We started the trip at the Mt. Massive/Mt. Elbert Trail head at Elbert Creek, and took off on the Colorado trail head. We climbed until we reached the Mt. Massive and Colorado trail intersection, where we spent the night at 11250ft. The next morning, we left camp and summited at ~9:00. We returned to camp to repack at ~11:00, which allowed us to return to the car at the trail head at 12:35.
The trail was easy hiking, long trails with beautiful views. Plentiful water available at high altitude, multiple false summits, a rocky summit, and some great glasading all added up to a fantastic trip.
The trip up Mt. Massive was unplanned; with an extra half day on a trip to CO to check Elbert of the highpointing list, we figured Massive was a must.
We initially planned on taking the Half Moon Trail, however the road past the Mt. Massive/Mt. Elbert trail head at Elbert creek actually does requires a vehicle with high clearance (a Sudan rental car is not suitable) as the map suggests, in light of that we chose to take the Colorado Trail up to the Mount Massive trail on the east side of the mountain.
The HikeDay 1:
We departed from the trail head at roughly 7:45pm, planning on getting as far as possible until nightfall, where we would break camp. As the two of us live at ~600ft elevation in TX, the altitude acclimatization is very beneficial. We reached the south willow creek within 45 minutes, and decided to push on till the next water crossing. After crossing a few streams, night fall was closing in, we chose to push onward at a brisk pace (fast walk with packs).
Once we arrived at the intersection of the Colorado trail and the Mt. Massive trail, we looked for a decent camping spot to pitch tent and hang food. We found a great camping spot off 50ft east of the trail about 150 feet north of the intersection. Clearly used by others, its marked by a few carved logs, a fire pit, and a soft flattened spot, perfect for a 3p tent. We ended up using our head lamps for a majority of the setup and cooking, a good piece of gear to have along.
The two of us left camp at 6:00AM and began the summit hike. We carried 4.5L of water for the two of us, wind breakers/mild cold weather gear. The trip up was a foggy trip though some low level clouds, which were amazing once above. The climb starts in the treeline, opens to light shrubbery covered fields, though mildly steep. There are plenty of flat sections where jogging is possible. At ~12500ft the trail opens to a bowl, a rocky trail next to a small creek. The hike to the summit from there is no more than mildly steep, with a great false summit once on top. The views are amazing, the hike was well worth it. Though we never did find the USGS marker, we knew we made the summit.
We left the summit around 9:30 AM, and headed back down to camp. We decided that since there was about 200 vert of snow, we would glassade down. This is an awesome way to decent, if possible, give it a try, its a blast. We were in a bit of a rush to make a plane flight at 4:00PM in Denver (a little ambitious) so we jogged down much of the Mt. Massive Trail. Packed up camp and made it back to the trail head at 12:45.
Overall, fantastic trip, I missed the plane, but it was well worth it! I recommend this route for anyone.
Hints for others
If your from the flat lands like we are, I'd recommend sleeping at decent altitude. The acclimatization makes a significant difference.
I'd also recommend keeping an eye on the weather, we got out while there was a storm brewing. If we weren't jogging down Colorado trail back to the car, we would have gotten real wet, always prep for storms, and keep an eye out, after the tree line, there is very limited shelter.
Keep well hydrated, drink as much as you can. With ample amounts of water, we were able to suppress the effects of altitude.
Bring windbreakers! It's windy on these 14ers, so be prepped.