RT Length: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 4000’
Fridays are my hiking days, and today’s Friday. However, it’s also the day I pick my daughter up at camp (at 2pm), which seriously cuts into my hiking time. I’m totally ok with this however, because I planned ahead. I saved Mt Massive for today because it’s a peak I knew I could summit quickly and head back down to pick up my daughter.
So I left the house at 11:30pm and drove to the North Halfmoon Creek Trailhead. Just when I was almost there I saw a huge campsite with about 20 RVs set up. They had a pallet bonfire going, and I thought to myself how I used to do that kind of stuff at 2:30am when I was younger. It wasn’t until I reached the trailhead I remembered I’m pretty sure there’s a fire ban here and they shouldn’t have been burning like that. The road in was rough 2WD most of the way, and the last bit 4WD. Here’s the worst of it.
I arrived at 3am to just one other car in the lot. It’s a small lot, but there’s a larger one adjacent to it that probably holds 15 more vehicles.
I’m a sucker for signs. This trailhead had tons! It also had a memorial to a helicopter crash that occurred on Mt Massive and those who died. There were quite a few liquor bottles surrounding the memorial, as well as cigarette lighters, coins, and shot glasses.
Wow! After last weekend’s Chicago Basin trip, my backpack felt light! This was great! I was practically running up the trail. I hiked almost the entire trail in the dark, so here are some pictures from the way back. The trail started out through the forest. I was surprised at how much I could smell smoke from the surrounding fires. I’ve been hiking a bunch of 14ers the past few months, and this was the strongest smell of smoke I’d encountered yet.
There’s a wall you need to climb towards the beginning of the trail that requires you use your hands to balance yourself. This is much easier than it looks, and if you can do this, you can absolutely hike the rest of the trail. This hike is considered a class 2, but I think it’s only because of this one move. IMO, if Pikes Peak is a class 1 this should be as well. This trail is well maintained all the way to the summit. I came across this move in the dark and was sure I wasn’t supposed to go this way, but yes, this is the correct way to go, up the rock.
The trail passes through a meadow
Turn right at this junction
And then start climbing up some well made talus-stairs (thank you CFI!)
Your goal is to climb up this
It was a nice, steady climb on a well maintained trail with a lot of switchbacks. I never needed to stop to catch my breath or take a break. At the top of this hill you reach a rocky ridge and a couple of false summits. This is where the trek gets fun! There isn’t really any route finding or climbing to be done, but the stairs/steps up make for a nice change of pace.
This is the worst of the “climbing”, and you can skirt around it to the right and avoid it altogether on a trail.
Here’s a look back at the ridge
There are several false summits, but here’s the true summit. You know the true summit is coming up when you see the wind shelter: the true summit will be the highest point north of the wind shelter (about 15 yards away).
I summited at 5:30am, just in time to watch the sunrise!
I’d summited in plenty of time and intended to use my extra time to head over to Massive Green and then to North Massive and maybe some of the other sub-summits of Massive. The route goes through a rocky area, but doesn’t get much lower than 13,900’. Here’s the route:
It wasn’t that cold, and the temperature on the summit was supposed to be 40-60* with 5-10mph winds. This sounded perfect for today! I decided to go light with layers and just bring my moisture wicking zip-up and a hat. This had worked perfectly so far. I got excited when the sun rose because that meant the temperature could only get warmer from here, right? Well, it didn’t . The sun stayed behind the haze and never warmed up the air, and as soon as I summited the wind began picking up and it started getting cold. This is something really hard to explain unless you’ve got it, but let me just say Raynaud’s stinks. With each step I took the temperature seemed to drop as I headed toward North Massive. It wasn’t so much the temperature, but the wind. It was icy and probably hovering at a steady 25mph, which isn’t that bad, but I wasn’t prepared for this. I didn’t have the proper jacket and my gloves weren’t winter gloves. I have Raynaud’s, so it’s important I prevent getting cold because once I do I cannot warm up (it’s a circulation thing). I’m sure most people would have been ok, but as I reached Massive Green I had lost feeling in my fingers. I pulled off one glove and my fingers were white down to the second knuckle. Great. I’d hoped the wind would die down, but it didn’t look like it was going to happen, so I made the executive decision to turn back and head towards Massive before losing my fingers to frostbite. It hurt to turn back. I was seriously mad at myself! I wasn’t tired at all, and I wasn’t even that cold, yet my fingers were in the early stages of frostbite (it happens much faster for people with Raynaud’s) so I had to go back. I couldn’t move them and the only way to get blood back into them to start circulation again was to go where the wind wasn’t. I didn’t regain feeling until just before treeline. Lesson learned: pack extra jacket/gloves no matter what.
I re-summited Massive and headed down the ridge, this time seeing two goats on my way. I love seeing Mountain Goats!
About halfway down the slope I saw something I’ve never seen before: a white marmot! Well, it was more of a very light tan color, but still pretty cool. I didn’t know marmots came in this color? I saw a bunch of brown marmots as well.
Across the trail from me there was evidence of avalanche
Back into the forest I came across more proof nature is amazing
I made it back to my truck at 8:30am, making this an 11.5 mile hike completed in just over 5 hours. That gave me plenty of time to drive to Woodland Park, set up my computer at a local Starbucks to write my trip report, and pick up my daughter at 2pm. I’d definitely do this one again, not only to get in those other sub summits but because it was a nice and peaceful way to spend the morning. It didn’t really feel like a 14er. I could just hike and think and not think too much about the hike…