East Slopes - Standard
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Begin by following the well-marked CDT from the parking lot. You’ll be in a beautiful mature coniferous forest with aspen sprinkled about. Near mile 2.25 is the South Willow Creek, and near mile 2.75 is Willow Creek. These streams flow well in the early season, but can be dried out in the late summer and in the fall.
Shortly after the Willow Creek you’ll fork left onto the Mt. Massive Trail. Within a half mile the forest will thin out and you’ll reach treeline near mile 4 at 11,700ft. There are still three more miles above treeline until the summit, and three back, so keep an eye on the skies for any ominous clouds. Thunderstorms are very common in the summer months.
The trail parallels a much higher ridge for the next mile and a half and near mile 5 you’ll reach the fork where the other route up Mt. Massive, Halfmoon Lakes, intersects. Keep right and follow the defined trail up some easy boulders and across a wide ridge. Keep an eye out for a sign for the summit. Also near this sign is a precipitous couloir with an unofficial and unmarked trail. Do not mistake this couloir for the trail on your way down.
Gaze upon Leadville from the second highest peak in Colorado. Congrats on the summit! Return back the way you came.
Climbing your first mountain or 14er is an exciting and rewarding experience! You’ll get the achievement of seeing the world from above and the feel-goods of the endorphins from the exercise. However, the mountains aren’t a walk in the park, and getting down is mandatory. Some situations require extra caution and a little know how. With a bit of preparation, you’ll be able to get to the summit and back safely.
Whether you are training for a race or simply indulging in all the wilderness has to offer, there are a variety of factors, some constant, and some changing, that are likely to have an impact on your journey. Knowing these factors can help ensure your safety and get you back to the trailhead safely.