Colorado Trail Segment 10 and Mount Massive: The Clouds

In May, I’d completed Segments 1-5 of the Colorado Trail. In June, I didn’t hike a single mile. In July, I was back! And this time, I added a side trip up a 14er.

The Stats

Segments: 10
Endpoints: Timberline Creek Trailhead to Mount Massive Trailhead
Miles: 13.6 + 7.2 for Mount Massive
Type: backpacking

The Journey

After work on July 1, I drove to the Mount Massive Trailhead outside of Leadville. Taylor planned to meet me there but got a later start than expected. While I waited, I set up my car to sleep in for the first time. A few other people nearby were doing the same. I was looking forward to it: the totally flat surface to sleep, lack of wind to rustle any tent fabric. 

Eventually, it started to get late and I worried Taylor was lost. I asked the one remaining awake person (most people planned to wake up super early to hike the 14er) if I could use his phone to call her. Turns out, she’d missed the trailhead, continued up the road, turned around when it got sketchy (actually the road Zach describes in a recent Backpacker Radio episode, and shortly after Chaunce reiterates her absolute non-recommendation of section hiking the CT, oops!), and was heading back to cell service range. I flagged her down when she finally made it, and we went straight to bed.

In the morning, we drove one car to the Timberline Creek Trailhead and began Segment 10! The forest here felt almost rainforest-y compared to earlier segments. We encountered our first clouds of the trip—those being clouds of mosquitoes. Thankfully for me, they liked Taylor’s blood far more than mine. The trail was generally smooth with a bit of climbing and some decent Leadville-area views.

Rachel on Segment 10

By afternoon, we had some more clouds—rain clouds this time. We didn’t get dumped on right away and had time to set up camp near the Mount Massive trail intersection with the Colorado Trail. Though we identified a spot based on camp neighbors nearby, we ended up on some hilariously sloped ground. We spent the evening getting water, eating dinner, and then reading in the tents as thunderstorms passed through. 

The next day, we woke up early and set off with only day packs to summit Mount Massive. Once above treeline, we got some amazing views looking down at the clouds in the valley. However, the hike was harder than I’d expected it to be (though it’s not like hiking zero miles in June helped my stamina) and summiting took longer than planned. That delay caused some different clouds to add to our stress—from the top we could see big puffy clouds in the distance, so we started our descent quickly. 

Above the clouds

Above some clouds but below others.

Luckily, we made it back to our tents and broke camp before any rain actually fell, though it was thundering around us. From there, we hiked the three remaining miles remaining to the Mount Massive Trailhead at the end of Segment 10 and only got rained on in the last half mile. Though Segment 10 was the first I did out of order in a SOBO direction on the CT, I came away from the weekend satisfied to be back making progress on the trail.

Views from the summit

Views from right before the Mount Massive summit.

The Gear

Sleep System

NEMO Hornet 2p: The tent got its second test on this trip and it definitely better fits one person than two. However, I strongly recommend looking for a flatter spot than where I camped. I slid all over the place while inside the tent, since the footprint and floor are very slippery in the first place and the slope didn’t help. I also discovered a new complaint: the rain fly does not fully cover the head end of the tent, and even though I set up angled away from the rain, the whole interior tent fabric on that side got soaked.

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL: At least when I’m the only one in the tent, it’s roomy enough to fit my sleeping pad at an angle. I put my pack underneath the pad at my feet so I could have the barest semblance of a flat surface to sleep on.

Klymit KSB 20 Down Sleeping Bag: As usual, my sleeping bag kept me plenty warm in the 40s overnight.

Packs and Poles

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L: A third new pack! I’ve tested various packs for the past couple segments, and finally landed on one to keep (no thanks to Gossamer Gear’s tough return policy). I love the stretchy side pockets and the light weight of this pack; it makes the heavier full frame Ospreys and Gregorys of the world feel like bags of rocks. 

Hiking Poles: As usual, my mildly trusty knee-support sticks.

Cooking

Jet Boil MiniMo: My goal these days is to bring meals that only need hot water poured into them or don’t involve the stove at all. My question to the pros: doesn’t cleaning a pasta-saucy stove every night get super annoying? What’s the workaround here, other than stove-less or eating purely Backpacker’s Pantry?

Taylor’s Water Filter: Left the Sawyer Squeeze at home this time to share Taylor’s filter. I don’t know what it was, but it had a squeezy pouch connected to a straw. It was a bit of a hand workout, but involved less concern over backflushing the Sawyer.

Ursack Major XL Bear Bag and rope: Working on improving my confidence in completing good bear hangs.

Other Stuff

Bug Spray: As in, we didn’t bring any, and wished we had.

Mt. Massive

Mount Massive Trail at sunrise.

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