Mount Massive is huge! Well the landmass under it that is. Mt. Massive is the third highest mountain in the lower 48 (behind nearby Elbert and Mt. Whitney in California), though it is the second largest mountain in North America behind only Denali, in Alaska, nearly 6,000’ higher. We rolled into Leadville and needed to decide our plan of attack. We only had one day and it came down to Massive or Elbert. Although Elbert is higher (by a couple feet) Massive seemed to be calling. As we looked at our possible routes, the trailheads were only about 2 ½ miles apart, I wanted to go up one side, down the other, and have Seth run and grab the van when we were done so we would get to see both sides of the mountain. Perfect!
We decided to take the shorter route up, just four miles but all the climbing in it, sounds like a good plan right? The drive from the lower trailhead was a little crazy but luckily we drive a super van. We got up to the trailhead in the afternoon, made dinner while the little people played in the creek, and went to bed in the van.
For some reason we usually are late starting up the mountain. This is aside from once when I made banana bread the night before Redcloud. I believe we started up around 9, Tenny on my back, Tru on Seth’s, and a pack on both of our fronts. The beginning of the hike was super pretty in the trees but quickly we were exposed on a boulder field, and for me things became interesting. The big three were far out in front and Seth and I kept having to ask them to wait for us to keep up. Here’s the secret: THEY WERE PLAYING! They had just spent a ton of time with an awesome new family/ little friend in Silverton. She loves horses and she really sparked our kids’ interest in them. They all began reading and learning as much as they could about horses, to the point that the entire way up and down Massive they were “riding” their horses. Let me tell you, this was the best motivator ever for Tay. Usually he bonks 1-1 ½ hours in. That was not the case this time! They were all in front the entire way, and although that was amazing, it was also frustrating for me.
This intense climb with a pack and a 30lb toddler on my back, plus the added pressure of my oldest three killing me on the climb, was stressful for me. About half way up Tenny was in my ear asking repeatedly when she could walk. I finally said “now” and put her on the ground. I secretly thought she would be tired in 10 minutes and back on my back for a nap and I would have won. I mean, we are climbing over rocks, what three year old can last?! Apparently mine when she wants to spite me! She marched on and we lost Seth and the big three… ummm… where are we?
I used my poles to help direct her to the next boulder and to help make sure she didn’t fall, but at a couple of points I lost the trail. With no Seth in sight we ladies were on our own. To be honest, I didn’t trust myself to find the way. At one point a marmot sat in our way on the trail refusing to move. We stood back staring at it hoping it would scurry away but it wasn’t willing! I threw a rock in its direction and it stayed. Tenny asked “does it want to bite us Mommy?” I think it did! I threw another rock and off it went. Thank goodness! They also have white marmots up there which Tenny thought was pretty amazing.
After a while Tenny and I turned a corner to see all the big ones plus Tru sitting on the trail, alone. Ummm??? Apparently Seth had headed up to try and see if the weather was going to turn. The weather on 14’ers can change quickly and be really dangerous. It was starting to look a little gloomy but being that we were on the west side we could not see the weather coming from the east. We all sat and had a little snack until Seth came down and informed up he thought we could make it. Perfect! Onward and upward!
Along the way we saw a mountain goat, which was pretty awesome for everyone. We all happily trudged along eventually hitting the summit for some awesome views! Little Tenny had just hiked almost 2,000 vertical feet and as she said “Mommy this is real rock climbing!” This little girl is amazing! We only spend a few minutes on the summit since the weather far to the North of us was looking a little crazy and the lightning off in the distance did not make me feel too stellar. Hiking down was harder for Tenny, but we made it down to the trail to the lower summit with her tripping the entire way. I could tell she was tired so I put her back on my back (with her pleading to stay on the ground) and within minutes she was asleep. Rough life.
The way down the children continued to play happily and Seth and I tried to keep the pace up, afraid of it becoming dark and of the weather turning on us. Tenny woke up and got back off my back to “run 50 miles”. The trail on this side is pretty tame so I didn’t mind too much but we had to encourage her to keep up. Eventually we ran into my +1 (stalker!) and he joined us for the rest of the way down. At some point +1, Tenny, and I were pretty far behind and I had a mommy intuition to throw her on my back, which she again did not agree with. We picked up the pace and right as we hit the trailhead it began to hail, hard. My +1 drives a truck so there was no way to send everyone with him. I told Seth to take the babies and he, the babies, and my +1 went flying up the crazy road to the van.
The big three and I were in pain. They hail was unrelenting and we ended up taking shelter under a short tree which didn’t help much (there was no lightning and the tree was the smallest in the forest, don’t judge!). Somehow Tay’s The North Face shell did not make it into his Camelbak before we started, so he was wearing my not-so-amazing jacket and I was wearing fleece. It was cold! Eventually the hail stopped and it was just rain so we stood in the middle of the parking lot waiting huddled together. This is where our talk about marriage came up ( ).
My +1 literally came flying down the road and I stripped the kids of jackets and threw them in his truck. It took Seth longer since he had to put the babies in their seats, so they waited for him somewhere a little warmer. Once he came, we got them all down to their underwear and in their seats in the van. No hypothermia here! Of course a short drive down the road the rain stopped and the sky was blue again. Got to keep it interesting for us!
What we learned:
-To be thankful for +1 showing up and the hailing waiting for us to get off the mountain
-Double check the kids’ shell is always in their Camelbak
-The babies do not like hail, at all
-Mount Massive has beautiful views!
-We eat a lot of nutrition/snacks when climbing 14’ers