A glimpse at where my 14er addiction began. Elbert, in a wildfire-induced haze and the North Mount Elbert Trailhead on the lower right. When I made my first attempt on this mountain, I had just moved from flat Florida and had not fully acclimated. I made it to at least 13k before altitude sickness stopped me. I sent my partner on her way up and waited below, with swollen fingers and eyelids. While I waited, blue skies turned into thunderstorm very quickly. I started down slowly, watching for my partner to catch up. It didn't take long before she and her dog came into view and we ended up running to treeline while the thunder rumble above. But the best was yet to come! When we made it back to the trailhead, my hiking partner realized that she'd locked her keys in the car. Less than five minutes after that realization, the rain started. A nice group had her seek shelter in their car while she called AAA on her cell phone. She and I spent several cold, wet hours huddled under the awning
The trail was mostly free of snow for the first mile. Hiking on a trail was a novel experience for me as the vast majority of the 14ers that I've done to this point have been in snow conditions.
First wildlife spotting of the day
The trail has a couple of minor creek crossings.
The Massive trail follows the Colorado Trail for several miles before branching west. This is a loooong approach and you don't gain much in elevation.
2nd wildlife spotting of the day
A look at "South South Massive"
And "South Massive"
Still very hazy
My first sighting of a coyote. Cool.
Spring is finally here
The East Slopes trail is visible much of the way above treeline
Another reminder of spring ... people are beginning to emerge from hiking hibernation. At least two skiers visited the summit from the western side of the mountain. There was at least one other person on the summit at some point that day.
For me, South Massive was also on the agenda for the day though I didn't decide which I was going to do first until nearly at the S. Massive-Massive saddle.
S. Massive's summit
Back down to the saddle to begin the trek to Massive's official summit - still quite a ways away.
Ran into the 2 skiers on their descent. They said it took about an hour from saddle to summit.
This was definitely the diciest portion of the climb. Without snow, the trail bypasses this section. With snow, you either have to climb up and over it or attempt to climb up the near vertical section of snow to the right. I chose to follow in the footsteps of those who went before and try the snow. Unfortunately, the snow was pretty soft at this point in the day and made this an eyebrow-raising experience. I can't speak for the rocky section, but I definitely would not recommend the snow unless it was firmer.
Plenty of ridge remaining
Summit in sight
I'd been eyeing Massive's east ridge on the ascent, considering using it as a descent route to make a loop. From the summit, I took a look down the ridge and liked what I saw, especially knowing that if I went back to the S. Massive-Massive saddle, I'd have to downclimb that nasty section I'd encountered previously. I opted to descend this way instead and was very pleased with my choice.
With snow, this is a great way to descend. There are even some good glissading opportunities available, though I opted for plunge-stepping.
Looking north from Massive's east ridge
North view of South Massive
A look back at the S. Massive-Massive saddle
East face of Massive
Came close to this porcupine near my snowshoe stash. It took one look at me and tried to hide in this rocky corner.
Time to put those snowshoes on again. From here, it was a quick descent down snowfields to treeline.
One more look back before descending into the trees where postholing purgatory awaits
One more wildlife spotting