Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mount Elbert 6/10/2011

Total Mileage: 9 miles
Total elevation Gain: ~4700 feet
Starting Point Mt. Elbert Trailhead
Time: 6.5 hours
Party: Solo

(click to enlarge)

While Mount Elbert is considered one of the easier 14ers to climb in Colorado it also takes the prize of the tallest. It is also the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains and 2nd tallest peak in the lower 48 states. I had a perfect weather window and the day off from work to go climb this awesome peak.

I expected a lot of traffic on the trail but was not disappointed when I found very little. With record snowpack still on many of the mountains this may be a deterrent for the normal traffic that would be expected on Mount Elbert in June. The trail was clear except for the last 1/2 mile before treeline where mounds of snow turned into walls of snow.

Very distinct trail where it is clear of snow. Perhaps only surpassed by the Barr Trail on Pikes Peak.
Emerging from the trees.
The snowpack that still covers the trail right before treeline. 
Taken from the same spot this shows the route ahead. The summit is blocked from view here.
 With the trees and snow behind me the rest of the hike was straight forward. Just keep going up on the clear trail. Although clear and unavoidable I don't think it's a trail to be taken lightly. It does get quite steep at times and there are about three major false summits for your demoralizing pleasure.

The first of the false summits to come. Path actually curves around to the right at the top.
Mount Massive to the north taken at around 13000 feet. 
A lot of these guys bustling around the mountain. They're pretty brazen at times. 
Fruit snacks have become my constant companion on my hiking adventures now. I feel the cherry and peach flavors coursing through my veins giving me the energy to put one foot in front of the other. Before too long I reached the top of the final false summit to see the real summit of Mount Elbert a few hundred yards off.

The final push to the end.
I reached the top just as two skiers were getting ready to drop down. I troubled them for a couple pictures before they left. After that I had the summit to myself (not common on Elbert) for about 20 minutes.

Elk Mountain Range behind me.
La Plata Peak dead center. I climbed that one the previous week.
Sawatch Range to the south. 
Mount Massive to the North (pictured earlier at lower elevation)
Twin Lakes just south. 
La Plata Peak again right below my right ear.
I headed down and the descent went by very quickly. I tend to put my head down a lot when descending to ensure my footing and nearly walked right on top of this guy.

No way he's moving.
Within an hour I was back to the trees and snow and ended up getting a bit lost. My GPS had lost battery power so I had to just backtrack a bit and eventually I connected with the path down.

The path disappears under the snow right when you enter the cover of the trees. 
It took 3 hours and 45 minutes to summit and an hour less to descend back to the car. Total time of 6.5 hours which was pretty decent timing for me. I consider myself slightly less than average speed going uphill and faster than average going down.

This would be a new elevation record for me which I don't plan on braking for a while. A Mt. Kilimanjaro trip may be in the works for September 2012. Until then , 14,433 feet will stand as my p.r. Every hike this last month has excited me for the summer hiking to come.

One last parting picture.

Notes to Self:
-Keep batteries in my car or backpack
-Buy a Jeep Rubicon
-Be better at life

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