Hiked to the summit of Mount Massive via southeast route on October 2nd, 2021. Mount Massive is the 2nd highest peak in Colorado, and sits next to it’s higher neighbor Mount Elbert. Most of this hike is located in the Mount Massive Wilderness area.
- 16.3 miles round-trip
- 4,705 feet total elevation gain
- 8 hours hiking time
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Filming and Photographing this hike
Besides a couple of trail runs on Mount Morrison, this is the first time in years I’ve done a serious hike and not brought my semi-professional camera set-up. I always hike with a full-frame camera and dedicated landscape or wildlife lens. This time is was just the new GoPro Hero 10. I wanted to force myself to use the GoPro for everything on this hike. Besides a couple of photos from the iphone, I did just that. My only regret is that I didn’t take more photos with the GoPro Hero 10, and also forgot to change the files to RAW in the photo settings.
Getting to the Trailhead
Emily and I drove from Denver the night prior and stayed at a hotel in Leadville, Colorado. Although there are viable dispersed camping options near the Mount Massive trailhead we decided to sleep comfortably and not freeze. We set the alarm for 4am, out the door by 4:30am and got to the Half-moon Creek campground around 5am. There is a temporary road closure up to the Mount Massive trailhead. Hiking from the Halfmoon Campground parking lot adds an additional 3 mile round trip.
The Mount Massive Trail is very straight forward and easy to follow. There’s a sign you will have to keep an eye out for as it really begins at the Colorado Trail 1776 trail junction. We broke out of timberline a few minutes after sunrise and the views are just amazing. Off to the south it looked like an ocean of clouds below us.
This is where you get your first good look of South Massive Peak. As with most Colorado 14ers, this is where the elevation gain gets tough and the hiking pace slows down considerably.
At around 13,000 ft there was some snow sticking to the trail. We had noticed it snowing on our drive to Leadville the night prior. Once we got to 13,500 feet we decided to put on the micro-spikes and snow-gaiters as it was only going to get worse from here. We reached the 14,000 ft saddle between South Massive and Mount Massive and got swallowed up in a cloud. There was some opportunity to look down below at the Half Moon lakes though. Despite the cloud cover, when it opened up briefly the views were amazing.
Reaching the summit
Once at the saddle we kept an eye out for cairns as the trail mostly disappears as you ascend the ridge. Little bit of easy class 2 climbing comes up every once in a while. Hiking along the ridge with the clouds surrounding us made it feel like we were on a different planet. We reached the summit to find it covered in clouds. Emily did a summit scream. There was absolutely no wind on this day which was amazing and not something I’ve experienced on top of 14,000 foot peaks.
Despite the abundance of clouds obscuring the views above 14,000 feet, I enjoyed this hike more than Mount Elbert off to the south. There were less people, better views, and overall it was a more enjoyable hike.