Anh and I have officially been in Colorado for over a month now, and we have yet to do anything extreme (kind of). We have hiked to the top of some foothills near Boulder. We have hiked to the top of the 1st Flatiron. We have hiked around in Rocky Mountain National Park. And we did go skiing (her) and snowboarding (me) once (my first time).
But seriously, that’s not extreme. Not the extreme for which we moved. (Good grammar feels good.)
I happened to see MikeOffTheMap from twitter mention that he was flying in to do a winter climb of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. He said that we were welcome to join, but I’m currently typing this from 39,000 ft. and he’s currently on the mountain. So, that didn’t happen.
Even prior to that, Anh did mention she wanted to do Elbert this winter. I originally said “no way”. Nothing that we’ve done so far has given me any hope that I would be able to make it up the tallest mountain in Colorado.
However, as we were on top of Sunlight Mountain, gazing across the horizon at all the snowcapped mountains, something inside me said, “we gotta do it.”
With the upcoming President’s Day holiday, a well timed construction project in my cubicle area at work, and a free “comp day” for having to travel for work on a weekend, I have five, count them: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, free days to do whatever I want. As far as I can tell, that’s enough time to summit Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.
SO YES AND SO EXTREME, right?
We plan on doing the Northeast Ridge Route on Mt. Elbert and the Southeast Ridge Route on Mt. Massive. Not only are these two of the standard winter routes for each of the mountains, but they also share the same trailhead. Coincidence? I don’t care.
We are still trying to decide the best way to go about this: summit in a day and then come down to the treeline and spend the night, or set up camp at the treeline, sleep, and summit the next day. We’re going to throw fisticuffs to come up with a decision, but since this is my website, I’ll present you with the first plan that came to my mind.
Editor’s note: None of this matters because we’ve decided to summit Elbert and return to the trailhead in a day. Then take our time and multiple days on Massive.
I would like to get to the trailhead no later than 7:30am on Friday. We’d hike the 3-3.5’ish miles to the treeline, setup camp, and enjoy a long day of rest and acclimatization (since my lungs, at least, are still not completely there). Get up Saturday morning, summit by or before noon, and then hike all the way back to the trailhead.
Depending on how we feel on Sunday, we could either take a rest day or start up Mt. Massive. I’ll assume we’ll be somewhere in between; therefore, repeat the same procedure as Mt. Elbert:
Hike to the treeline by dark and setup camp, sleep, and summit Mt. Massive on Monday by or before noon. Then, head all the way back to the car. At that time, we could either start driving Monday night or sleep at the trailhead again and head back Tuesday.
Obviously, the two biggest factors of this trip (or any trip for that matter) is our physical condition and the weather conditions. For planning purposes, I think there is enough available rest time if needed. Based on the trip reports of winter ascents, we should be able to do this….as long as the other factor plays nice: Weather.
We’re not so silly as to say, “hey, we’re doing this come hell or high water.” We’ll take a look at the forecast before we leave and see if the weather says it will cooperate. As long as there aren’t any blizzards or temps below -10 planned, we should be good to go. And again, we have one extra day in the plans just in case we do get snowed in for a day. Editor’s note: Windchill should be around -30’something at the peaks. We’re packing extra clothes and gear and heading out anyways!
According to Summit Post, Mt. Elbert is 9 miles round trip and Mt. Massive is 11.4. If at any point something goes wrong, we’re not horrendously far from the car. And I’ve read that there’s cell reception on most of both mountains.
Obviously, we will be treating these mountains with the respect they deserve, especially in winter, but due to the short’ish trail lengths, friendly elevation grades, and lack of avalanche danger, these seem like the perfect mountains for beginner winter mountaineers.
Wish us luck!
Don’t Miss Your Chance
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Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.