On Top of Colorado — Almost

Adventures4 Comments

So yesterday while ATVing I start telling Ben about the legendary Long’s Peak trek of 2001 that Natalee and I made.  Then I started telling Ben how the next big one I want to climb is Mt. Elbert, which stands at 14,433 ft.  Its ONLY the 2nd largest mountain in the lower 48 states….but the deceiving part is that its a Class 1 (which means basic trail) vs. Long’s which is a Class 3.  So anyway, we convince each other that this is the thing to do today — um, despite the fact that neither of us trained for the journey, Ben didn’t have the right gear (just tennis shoes), and they are supposed to have isolated thunderstorms in the area in the afternoon.  But oh well, let’s do it. 

So for whatever reason, I get the worsest night’s sleep ever.  Wake up at 4 AM, get Ben, off by 4:20 AM.  As we get 15 minutes South of home near Denver it starts to POUR rain.  Oops….it wasn’t supposed to rain.  Oh well, Mt. Elbert is 200 miles away so no big deal.  We get up into the Rockies and its covered in fog.  People are driving slow.  You can’t see.  Eventually as the sun comes up, it starts to thin.

So we get to Leadville, which is the nearest city to Mt. Elbert.  It claims to be the highest city in the US at 10,200 feet.  They have the “highest” golf course, school, etc. and the signs to let you know.  We were hoping their might be a breakfast spot but fast food has not reached that part of the backcountry yet.

So Mt. Elbert sits off to the west of town.  Its just like a big blob of rock.  Not particularly spectacular as peaks go.  And since Leadville is at 10,000 feet it looks medium size compared to the surroundings.  Its neighbored by Mt. Massive (#3 in lower 48).   Here is me at the trailhead with Elbert in the background.

We ended up using a 4WD drive trail to get us another 1.8 miles closer.  My truck has low clearance….I left my mark on the trail.  Now the deal with Elbert is that its a hell of a lot of elevation really quick.  Its about 3.5 miles and it spans 4,500 vertical feet.  So over 1,000 ft. per mile.  Is that a lot?  We will find out.  We found out about 500 feet into the hike how this was going to go.  Its straight-up — as in more like going up stairs vs. walking up a hill.  You find yourself grabbing trees to pull.  Ben had his tennis shoes on (all he brought as this was impromptu) so he wasn’t doing well.  My breakfast didn’t settle with me well either.  After a few breaks, we were 1 hour into it and up about 1,000 ft. to about 11,400.  At this point, we stopped on a rock a contemplated our day.  Not feeling well, not prepped, we got started 1.5 hours late, it was warming up fast, Ben was learning what altitude does to you — and from the rock we stopped on, you could see the summit and to use a technical term – it was a long fucking way up there.

So we decided it was in our best interest to tame the beast another day.  As we headed home, we felt a bit dejected so we veared south in the truck and I took been up Mt. Evans, which stands at 14,264 ft., so he could feel and see what a 14-ner is really like.  We made it to the top of Evans in about 30 minutes flat.  Much better, thanks.  Oh, not making sense.  Shhhh…Evans is one of two of the 55 14-ners in Colorado that you can hike, bike and drive to the top of.  Do you know the other?  (PP)  So we cruised up to the top passing 100s of bikers who are insanely peddling their way to the sky.  Those thunderstorms from eariler — well, they started coming fast and black clouds with lightening where in distance.  Mt. Elbert had to be getting killed.  Anyway, at the top you park, and then hike up about 300 feet to the final top.  Check out the baby mountain goat we saw at the top.