7.24.2005

Truth in Advertising

There are a lot of appropriately named mountains in the state, but none more so than Mount Massive. This peak is the second highest in the state at 14,421’, but it is its bulk more than its height that earns it the name “massive”. There are seven total summits, five of which are over 14,000 feet. Only the main summit is “official”, but when viewed from the road coming into or out of Leadville, the peak looks more like a it’s own mountain range than it does an individual peak. If you were to cut this peak off at 14,000 feet, the remaining plateau would be almost square half mile! It is no surprise that the hike of this peak is a commitment beyond most normal hikes. I got started early, reaching the trailhead by 6.45 am, and started the approach hike. From the parking area you have to hike for over 3 miles along the Colorado trail, just to reach the Mt Massive trail itself. After that there is still over 4 miles to the summit! The total round trip mileage is 13 1/2 miles, half the distance of a marathon. There is also nearly 4,500 feet of altitude gain from the trailhead, almost a full mile! The initial climb up the Mt Massive trail is steep, but it quickly levels off into a high basin right at tree line. From here you really begin to appreciate Massive’s size, as the main summit and three of its sub-peaks appear. The trail fizzles out at a 13,900 foot saddle between the main summit and a point at 14,132 affectionately referred to as “South Massive”. The ridge between the saddle and the summit is class 2 over broken trail segments and rocks. There is one major false summit before the real one, but by then the remaining ridge is almost flat. The summit itself is rather small, I was there with three other people and a dog and we were comfortable, but this is not a summit that would easily accommodate the dozens of people it sees on a typical weekend day if they were all there at once. In fact we were the first four people to summit on Saturday, the early start paid off for sure. We hung out for about 20 minutes taking in the magnificent view, the state’s tallest mountain (Mt Elbert) is just to the south, and the view of the Elk Range to the west was very clear. On the way down I decided I had enough time for a short side trip and climbed from the 13,900 foot saddle up the top of “South Massive”, and additional 232 feet above. Then it was back to the trail for the long hike down. It was a fairly easy hike, but you definitely appreciate this mountain’s size long before you summit!

Sunday a few friends and I had planned on hiking Huron Peak, which would have been fitting. Huron is the second smallest fourteener, and Massive is the second highest. We changed our plans do the forecasted stormy day. Saturday we got a lot of evening storms, and a few overnight. Most of Sunday was okay, although there were a lot of dark and ominous clouds in the mountains to the south. It did start storming pretty good this afternoon in town though. It was probably a good idea to cancel the Sunday hike, as I am sure Huron got hit with the storms too. That meant I got to watch baseball instead, first the “Battle of The Sox” (White vs. Red) and then the “I-55 Series” finale. The Cubs should have won it in nine innings; the guy trying to steal was out. His shoe was casting a shadow on the bag in the replay when he was tagged! That eventually led to a tying run. Oh well, at least Neifi Perez came through in the 10th. There was no doubt that Grand Slam was a fair ball, seeing as it literally stuck in the fence about a foot inboard of the foul pole! Crazy game, down to the last wild out, but at least the right team won…