Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Date Posted:  06/10/2013
Date Climbed:   06/08/2013
Author:  Muskie5280
 The Dark Summit  

For full trip report with images:

Information useful for planning is in bold.


Back to the start. Our plans were to leave Denver by 1 PM and get to the TH at 4. We would then hike in to just below treeline around 11,400 feet and camp for the night. A 3:30 AM wake up call would put us on trail towards the summit by 4 AM and then hopefully back down around noon. Of this simple plan, we followed the first two steps.

It was an easy drive up to the trailhead and we made quick work of last minute packing for our bags. Casey was amped and ready to go. It's been a while since he has been on the trail, especially without snow around.

The first section of the trail is gradual, but about a half mile in it gets considerably steeper for a bit. We quickly reached the first creek crossing about 2 miles in. The creek is flowing high but is easily crossable, especially if you go a short ways up stream where it is narrower.

It is about a mile to the next crossing and somehow we knocked that out in 15 minutes. It is very much a rolling mile. Couple ups. Couple downs. We knew that we would hate those downs when they became ups on the way out. The creek was in the same condition as the previous one but it was wider where it crossed the trail.

After the creek, we left the the Colorado Trail and headed up toward Mt. Massive. The trail was fairly steep but not overwhelming with our packs on through this section. We set up camp around 11,400 underneath a massive rock a couple hundred feet north of the trail.

We set up camp well ahead of schedule and got a delicious dinner of Couscous and Black Bean Soup going on the stove. There were a few small storms of graupel that chased us under our rock a couple of times but not thunder or lightning. We wrapped up dinner and enjoyed an Avery IPA to close it off.

Perhaps it was the beer speaking but we decided that we still had quite a bit of daylight left and the weather looked good. Why not go for the summit now?

At 7:15 PM we were walking out of camp heading for the summit.

The weather was great and we made quick work to treeline where we were greeted with our first views of Massive since Leadville.

We pushed higher on the trail. It feels like it should be flat but it is anything but. It's a gradual climb towards the saddle just south of the peak. It was here that we encountered our first snowfields of the hike as well. They are manageable without microspikes but we definitely played the posthole/no posthole game crossing several of them.

The wind was fairly strong and was keeping things a bit chillier than it would have been otherwise.

We reached the 13,900 foot saddle around 9:15 PM. We had lost much of the sunlight but the weather was still good. The stars were coming out to shine and Leadville was a glimmering town in the distance. A new view for a 14er climb.

We pushed on as quickly as we could. Crossing a 30 degree (more?) snow packed slope in the dark brings a heightened sense of focus to what you're trying to accomplish. Microspikes would not be necessary during the say, but we felt they were a huge help here.

The wind was relatively calm along the ridge but it grew progressively stronger as we closed in on the summit. The ridge was rocky and exposed. It probably felt more exposed than normal due to the darkness but either way, we wanted to summit and be on our back down as quickly as possible.

We scrambled across the ridge, tagged the summit at 10:15 PM and quickly worked our way back. Casey was over the hike at this point in time and he was not shy about letting us know.

It was slow doing descending the snowfield but we were able to pick up speed once we were below the ridge. It was nervewracking following the trail in the dark but we had minimal problems doing so.

We reached camp at 12:30 A.M. and immediately fell asleep in our sleeping bags.

It was an early morning with a 6:30 wake up call by Casey but we felt refreshed and started to head down. We stopped at the creek to pump some water and cooked breakfast/coffee. While we were eating, we met a group of 4 guys from Oklahoma City who had traveled out to climb Elbert and Massive. Seemed like a good crew and hopefully they were able to summit and enjoy it!

We returned back to the car at 9:30 A.M. Feeling strong but tired we loaded up and headed home.

 Comments or Questions

Great Hike
06/10/2013 15:05
Thanks for the good info on your hike. I am planning on summiting this Friday. Being that you hiked it at night, I assume the snow wasn't too deep? Did you just have your hiking boots/shoes?


06/10/2013 15:27
Snow was never too deep. Couple of spots in the willows where I post holed it went to my knee but the vast majority of it was frozen/boot packed. Micro spikes were helpful on the summit ridge but not necessary. I was in summer hiking boots as well. Hope this helps!


Slope hiked?
06/10/2013 19:23
By 14ers, did you hike on the East slopes or Southwest slopes?


06/10/2013 19:34
We hiked the East slopes.


06/10/2013 20:31
Very cool. I've wanted to do a pitch black summit for a while. This sounds fun.


nice work
06/11/2013 22:21
Have an pics -- thinking of skiing the east slopes on Saturday


06/11/2013 23:18
Images are on my blog:

East slope ski should be in from the summit.

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