This summer we’re attempting to summit as many 14,000+ ft mountains in CO as possible, and we’re reaching the trailheads by bike! Join us on our Summer of Summits.
After a tough day summiting Mount of the Holy Cross and riding 35 miles to Leadville, we needed to catch up on rest and took a short day. The next trailhead was only 12 miles away so we took our time leaving town. Around 2, we were about to set out when the rain started. We waited around until about 3:30, and it let up. Our ride out of town was pleasant and thankfully not too difficult. The first 6 miles we coasted downhill until we came to a county road. We were glad to still be on pavement as we battled a crazy headwind. As we got closer to the mountains, the pavement ended but so did the wind. The final 4 miles were a gently graded, packed dirt road with a few obstacles but nowhere near as challenging as several other trailhead access roads we’ve encountered. All in all, we were glad to be heading back to the woods and excited to be in a familiar area as we approached the Mount Massive and Mount Elbert trailheads.
The Colorado Trail / Continental Divide Trail pass right through these trailheads and skirt the summits of these mountains. It was amusing to camp back in the same spot we had twice before during our thruhikes. We set up camp and enjoyed chatting with Worm, a CT hiker we had met last year on the Arizona Trail. We set an early alarm and prepared for our 12th summit, Mt. Massive.
The alarm rang at 3:00 am, and we prepared our day packs. By 3:45 we were walking the Colorado Trail up to the spur trail for Mount Massive summit. With the light of our headlamps, we wound through Aspen groves and towering pine trees. Around 5:20, we exited the forest now above treeline as the sun was starting to peak above the mountains.
Up and up we went, though the trail was very well graded and generally pleasant. As we neared the saddle towards the home stretch, we could see wind whipping clouds on the other side of the mountain.
We did a little simple rock scrambling to reach the summit at 7:30. Only a few others shared the summit with us, but with clouds looming, we didn’t linger long. As the sun shown through the translucent clouds, full circle rainbows could be spotted in the valley. We scurried off the summit and back down to the sunny side of the mountain.
As we went down, a dozen other hikers were making their way up. We were happy the trail wasn’t too crowded as we were heading down towards the forest and our camp that was already set up.
We returned at 10:30, 6 hours and 45 minutes after we started. The rest of the day was spent resting and snacking as we prepared for our next 14er, Mount Elbert, which is reached by the same trailhead.
In town, we saw the day’s forecast that predicted morning storms so we decided to start our climb earlier than usual. What better way to celebrate my birthday than beginning our climb of Colorado’s tallest peak, Mount Elbert, at 2:10 am! Once again, we walked the Colorado Trail / Continental Divide Trail until we reached the spur to the summit. Unlike the Mount Massive trail, the trail towards Mount Elbert started climbing right away instead of meandering through the woods. Up we climbed through the trees by the light of our headlamps. It took an hour and a half to get above treeline where we noticed the sky was still overcast. Storms above treeline are risky business, still we kept climbing hoping for the best. The trail kept going up and up the invisible mountain, though we were both grateful for the lack of stair steps that seem to exhaust us more than a graded trail. Occasional sprinkles of rain sputtered from the sky, but thankfully didn’t last. At 5:20, we reached the summit. The sun was just starting to rise above the horizon in a glow of magnificent of color.
Considering the fickle weather, we snapped our pics quickly and began our descent. As we walked down the mountain, the sunrise continued to impress us with a dazzling display of color. Neon oranges and pinks exploded from the horizon melting into cotton candy hues in the surrounding wispy clouds. We passed a couple dozen hikers making their ascent, pleased with our decision to start extra early. To the north, Mount Massive was completely socked in with clouds creating a feeling of instability in the sky.
We were pleased to get below treeline, and by 7:40 we returned to camp. We immediately broke everything down and packed up the bikes. We backtracked the 12 miles to Leadville where we spent the day treating ourselves to town luxuries and rest. Like you should on your birthday 🥳
If you’re keeping track…
461 Miles by Bike / +42,500 ft elevation gain
83 Miles Hiking / +33,600 ft elevation gain
13 – 14,000+ ft Summits
We are Bekah and Sean, out on an adventure to summit as many CO 14ers as possible this summer and reaching them via bicycle! Follow along here, on Instagram, or Facebook as we complete our Summer of Summits.