Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  08/30/2011
Date Climbed:   08/13/2011
Author:  obersan
 Moondance and Sunrise Summit on Mt Massive  

This weekend decided to try a new twist on the 14ers climb. Did a climb of Mt Massive from the southwest route under the light of a spectacular full moon with a sunrise summit.

On the drive up from Denver saw a great Kodak moment just below the summit of Fremont Pass looking out over the Climax Mine slag ponds. Setting sun was making for some increadible scenery that had people screetching to a halt in the middle of the road, or flipping a quick u-turn to come back, dig for their cameras, and drool. Image
Sunset on Fremont Pass looking west over Climax Mine slag ponds

Pulled into the trailhead approx 9:45pm on Friday night. Got the gear organized and crashed out in the car for a few hours of sleep. (note about the road to the south west trailhead. Any car with some halfway decent clearance can make this trailhead. Just take your time and work your way over the rocks and bumps with some patience and easy going.) Yoshi, my subi outback, made it no problem.

Woke up at 1:10 am, ate some food, got geared up, and was on the trail approx 1:45 am. Nice, well defined trail at this stage of the game that was easy to track in the headlamp. At approx 2:30am , right at treeline, was passed on the climb by three young guys like a hurricane force wind with lots of energy to spare and a great knack for finding the trail through the boulder and skree fields in the dark. Big shout outs to Erik, EJ, and Aarron(?). They all definetly earned their Trailfinding In the Dark Merit Badge. From that point on their bobbing head lamps would provide a reference for where the trail was up ahead when I would reach a junction I was not sure about.

From treeline on an increadible full moon lit the entire slope in front of me and was a reassuring point of reference sitting directly over my shoulder. Moonlight was so bright that for much of the way, when you were not trail finding in the boulder fields you could actually see better with the headlamp off and using your moonshadow to spot the trail.

Reached the summit ridgeline at approx 5:10am. Mt Massive is a very deceptive peak with a whole string of false summits all sitting on the ridge to tease you that the summit is just over the next roll. I made it to the second to last false summit as the alpineglow was just starting to light the skyline to the east and stopped to take some photos.

Witnessed an incredible phenomenon as the full moon was setting to the west at the exact same time the sun was breaking the skyline to the east. Image
Full moon setting over the Elk Mountains
It was almost like the sun and moon were on the opposite ends of a cosmic teeter totter and the pivot point was the summit of Mt Massive. Watched the moon set right into the saddle of Pyramid Peak in the Elk Mountains to the west. Image
Full moon sinking directly behind the summit of Pyramid Peak
Then spun 180' to watch the sun break over the horizon of the Mosquito Mountains to the east. Image
Sun just breaking the horizon of the Mosquito range
Sun clearing the horizon
Looking down on the eastern slopes of Mt Massive
La Plata and the Ellingwood Ridge
Looking west as the sun lights up Castle Peak and Snowmass
An hour or so after sunrise a momma mountain goat and her little baby decided to come out for some sun and watch people coming up the standard route from the east side of Mt Massive. Image
Mamma and baby mtn goat watching the funny people come up the trail from the east
Lil guy learning to play on the rocks

Climb down was slow going with lots of staircases built into the scree fields that I had not really noticed so much on the way up. It actually took longer coming down in the full light of day, with lots of breaks to rest the knees, then it did going up in the dark.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Dave B

Image 8!
06/22/2012 13:18
Views like that are the reason I will return again and again to the mountains.


Image 8...
08/31/2011 20:43
I believe your photo includes Snowmass and Capitol rather than Castle (not a big deal of course)...always like spotting those mountains from the Sawatch peaks.


Oops Capital not Castle
08/31/2011 23:22
HuskrHiker you are right. Sorry it was a late night typo and slip of the brain as I was posting the log. Will try not to let it happen again for the next post!


09/01/2011 14:12
Cool sunrise/sunset photos. Did you alter them at all?


Image 8...
09/01/2011 21:08
I just obsess on those particular peaks having been on the summit of Snowmass...staring down/across the connecting ridge to Capitol and being terrified yet very intrigued. Someday maybe......

Have not had the pleasure of these views on Massive yet. Thanks for your photos and report.


Djkest photo question
09/01/2011 23:57

Only alteration I did was for the ones I took when I was zooming in close on the moon as it was sinking behind Pyramid. I was pretty maxxed out on my zoom so the shots came out a little grainey. Plus the fact that I was using my backback as a rest and didn't have a tripod set up I had to toss some because they were to shakey. For the ones I did keep I just sharpened the image up to take out some of the grains and that was it.
It was one of those nights/mornings were the closer to the horizon the moon got the bigger it seemed to get all on it's own. No photo shop work there. If you want to see a couple more of the shots that I didn't upload here you can go to my little blog . It is still a project in the making but has room to post a few more things than here.


Snowmass to Capital
09/02/2011 00:06

We can both work on summiting Capital someday. All of those peaks over there are on my goal list for next summer. There are a couple that I will defintely need a little encouragement and guidance on to overcome the pucker factor.
When you do Massive if you can time it for a full moon and a summit sunrise it made that view from the top all the more spectacular.

Happy Trails!

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