On Monday I summited Mt. Elbert solo, Colorado’s highest peak at 14,440 ft. Less than a week later, I returned with Aaron to tackle Elbert’s next door neighbor, Mt. Massive, Colorado’s second highest peak at 14,421 ft.
⭐️Check out my previous blog post about my Mt. Elbert adventure.
As I mentioned in my previous post, camping out at/near the trailhead the night before is a game changer. Aaron and I found an incredible spot to camp for the night about a mile from the North Halfmoon Creek Trailhead. The campsite offered privacy, quiet, great scenery, and ideal hammock trees. Because it was situated in National Forest, it was also free! High five for No Money!
Side Note: I absolutely love my portable hammock….lightweight, comfortable, durable, and easy to install/take down. You can purchase one online for around $50 with tree straps.
After a relatively decent night sleep, (the moon was so bright, I kept waking up thinking it was someone’s flashlight in my face) we starting hiking to the trailhead about a mile away at 4:30am.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed (sort of, I probably could have laid in my cozy sleeping bag a couple of more hours), we made it to the trailhead around 5am . We would be hiking the Southwest Slopes route, a class 2 climb totaling 8 Miles roundtrip and 3,950 feet of elevation gain.
Our route, in blue, is labeled number 2. It is shorter than the standard East Route, but a much steeper climb. We found ourselves in the shade for most of the ascent, much to our benefit and comfort.
The sunrise illuminating the surrounding peaks was stunning.
The moon still visible above the peaks in the early morning hours. Not a bad view from our breakfast rock. What is breakfast you ask? PB&Js of course! Do I ever really hike with anything else? Haha
This is probably the biggest trail cairn I have ever seen while hiking through the larger of two boulder fields we would encounter. Photo credit to Aaron for capturing me hiking up the mountain. Not pictured: a whole lot of huffing and puffing. This was definitely a challenging route.
After hours of steep climbing and determination, the ridge to the summit comes into view.
Just before 9:30am, we reached the summit! Happy dance!! We knew the route would be strenuous, but very much worth the effort and sweat.
No mountain goats today, but we did meet this guy who seemed very interested in our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Snickers bars.
A view looking back at the ridge, South Massive Peak, and finally beyond that, Mt. Elbert. Twin Lakes is slightly visible in this pic to the far left.
Views off to the west and a mountain lake far below.
On the descent, I couldn’t resist a pic with Mt. Elbert, the beast I tackled on Monday. It was Mt. Massive, though, that put me in double digits for Colorado 14ers. #10✅
Descending down through boulder fields appears daunting. I am getting a little better and more agile on my feet on the bigger rock though. It is the loose, smaller rock and dirt that is my nemesis, especially when my legs are fatigued and mostly jello. I took a minor fall on the hike down, but no injury, just a little shocked and embarrassed.
Aaron leading the way. Getting closer to the trees, especially when the temps are rising, is a welcomed sight.
I can’t say enough about the gorgeous scenery of this route. We had clear, blue skies all day.
Sadly, the faint smell of smoke was in the air from the nearby wildfires. Colorado is incredibly dry and prone to fire. There are fire restrictions in most counties, so please abide by them!
Shade here we come! 🌲🌲🌲It amazes me how cold the early morning hours are and by the end, we are burning up. It just goes to show you how important those layers are. My convertible pant legs definitely came off on this one.
Halfmoon Creek runs along the beginning mile or so of this trail. It makes for excellent, peaceful background noise.
While the trailhead signage was a welcomed sight after a long and challenging hike, we still had another mile left to our camp. We added two miles roundtrip to our day by not parking at the trailhead. Whomp whomp.
Overall, Mt. Massive lived up to its name. It ranks pretty high up on our personal favorite 14ers lists. Thank you to Aaron for sharing the adventure with me. Where to next?
This memorial is located at the beginning of the trail to honor the memory of four servicemen killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash on Mt. Massive August 19, 2009. For their service, we thank them. 🇺🇸