Mount Elbert (14,433′)

Adventures4 Comments

Distance 8.56 miles
Moving Time 3 hr 56 min
Summit Elevation 14,433 feet
Elevation Gain 5,121 feet
Route South Mount Elbert Trail

A peak a week? We will see. Family is still out of town. Time for another one. A couple issues before I went. My blisters are healed up to the point where they don’t ooze. So I walked around the block in my boots and it felt like knives in my ankles. I went back to REI and told them those boots sucked and they let me exchange my 1 time worn boots in for another pair. Full price. REI rules. Second, the weather has me on edge. It definitely didn’t look good for a Sunday climb so I waited until this morning.

I woke up at 2 AM after going to bed at 8:30 or so. God that’s hard to go to bed that early. I checked the Doppler weather thing and it showed ZERO green on it for Colorado. Great. Let’s go. I left at about 2:30. I hit the Eisenhower Tunnel (which is about 1/2 way there) and hour plus later and it was dumping rain. Like nearly pull over and wait rain. Screw you Doppler. You suck. I almost turned around but I remembered B2’s words of wisdom — the only way to know the weather at the trail is to go to the trail. And what else did I have to do anyway? Carry on.

I got into Leadville around 5 AM and grabbed some gas so I had a full tank. Then proceeded to the South Elbert Trailhead. The trailhead is kinda hidden but I remembered it from my failed attempt with Ben a few years ago. Hence, why this mountain must be conquered.

The trail was dark and wet. Kinda fun to fire up all the lights on the Hummer and drive a few miles up the rocks and dirt. Those with passenger cars were walking up the trail and quickly moved to the side so the beast could come by. On the prior attempt at Elbert, I had my Ford truck. It did the job but I was wanting the H2 around that time. And on that prior attempt, when we got to the parking area, there was a cool H2 sitting there. Then I knew I had to get that truck.

Anyway, now I get my feet all taped and lubed up and I am ready to go. Its minutes before 6 AM. I woke up at 2 AM. How the hell did all that take 4 hours? Long drive, let dogs out, get gas, 4WD drive road. You just can’t leave early enough. The goods news is that its decently light out so I don’t need to take lights. Less weight.

It was still darker in the trees on the way up so I took this shot on the way down. The first 30-45 minutes is brutal. The first 30 minutes of a climb always sucks anyways. You get your heart going, adjust your breathing, sweat like crazy, etc. However, this trail is like straight up through these woods. You find yourself grabbing on trees to pull up. Probably not a good visualization in the picture but its kinda brutal.


Ben and I never made it out of the trees. Can’t wait to be out! Made it.


Elbert had a long stretch of tundra you had to traverse. It was nice. Hiking on rock the whole way up gets old. Notice the clouds are forming.


Time for the final 1,500 feet. Getting into rock now. Took this shot on the way down so you could see it with people in it.


At approximately 8:30 AM, I made it to the summit of Colorado’s tallest mountain at 14,433 feet!


The GPS is always off about 15-30 feet because of that government interference stuff but it looks close enough. For this moment, I am the highest thing in Colorado!


I was on top talking with some South African dudes for about 15 minutes — then came the hail. The temperature dropped about 20 degrees in seconds. Had to put on my coat and gloves and hat. Time to go down! Lightening is the #1 killer of people summiting mountains in Colorado.


While going down, I noticed the folks still going to the top along the north ridge route. See them? Look for the little dots on top of the ridge.


Its amazing that going back downhill only takes 45 minutes less than going up — and going up takes so much more energy! 2 hours and soaking wet later, my favorite sight!


On the way out, I took one last stop to say goodbye. Elbert is over on the right in clouds. The high mountain on the left is South Mount Elbert. Same mountain. Its over 14K feet but since its connected to the other peak, its not its own summit.


Another 14ner done! I have a few more picked out. Maybe I can fit them in this summer. The trails I did this past week are considered technically in the “easy” category. Never easy but I wasn’t crawling across rock worried about falling to my death. That comes on the harder ones. I am going to knock off more easy ones first then step it up.

Link to the rest of my pictures.

Link to my GPS information. How cool is that! That’s from my watch. Then I used that site to export to Google Earth. You can import the route yourself if you have Google Earth. Then click Play in Google Earth and follow the trail. Pretty cool.