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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl

Double digit club

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With all of my misadventures on 14ers it was high time for a successful hike up a 14er without any major hindrance. This finally happened when I hiked Mount Massive with my friend Molly, and I could not have been happier.

Mount Massive is located just outside of Leadville, by Mount Elbert. It was a good 2 hour and 15 minute drive from Denver, and since Molly was coming the opposite way from the Springs we decided to just meet at the trailhead at 7. If you do the math, why yes this does mean I woke up around 4:15 a.m. It’s the most hilarious thing ever that I can wake up at 4 a.m. for a hike, because I struggle to wake up before 7:00 a.m. for my job during the week. Yet you tell me I get to go play in the mountains and suddenly waking up is no problem. I guess I can appreciate the fact that half-awake Paula has her priorities straight. Cayce was also originally going to come to do his first 14er, but again waking up at 4:00 a.m. is a serious matter and so we will be rescheduling his first 14er for later this summer!

Like most 14ers, the trailhead started around 10,000 feet with a hike through the woods. Molly and I were booking it through the woods, and we didn’t take any breaks until we made it above treeline. I mean if we had been playing Oregon Trail, we would have been doing a strenuous pace. Molly is training for the Pike’s Peak Ascent, and so I didn’t want to slow down her training at all. We later discovered that we were both kind of dying and neither of us had said anything, but this wasn’t until we were basically at the top of the mountain. It was definitely a great workout though!

The trail wasn’t too crowded, and along the way we spotted a couple ptarmigan and tons of marmots.

See the ptarmigan? They turn white in the winter and are masters at camoflage!

Marmot. Can I have one?

The views on the way up the mountain were stunning. And also a good distraction from the climb. Massive is not overly technical, but it is kind of long. It’s essentially a 14 mile hike above 10,000 feet with a 4,000 foot vertical gain.


When we were almost at the final ridge, we got passed by an ultra runner running down the mountain. This guy was an absolute beast and made me feel like a little bit of a pansy for being tired. Oh well.

There are kind of some false summits on Massive, and you can’t see the final summit until the end of the hike. But the false summits weren’t too brutal, and I think the hardest part was just making it to the final ridge.

View from the summit.

14,421 feet – second highest peak in CO.

Tenth 14er for this girl.

Massive was officially my tenth 14er, which was an exciting milestone. And yes, I’m counting Evans for the moment, especially since I almost got caught in some sketchy lightning. Plus I have plans to do the Sawtooth between Bierstadt in Evans later this summer to practice some Class 3 climbing, so I’ll hit Evans again.

Anyway, the hike down felt pretty fast until we got to the forest. I think Molly and I must have blocked out the entire forest section on the ascent. We started to not recognize the forest, but we were positive that we hadn’t turned off the trail at any point so we kept going. 14 miles is apparently just a kind of long hike.

Colorado Columbine.

Alas, we made it back to our cars at the trailhead. I was pretty excited to change into flip flops at this point. There is no better feeling than taking off hiking boots after a long day. However, our day was far from over. We made plans to grab a late lunch in Leadville, but as we were exiting the trail we got flagged down by a lady on the side of the road. Apparently a small fire had started by the Halfmoon campground. We pulled over, and a Sheriff soon pulled over into the parking lot. Molly asked if there was any way that we could help, and the Sheriff assured us that help was on the way. He did tell us that we could stand at the end of the road and direct the fire trucks into the parking lot, so we walked down the lane and directed a few cars before another patroller showed up to relieve us. The response was really quick, and at that point there was nothing we could do. We could see smoke, but I think the fire was small and had been caught in time that the firefighters put it out. There was nothing in the news about it later that evening, so I think it turned out okay.

Molly and I left the area again, heading into Leadville to Tennessee Pass Cafe. It’s my new favorite restaurant in Leadville. I had fish tacos and Molly had a burrito, and they both totally hit the spot. I don’t think either of us realized how hungry we were until we destroyed the food. It had been a great day of hiking in the mountains, followed by the sobering reality of the fire situation in Colorado right now. It’s scary, and it’s only June. My heart completely goes out to all of the Colorado firefighters right now fighting to save the state and people that I love. I can only hope for some serious rainstorms right now.

I love Colorado. And these fires are breaking my heart.


Author: paulamahla

Typical Colorado girl that can't make up her mind. Trail running, hiking, climbing, camping, CrossFit, ultimate frisbee, and skiing? E, all of the above.

One thought on “Double digit club

  1. Yay for another 14er! Although the thought of a 14 mile hike makes my legs tired!

    And the fires are just plain heart wrenching! Sad, scary and seemingly enraged. I’m not used to any of this stuff and it is amazing and terrifying all at the same time. I need to stop reading wildfire news, it makes me sad!

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