We (Jeff, George, and myself) set out to do a "faux winter" climb of Mt. Elbert on November 28. Jeff lives in Denver and George flew in from Chicago. The astronomical winter is December 22-March 21, but the climatological winter is November 22-Feb 21 (coldest 1/3 of the year), so it would be fair to say that it was a "winter conditions" climb.
We left the South Elbert Trailhead at 1:30 PM and made 11,200 feet 3 hours later. We set up camp at this spot.
The morning was very warm, a near tropical 14F (-10C). Not bad for this high. I had carried a 70lb pack expecting much harsher conditions.
Snowshoes helped in the ascent, but an ice axe and crampons were not required. We had carried them anyway.
Jeff was the quickest of the bunch and reached the summit, back to camp, and to the trailhead in well under 7 hours. I took about 7 hours. George had to turn back at 13,900 feet because he wasn't acclimatized, he being from Chicago. Had he had more time for acclimatization, he certainly would have made it. He'll try again soon. It was pretty cold and windy on top, but not too bad. We were the only ones to sign the summit register in a month. Certainly others must have reached the summit within a month, and hadn't signed the register?
Elbert is much less crowded in the off season, and highly recommended. Overall, it is a very easy mountain (comparatively) to climb in winter, as long as conditions are good and you acclimatize.
im planning climb n early january to elbert and massive. i have little experience in winter conditions but id like to learn on these two since i hear they are technivally ok. what do you think? i have done 14ers before and im great shape and are well versed in winter hiking (for hunting) i