Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mt. Elbert - Northeast Route

At the end of my two week 2008 trip to Colorado I took a day to add another 14er to my list. The goal this time was Mt. Elbert (14,433 feet), the highest point in Colorado and the second highest in the lower 48. There are a couple of routes to Mt. Elbert summit and we chose, for distance and ease of access to the trailhead.

This is what the northeast ridge looks like just off the main road outside of big deal, right?

We set up camp at the trailhead (10,000 feet), with plans to hit the trail before sun-up.

When we woke we found temps in the low 30s and frost on the windshield of the vehicle. A quick cup of coffee and a granola we were first on the trail. To reduce weight I left the DSLR in the vehicle and carried only my small, palm-sized video camera.

It was just getting daylight when we hit tree-line and it was a short distance to the first of the (infamous) false summits. The view from the first false summit, looking north toward Mt. Massive - there was a small herd of elk over there somewhere.

I don't remember if there were three or four of the false summits, it didn't matter, it was a brutal hike. Another false summit!

4.5 miles and over 4,000 feet in elevation gain later and we were on the summit, but not until we met an unexpected traveler a couple hundred yards from the summit. From a distance, I recognized another WVU hat coming up the east ridge route. What a small world, 2,000 miles from home and we run into a fellow mountaineer near the summit of Mt. Elbert.

The summit benchmark:

#1 of Colorado's 14ers!

Gratuitous summit shot:

The views from the summit were amazing as we were surrounded by the other 14ers of the Sawatch Range.

Mt. Massive (14,421)

La Plata Peak (14,336)

To the west  - Elk Mountains and seven more 14ers

This would be my second 14er summit, with my first being Greys, and I would gladly do Greys twice before I do this route again! Hiking down, particularly below treeline, is when you realize just how steep the ascent was - good thing it was dark as we climbed through treeline.

This was my hiking/fishing partner's first 14er, I think he was glad it was over.

What a great way to finish up a great Colorado fishing adventure (6 salmonid species) with a very demanding physical challenge.


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