| snow-covered East Slopes in mid-June
Hailing from Dallas, our acclimatization plan for this trip was to spend a day in the TX panhandle, drive to CO, then camp at >11k near Mt. Sherman before hiking it the next day. After that successful hike, I figured we'd do fine on the East Slopes of Mt. Massive. As I found out, I severely underestimated how the snow that was dumped across the region on 6/14 would affect us.
After reading about the virtues of firm, frozen snow in the forums and trip reports, we headed from our camping spot at Elbert Creek to the Massive trailhead at 5:00 a.m.
on the road to Mt. Massive trailhead
sunrise hitting Elbert
morning sun through the trees on the CO Trail
Aside from stopping to moleskin an ankle blister and taking pictures, I thought we were making pretty good time. The day was beautiful without a cloud in the sky. There was hardly a breeze, and when we exited the trees, the sun warmed us up significantly.
exiting the trees
in the willows... right before we hit thick snow
Right after the zig-zagging trail through the willows, the snow began to cover the trail. It quickly became futile trying to stay on the trail, and we had to rely on our GPS and cairns to stay on track.
snow getting thicker
trying to stay on the firm snow
cairn on the way to the saddle
It was a long, hard slog to the saddle. We tried as best we could to stay on firm patches of snow next to boulders, but post-holing was unavoidable. By the time we reached the saddle, I was feeling pretty exhausted and warm. My stomach was growling and I figured it was just hunger, so I ate a Clif bar.
Me at the saddle not feeling great
Lori at the saddle ready to hit the ridge
view heading up to the summit ridge
Lori was leading us for most of the hike up the slopes, but as we started up to the ridge, the gap between she and I widened significantly. I found myself going really slow and feeling really tired. I didn't have a headache, but started to feel tinges of nausea.
beauty and suffering
Lori's fresh footprints looking back along the ridge... and if you look carefully, you'll see me waist-deep in snow
Lori stopped for awhile to let me catch up with her. By that time, I could feel the nausea building. I think we were on the first of two false summits before the actual summit when I threw up. Although that eased the nausea, I started feeling really tired... like I could just lay there and fall asleep in under 10 seconds. I think it was when Lori said "don't pass out on me up here" that the gravity of my situation kinda hit me and gave me a little adrenaline spike. I proceeded, but at a snail's pace. On the last false summit before the actual summit, I thought we were done. But after checking the GPS, I realized we would have to make a descent down the false summit and a final climb up to the actual summit. I was quite ready to start the trip down (and actually still looking forward to trying a glissade off the ridge), but realized I couldn't get this close and not make the actual summit. So I pressed on, Lori walking patiently beside me.
baby steps to the summit
We reached the summit at 12:00 p.m. It really turned out to be a beautiful, clear day. The views were spectacular with all the fresh snow-covered peaks. My biggest regret of this hike was that I couldn't enjoy the summit experience more. Fortunately, Lori was feeling great and was able to snap some shots.
I was able to muster a grin and two bites of a peanut butter sandwich
Lori did great
On the way down, I started feeling a bit better. I think it was because I was still looking forward to the glissade off the ridge. However, the snow was just too soft and too deep to really get going. I managed a few 20-30 yard slides, but mostly we just paddled our way down. It was still a lot easier than hiking the ridge down. When we started back into the snow, we were post-holing to our knees and above.
waist-deep in snow... again
The meltdown of the snow was pretty dramatic from the time we had reached the saddle. Much of the trail that had been covered was now visible. About the time we reached the dirt trails again, I was feeling much better. I still don't know if it was altitude sickness, over-exertion, or maybe a combination of both. I never had a headache during the whole ordeal.
visible trail on the way down
We arrived back at the trailhead at 5:00 p.m. It was a beautiful day, and despite the sickness on the ridge, a great experience. Yeah, we took an incredibly long time to complete the hike, but we weren't really in a rush to be anywhere... we were on vacation!
12 hours later... the happy couple
sun setting on Mt. Elbert
sun setting behind Mt. Massive
Image #24 (not yet uploaded)
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