Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Men Get Massive

Mt. Massive

14,421' (2nd highest in Colorado)

SW Slopes Route

8.0 miles RT, 3,950' elevation gain

On the previous day I had escorted some ladies on Grays Peak and Torreys Peak. This day I promised Avery and Nathan (the Husbands) I'd take them on a 14er. Deciding WHICH 14er to take 2 ambitions 14er virgins on was difficult. First, I planned on Bierstadt and Evans via the Sawtooth. Next, I decided "Tour de Abyss" sounded good. But finally, my peakbagging lust overcame any other considerations and I decided on Mt. Massive. I had not yet done Mt. Massive, and the SW slopes route seemed like a challenge worthy of some young ambitious guys. Recent consensus on said it was both more scenic and shorter than the East Slopes route. When pressed, I estimated 3 hours to ascend and 2 hours to descend. I told them that if we could target those goals it would be a "good time" for anyone.

Partners in crime- about 1 mile in. Nathan and Avery
Mt. Oklahoma. Man, the Sawatch mountains are so ugly, huh?

So these guys are both in the Army. They both run distances over 10 miles. Some might characterize them as "type A" personalities. I don't think either of them let the "first 14er" obstacle dampen their enthusiasm. I found myself getting tired and struggling with the altitude. I wasn't sure if it was the previous days hike (unlikely), poor nutrition and energy levels (likely), or what. It turns out we were climbing rather fast as well.  I guess it just goes to show you that just because you have done some 14ers, that doesn't give you an immediate edge over everyone regardless of fitness level. Their sub-10% body fat didn't hurt either, but I have to give props to these guys, they were pushing ME.

Getting higher- near 13,000 feet.
Mt. Elbert, La Plata Peak, and some other high mountains

Mt. Oklahoma
The route up Massive's SW Slopes is steep. I believe it gains about 3,000' of elevation in less than 2 miles. The trail, however, is very good and it never approaches more than a standard class 2 in difficulty. When we neared the top we moved with a renewed sense of urgency. I realized that not only would 3 hours be easy, but that 2 hours 30 minutes MIGHT be possible. I kept these thoughts to myself. We took some short breaks for water and Cliff Shot Blocks. My heart rate seemed to soar when we climbed.

When we finally crested the summit ridge, we could see the true summit in the distance. We had time, but we had to hustle. We started moving faster (it was much less steep), and eventually broke into a speedwalk as we approached the summit "lump". Our final time: 2 hours, 26 minutes! That's 1,620 ft/hr ascending, which is the fastest documented ascent for me. We probably could have been a couple minutes faster too, had my partners both had working camelbaks.. :)

Massive Green and North Massive from the Mt. Massive summit

Future New Belguim Advertisement?
Summit of Massive with Avery, Nathan, and Me

Big Panorama looking NW

3-shot pano, taller photo
 We enjoyed our time on the summit except it was too crowded and one person was smoking Marijuana in close proximity to us. Hey bro- I'm not a cop, but I also don't want to breathe in your toxic cloud of smoke. Please be more considerate next time.

Looks like weather is moving in- FAST

The weather moved in quickly. No one seemed to notice on the summit, as people were lounging about, smoking weed, and chatting about how awesome they were.  After lounging for a bit and taking photos, we departed the summit with haste. The guys quickly decided that 1 hour and 30 minutes was a good descent time!! I wasn't sure but we tried. We ran into quite a few parties ascending and near the top on our way down.

Okay; this is a little gross but it happened.  Around 12,000' on the descent, Avery was peeing on a rock, when a marmot suddenly popped up right where he was peeing and went for the urine. It sure surprised him! We watched the marmot eagerly lick the rock but he got a little shy when I approached with the camera. Yes, wildlife if often attracted to the salt in urine, but still, strange behavior from the marmot!

Furry Devil

Nice flowers on the lower sections

Huge fireweed "bush"

Weather moving briefly into the valley (2-shot composite)
The weather broke loose when we were down to about 11,000'. It started to rain and hail. We tried to move fast, but the rocks got wet in a hurry. Luckily, the excellent trail didn't get muddy or slippery as you might think; it was totally under control. After about 15 minutes, it let up considerably, but dampened all the trees and willows.

As the trail flattened out, we started to run a little more, surprised how much trail we had left. Trying to catch up to the 2 guys, I tripped on a root and did a "superman" fall. I got up and speedwalked to the end, and we missed our goal- it took us 1:34 to get down- it's entirely my fault for crashing I guess.

Silly guy, learn 2 run ( I look short in this picture!)

Well, my hands actually hurt worse...
Memorial to the Blackhawk helecopter crash. Interesting (but sad) story
Parting shot of Mt. Massive. It really IS a big mountain.

So, we made it up and down in a very good time. The only one who got hurt was me, and we enjoyed our 14er experience. BOTH guys said they wanted to do more of them in the future, and really liked the feeling of being up SO HIGH in the surrounding terrain. Nathan was convinced he could repeat this ascent and complete it in 2 hours flat; he also expressed interest in a winter ascent and snowboard descent. Avery is ready to do some 14ers with his wife. The marmot encounter and the sudden weather change made it a memorable experience.

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