paul and Michael had done. Harry had hiked Pikes Peak solo so he was a little better prepared.
We got up at 4:00 am, ate/drank a little, drove to the TH and started the hike at 5:45. On a Thursday, the TH lot was not very full yet so parking wasn’t a problem. The early part of the hike through the trees on the CO Trail and up to the Mt. Massive trail junction was relatively easy. But it included what seemed like a lot of level and even some “down” hiking as we followed the contour lines. That bothered us because we had to gain that elevation later with less distance to do it in, which meant “steep” to us.
Easy trail through the trees
That proved to be the case as the Mt. Massive trail was all “up” once we left the junction. For me, it always feels better to break out of the trees into the openness of the mountain. We then got our first view of South Massive, Massive and the route ahead. Elbert was easily recognizable to the south. Our 2010 Elbert hike triggered Paul’s hip replacement surgery.
Out in the open, South Massive (left) and Massive (right) dead ahead
Elbert is very prominent to the south
The trail continues to gain elevation by switchbacks through the willows.
Turquoise Lake and Leadville are a nice backdrop to this part of the hike
We encounter a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigans
Now we can see the saddle with Massive to the right. It’s definitely all uphill from here!
The saddle beyond with the ridge to Massive (right)
We did pause at the saddle, both to rest and take in the awesome views. We met two young guys from TX, one was hiking his first 14er. Very impressive to start with Massive, but when you’re in your 20s, it’s all possible……
TX on top of the large rock outcrop at the saddle
Cooling their heels with a TX-sized view
We then looked up the ridge toward the summit and asked some hikers who were on their way down – “Is there really a trail in all those rocks?” They assured us there was so we started following it; head down and not too fast.
Yes, there is a trail to follow......
We're so slow, it's almost not tiring - just kidding!
We were also told by people coming down that there was a very friendly mountain goat a little higher up on the mountain. Harry got the first look……
The mountain goat eyes Harry as we approach the false summit
Great shot of the mountain goat, rocks and sky - we all stayed out of each other's personal space
And the final route to the summit is revealed.
Paul's goal is in sight now
The remaining trail to the summit
Summit shot - Paul, Michael and Harry
Paul on the very top - good balance!
Michael enjoying the summit experience
Soon after we got to the top, the two Texans arrived. After visiting a bit, we found out they are from the same TX area as Michael’s sister-in-law and her family. You just never know how small the world gets on top of a 14er!
Texans on the Massive summit - Garrett at right, his first 14er!
After the photos, something to eat and drink and as much rest as we thought we could get, we headed back down. The sky had been mostly overcast the entire day and we didn’t want to tempt fate.
Even with two sticks, you have to be careful of those dirt trails on the way down
Just above the willows, we encountered a family White-tailed Ptarmigans. They were busy eating whatever they eat and didn’t seem too bothered by us. It’s so amazing how well they blend with the landscape. Paul contacted a serious birder friend later that evening and sent some photos. He hasn’t checked this Ptarmigan off his life list yet, but now knows where to see one. He also identified the other bird as a Dusky Grouse.
White-tailed Ptarmigans (2)
Rock or White-tailed Ptarmigan?
About this time, we started hearing thunder and a very light misty rain began. We picked up the pace and made for the tree line where we thought it would be a little safer from lightning strikes, if there were any. Shortly, the rain picked up a bit and we decided to gear up. In typical CO fashion, 15 minutes later the rain stopped and the sun came out.
Paul and Harry in the trees with rain gear, almost there
We made the long hike to the TH without incident, being passed by the Texas group near the end. They had some dicey weather above us on the mountain but no serious problems, thankfully. They were going to hike Mt. Evans on Saturday.
Massive was tough day for all of us. The overall length and steepness of the trail once we were out of the trees made for a difficult combination. But, Paul’s determination and enthusiasm won the day. “We’re doing good” is his mantra and he got his 10th 14er. However, we all agreed that hiking Huron the very next day wasn’t a good idea. So, we took a rest day in BV on Friday, let our muscles relax, walked around the neighborhood, found a great book store, explored the new development along the Arkansas River, which had no “up” hiking, ate good food and got ready for Huron on Saturday. Does it get any better than this?
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