This is my first posting. I moved to Denver from sea level in March and caught the 14er bug rather quickly. Your postings on this site have been very helpful to me in getting acquainted with this magnificent part of the country. Without further ado:
I was intrigued by the long summit plateau of Mt. Massive and decided it would be fun to hike up the standard route and hike down via the Southwest Slopes trail. I have become quite fond of hiking at night for a number of reasons, and the standard Massive route looked like a good nighttime hike on paper, so I set out from the metro area around 9:45pm Friday night and made it to the trailhead at 11:45. The trailhead was easy to find and the approach road was well graded. I had planned on taking a brief nap before embarking, but I was just too excited to fall asleep. I set out at midnight and inadvertently left the map in my car.
The wilderness sign in at the trailhead gave me a smile. The group who signed in before I did was from Israel and en route from Mexico to Canada. Their hike began in April and is due to end in September. I would have to settle for my tiny hike today, yet I felt grateful to live so close to such a global destination.
The moon was full and the sky clouded over as I began hiking. The trail was straightforward and well marked, and I did not need my headlamp. It was nice to walk in a healthy forest with some large pine trees. About a half hour into the hike it started raining. Waterproof clothing is a wonderful thing. Fortunately, it only rained enough to give the forest a nice scent.
After a flat couple of miles the trail turns left and begins to ascend the mountain. Above treeline the summit ridge finally came into view. The partially snowcapped peaks lit up in the night. The sound of screeching pikas pierced the cool air. The trail became rougher through some scree, but large cairns marked the way up. I finally got a view of the full moon when the clouds parted for a few brief minutes at around 13,000 feet.
The first glint of light appeared in the Eastern sky as I made it to the summit ridge at the saddle between South Massive and the true summit. My pace slowed considerably at this point. I followed the rocky ridge to the summit and was amazed to see the night begin to turn into day.
Summit before sunrise The moon came out again, but it was only half full this time. It was a partial lunar eclipse!!!
Lunar Eclipse Wow, that was an unexpected treat. I played around with my camera and binoculars until the moon set beneath a layer of low clouds.
The sun came up shortly thereafter, and I took it all in. The view was incredible everywhere I looked.
Eastern view from summit First the clouds and then the mountains brightened.
Sunrise to the West
The sun hit my face. It was just right.
After an hour or so on the summit I began my descent.
Mt. Elbert from the summit I turned right at a sign that pointed to the halfmoon lakes trail. Remembering the map as best I could, I assumed it was the Southwest trail and followed the sign. I stood above a gully and looked down. It looked loose and steep, but the valley below was very enticing. There wasn't much of a trail at all, and it was difficult to take a step without dislodging rocks. I found it hard to believe that this was a popular "trail".
The gully to halfmoon lakes
Looking back up the gully
Nervous about potential rockfall, I was relieved to get to the bottom of the gully and reach the lush valley. Everything turned green again.
Spring waterfall The creek was roaring. After some class 3 downclimbing over some boulders and crossing an unaviodable 15 foot snowfield, I finally reached the trail and reentered the rain freshened forest. I marveled at the surrounding mountains and granite outcroppings.
Back at treeline!
A couple of miles later I came up to a trail junction. The sign pointed to the Southwest trail. I had descended the wrong gully and added a few miles to my hike. Now I understood why the gully was more difficult than expected. I guess that's what can happen when you forget the map.
The north halfmoon lake trail is just beautiful and appealing to all senses. My wrong turn was well worth the opportunity to hike a longer stretch of this trail.
Halfmoon creek again I followed the creek all the way back to my car at the main Massive trailhead. The 4WD road from the north halfmoon lake TH to the Massive TH was a pleasant hike with many great views of the creek.
Halfmoon creek I made it back at 9:45am, circling the mountain in about ten hours. Overall, it was probably a 14-15 mile hike. Happy trails to all!!!