| A massive undertaking
My daughter (22) is a full time student and has a full time job, so I value any time I can spend with her. She knows I enjoy hiking so she occasionally treats me by accompanying me on some modest excursions. On one of these hikes last year she boasted (in a moment of reckless enthusiasm) that we were going to do a 14er next year. Well next year is here, and though I didn't pressure her at all, she was good to her word. Not only that, but she insisted on doing a moderate 14er as opposed to an easy one. I chose Massive because of it's proximity to us, and though it's not an easy mountain; the trail has a modest slope.
I got up at 4 am and made a veggie smoothy for energy, I finished packing a few things, and ate a bowl of Granola. Kadie arrived right on time at 5 am. She gagged down a glass of the green and also ate a bowl of cereal, and we were off by 5:15 for the 2 hour drive. After missing a turn and going 5 miles out of the way; we actually got on the trail around 8am.
We were anxious to get going after the little detour. I had downloaded waypoints for the standard trail onto my gps from this website, which is a godsend to directionally challenged people like me. Although the trail is well marked and well maintained the gps always lets me know where I am on the mountain. The gps indicated that we were making excellent time, and we were quite pleased with our progress. Of course the Massive trail doesn't really start climbing significantly until it turns off the Colorado Trail several miles into it; then our progress deteriorated in direct relationship with the ever increasing steepness of the trail. There are several stream crossings on the way, and our dogs took full advantage of every one. Almost every group of people we saw had a dog, and all the dogs had backpacks, except for ours. I'm going to Petsmart.
We were getting near treeline when we first saw North Massive through the trees. It looks pretty imposing, especially when you realize your goal is further and higher.
Not too much further, just at treeline, we get a spectacular view of our destination, and that's where 2nd thoughts start gnawing at our resolution, but only a little, it's a very gradual manifestation. Further up we see a charming little pond. I carried way too much dog water. There's snow melt water available almost up to 14,000 ft.
We see a storm behind us, and we break out rain gear, we just catch the periphery of the storm, which produced no lightning. We are the caboose of the climbers; we start to meet people coming down. One young man told us he turned back only 200 yds. from the top when he started to hear the raindrops sizzle from contact with the highly charged rocks. Another warned us in no uncertain terms that there were obvious signs of lightning probability, and if he were us, he would turn back. There were dark clouds, rain, and sleet; but I also saw areas of blue peaking through. We discussed turning back at length, and had almost made up our minds to do so, when another hiker came down, and said the worst had past, and there was much blue sky on the other side of the mountain. We went on. There was still rain and sleet, but the end was near. We broke 14,000 and stopped for a late lunch as it was past 2 pm. There were actually flowers growing above 14,000; I couldn't believe it. Did I mention Kadie has asthma? Her asthma is pretty mild and very rarely displays symptoms, which is why when she left her house that morning; her and her inhaler parted company. Just above 14,000 ft. she started to have breathing difficulty, and she decided (rightly so) that she would wait while I peaked out. I climbed to the false peak and took a picture of Kadie patiently waiting (about 20 ft below the trail I now realized). I literally ran across the top of Massive to touch the stick and get back to Kadie. I stopped for a minute to talk to a hiker named Vez. He had come down from the mountain when he could feel static electricity through his shoes. He turned around and went back up with us, but soon left us behind in his second and successful attempt for the summit that day. I touched the stick and ran back to the South side of the mountain and just as I looked over the false peak, guess who I see just a couple hundred feet below me? Kadie said fuck it I'm going for it, and she got her ass up the mountain. I was so happy to see her! I accompanied her back up to the top and we paused for a few pics and headed for the car about 2:50 pm. Did I mention that Kadie has bad knees? Yeah, her knees bother her when she overstresses them, and climbing a 14er does that. She still had a liter of water in her pack and we dumped it. There was plenty of water in my pack. She slowly agonizingly picked her way through 2000 vertical ft. of rocks to get back to the dirt path at treeline. We did look behind us to savor our accomplishment. We commented on the profusion of crickets above treeline, there were 10s of 1000s of them; what's up with that? It was then that my collie started limping. He had stepped on a nail 4 days prior, but he seemed alright the day before we left when I took him out on a minor hike up the 3 sisters. Now I had 2 lame companions to chaperone with about 5 miles left to go. Cutty was "tripoding" his way down in a very awkward fashion, so I carried him off and on. We spotted a rainbow, and everything seemed better for a bit. It started to rain again, a gentle but enduring rain. We met Vez again (the hiker that had turned around and went back up) right at treeline. He had hauled up a 35 lb. backpack full of camping gear. He was in training for a 22,000 ft mountain in the Andes. Unfortunately for him, but to our good luck, he had a quart size water bottle leak all over his sleeping bag. He broke camp and caught up to us about halfway down. While I'm sure we would have been OK without Vez; it was very comforting to have an experienced mountain climber in your party when things aren't going quite as planned. Vez ,a white African, regaled us with tales of mountains in far away places such as Kilamanjaro, and some of his local exploits, which are many. He is very mountain savvy and entertaining and he did much to take Kadie's mind off her pain; although every time I looked back at her she was wincing and almost in tears. Vez could have passed us and been back to his car an hour ahead of us, but he stuck with us, and I applaud him for that. We got to the car at 7:30 pm and said our goodbyes to Vez, who we offered dinner at the best restaurant Leadville could offer, but he politely refused. On our way back, Kadie was making plans for our next 14er; what a trooper, gotta love her.
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