| East Slope Massive
•Route - We did route 9.1 East Slopes II, Class II, (and 9.1EC South Massive) from Gerry Roach's (1999) book, Colorado's Fourteeners From Hikes to Climbs Second Edition
•Distance – 14.2 miles, 4,680 feet elevation gain
•Camped three miles in just past the third creek at about 11,300'
•Five hours to reach the summit, 30 min. on top, 40 min. to reach summit of South Massive, and 2.5 hours back down to the trailhead. Total time including stops = 8 hours and 40 minutes
•Overall Impression: There are more beautiful summits in the Sawatch mountain range, but this is a wonderful overall trek. It is easily doable in a single day, but I personally felt it was much more enjoyable hiking in early and camping (you are permitted to have campfires in this section of San Isabel National Forest).
After Saturday morning brunch in The Buff in Boulder (pun intended), we headed out for Mt. Massive, windows down and radio up. The massive mountain, which was about a three hour drive, thanks to the ever-present traffic on I-70, was on our schedule since earlier in the week when Tyler decided to bypass the backpacking in RMNP for a high altitude summit. My friend Tyler, a native flatlander from Indiana, was out for his first 14er experience. We decided to go big by doing the 2nd highest mountain in Colorado, 3rd highest in the continental United States, and the 28th highest on the continent. We spent a few days playing around Boulder, so I knew he was going to have no trouble at all with the altitude (I always knew the physical portion of the journey would be easy for him). We shouldered our backs and began the three mile journey to our camp site (just pass the third creek at about 11,300').
During the beginning of our journey, we passed several fellow summiteers on their return trip. They all appeared to be exhausted, which greatly reassured our decision to camp the night before. The first three miles of the trek, were easy going, and relatively flat. Just as Mr. Middlebrook described on 14ers.com, we crossed a small creek, then after about two miles we crossed South Willow Creek at 10,900', then the third creek, Willow Creek, at about mile three.
There were camping spots at both the second and third creeks, but we decided the third creek was for us. There were sites on each side of the trail, but we scoped out some sites and decided to steal one far away from the trail, near the cascading creek, which already had a fire ring.
Setting up camp, was easy with two people. We divided responsibilities, since I was the only one that knew where all our gear was and how to set it up, I did the house work and Tyler gathered the fallen firewood and after what seemed like a few min. the cracking sound of making large sticks more manageable, turning into the crackling of a perfect fire.
I brought a lighter, but I don't even think he used it. Building Camp Fires 101, must be a requirement to be a Sergeant at the Wabash County Sheriff's department, and if it is, I bet Tyler must teach it.
We didn't bring the best camp food, but we were still able to enjoy some Backpacker's Pantry, and even some freeze dried ice cream sandwiches, which melt in your mouth, not in your hand.
We headed to bed relatively early, because we arose at 4:45 a.m., and were on the trail before five (I left the breakfast in the car--it's always something). Following the wide beams of our headlamps, the trail was still relatively easy and soft. We stopped at several of the clearings to gaze at the multitude of stars that flickered in the sky. I wonder if they were looking down at us, because every time I turned to ask Tyler something I would look directly at his headlamp and I realized his light was probably bright enough to see from outer space.
Not long after we left the tree line, we turned off our dome lights because the sun was beginning to peak over the eastern mountains. We chilled (literally, it was below freezing) beside some boulders to grab a bite to eat and watch the sun grace us with its presence.
At this point in the journey, we could see South Massive, which we would bag on the way home, but we couldn't see Mount Massive, because it was blocked by a false summit.
Just after the 13,900' saddle, near the apex of the peak, the trail became much more interesting.
It was definitely "tough" class two because there were several times you had to use your hands to maneuver, and at this point, I could see my sea level living friend beginning to gasp for breaths more frequently.
However, we continuously climbed on and reached the summit in less than four hours (plus the additional hour we hiked to our camp the day before). We were the first to ascend Mt. Massive on that day, and it was not until about an hour later before we saw the next hikers wearily trekking onward.
Let me tell you one thing, even if you're not a diehard peanut butter and jelly fan, I'm pretty sure at 14,421 feet you will devour a smashed PB&J sandwich. I know we pretty much destroyed ours. Anyway, after our PB&J massacre, we stayed on the summit for about 30 minutes, before we decided to return to the saddle, and grab South Massive, which only added another mere half mile and 230' of elevation gain to our trip. From the summit of Massive, we reached the summit of South Massive in about 40 minutes. (South Massive is not an officially named summit, nor does it have enough prominence to be a ranked peak, but we did it anyway.)
The decent was rapid. I tried to keep up with my friend, but after a few short minutes, he was about 100 miles in front of me.
When we reached the tree line I caught up with him, not because I sped up, but because he was having a rather heated conversation with a squirrel that was mocking him and apparently following him. Believe me, I'm not squirrel lover, just read our blog sometime (ashleviperigo.blogspot.com), but I was able to mediate between both the hoodlum squirrel and my friend enough to settle it and we headed back to camp.
Twenty min. of napping, followed by twenty min. of packing and we were right back on our way. Overall we made it from the summit to the car in 2.5 hours. We passed a total of 22 fellow hikers on the decent.
Leaving the trailhead and heading back to Boulder, we were able to glimpse at the truly massive mountain we had just been standing atop. I couldn't of had a better trip.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):