| Running/Fast Hiking East Slopes of Massive
In my effort to finish up the "low-hanging" fruit near where I live in Niwot, Massive was on the list for this summer. (I've also done a few outliers, but now I'll have 3+ hours to travel and in some cases, much more technical routes.)
As I was driving over Loveland Pass (accident on I-70) I realized that the Leadville Trail 100 race was taking place Aug. 18-19 and was concerned about finding a spot at the Massive trailhead to park and car-camp. As it turned out, this year's LT100 course went to the east and I had no troubles (besides the night-long battle with a mouse inside the car).
Overnight rain had moved on and it was beautiful, clear and chilly when I rose at 5 a.m. After oatmeal and coffee I was on my way at 5:55. Travel along the Colorado Trail was pleasant in the dim morning light, but by the time I reached South Willow Creek the sun was coming up, a deep, portentous red, thanks to a great deal of smoke from California wildfires.
The trail climbs gently for about 1,100 feet and something close to 3 miles before you reach Willow Creek. Some guidebooks suggest that it's another .3 miles to the main Massive trailhead on the left, but if it's much more than .1 mile I'd be surprised.
The Massive trail climbs upward for about a mile through pines. While runnable, this is pretty steep and for reasons of efficiency I power hiked some of it.
As soon as I emerged into the open area above treeline I noticed how cold and windy it was going to be. I stopped to gear up - a windbreaker, hat and gloves; otherwise felt find in the running shorts I was wearing.
I don't know why the microclimate on Massive seems to be colder than all the surrounding areas/peaks, but according to the weather reports on this site, it always seems to be a little chilly. Although it was clear (and smoky), that was certainly the case on this day. The wind carved in from the north/northwest as I climbed the switchbacks and around a major hill into the basin leading up to the peak. Once in the basin, the wind slowed quite a bit. I was pleased to see a pair of ptarmigans in the nearby tundra landscapes.
I left my hand water bottles behind a rock and was able to slowly run and power hike up through the basin.
It's a solid, long haul to the saddle between Massive and "South Massive" but the views from there are great. I was really awed looking off the backside to the steep southwest slopes.
There was a tiny bit of Class 2 stuff on the trip up the ridge to the summit, but no big deal. Looking off the trail down the southwest slopes I was glad I took the "easy" route up the easy side; certainly if anyone plans to run it, you want to avoid the southwest. I understand the impulse to go the "short" route, but in this case, potential climbers should believe the hype that the southwest slopes are *very* steep.
I made the summit at 8:18 a.m. and as always it was a pleasure to have it all to myself for awhile; in this case, as long I wanted. But it was razor cold with a biting wind on top, so I mostly took time to eat and drink a bit, and take photos — the smoke/haze was particularly notable. I saw what appeared to be mountain goat hair, but no actual goats.
Traveling down I estimate I saw as many as 40 people on their way up; if anyone is looking for a more solitary experience, I would suggest a very early start or climbing on a week day.
The return was very runnable once I was off the saddle. In the basin I had to place my feet carefully on rocky portions, but below the switchbacks it was great for running.
Overall, I'd put the effort for running Massive in the same general category as running Antero from the 8,400 foot trailhead on highway 162.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):