On Saturday at 11am, I stood at 14,421 feet. Other than an airplane, this marked the highest elevation that I’ve ever been at, and I arrived there by hauling myself up some serious alpine tundra.
The full ascent up Massive is about 7 miles, so to break it up our group backpacked 3 miles in Friday night around 11,000 feet. I didn’t sleep or eat particularly well, and I was cranky over how many times (4!) I had to fumble out of the tent to pee in the middle of the night. Elevation is a doozy, and if not for the prescription-strength Alleve that I have take for shoulder tendinitis/impingement, I would have been feeling a lot worse.
We woke at 6am to a crisp forest morning, complete with an inedible pot full of oatmeal and instant coffee. The idea of eating oatmeal is always way better than the reality, but I shoveled it down as best as I could. Around 7:15 we began the hike, quickly reaching the tree line and making our way up some grassy switchbacks. The climbing felt surprisingly easy; I expected the hike to feel like 4 miles of rock stairs, and aside from the ascent to the saddle portion, most of the grade was moderate to moderately-difficult. We (well, mostly I) definitely slowed down to 1 mile per hour or less during the really steep parts. The group was pretty speedy, but I managed to keep.
On the way, three fearless marmots guarded the ascent to the saddle via their rock fort.
One of our hiking partners commented that their fierce chirps sound like the beep a smoke detector makes when it needs a battery replacement. There were various adorable rodents scurrying through all of the rocks, and I would have loved to oogle them but I was too busy forcing my stumptuous legs up the mountain and fantasizing about my well-earned dinner (veggie burger with goat cheese? sweet potato fries?).
We summited Massive in about four hours. I deliberately stood up on the rock to appear all tall and stuff. Our friends’ adorable black lab accompanied us the entire way. She’s super energetic and did a great job knocking me off balance during the hike. There were tons of dogs on the summit, and I mentally high-fived a tiny little pug who looked exhausted.
After hanging out at the summit to eat lunch (which was, admittedly, really hard to do because of the elevation), we headed back down Massive towards camp. After the 10-mile day, I had a rocking blister on my big toe that needed a little love. Just next to the trail head is a creek access and my boyfriend suggested that we all go down for a soak. The water was freezing but felt great on my sausage-ified fingers and toes.
While this climb was by no means easy, it was easier than I had imagined. Massive is a mid-moderate ranked 14er, and I am excited to book some of the easier ones for the next few weekends. If you would have told me four years ago that I would spend my weekend standing on top of the second highest peak in Colorado AND the third highest peak in the contiguous United States, I would have called you crazy and then would have lit up a cigarette.
Here’s to many more 14ers in the next few weeks of the season!