From Halfmoon Creek TH
Sunday July 17, 2005
I was camping at Molly Brown campground at Turquoise Lake and my watch alarm sounded at 4:00AM. I made ready my day pack and had a quick hot oatmeal breakfast. I was on the road at 4:30 under a starry sky and drove around lost for a little bit in the dark until I got straightened-out and on CR 11 where I was soon heading into the forest along Halfmoon Creek. The sun was starting to rise as I arrived at the Mt Elbert trailhead.
Many cars were at the parking lot and many people had spent the night as they were waking when I arrived. I started up the trail at 5:35 having lost a bit of time after being lost. Anyway……..the trail heads straight out less than 100 yards where I then turned left on the Colorado Trail and proceeded on an excellent trail through a nice forest. I crossed a bridge over a clear creek and then climbed a few switchbacks as the trail progresses and the ascent is mostly gradual as I made my way turning right at the broken sign leading to Mt Elbert.
The trail continues to climb more steeply now and the forest remains quite heavy. Although there were many cars in the trailhead parking lot I had not seen a single person the entire way so far. A few more switchbacks nearing tree line and then the trail levels-out in a clearing with a large downed tree. I passed two guys here and through the remaining trees I could now see the open trail heading up a long switchback beyond tree line.
I rested briefly and then started up the trail as it rises above tree line the sun was now rising above the trees and showed a very green, lush, ascent with many wild flowers of all colors and sizes. Every step of the way was quite beautiful as I climbed the long initial traverse and then it switches back the opposite way as it continues to climb up to a grassy ridge area where the trail turns right, levels-out and the view from this vantage point back to the east shows Twin Lakes, Leadville, and Turquoise Lake to the north. The trail then begins to climb to a much rockier trail as it heads up along the right side of the ridge and becomes quite a bit steeper here. From here I could see Mt Massive directly to the right and the Mt Elbert summit ridge coming up on the left.
The early morning weather was starting to turn windy and a rather large storm cloud was rushing in from the west right between Mt Elbert and Mt Massive, there was a magnificent, thick, rainbow from the Mt Elbert summit ridge all the way down into the deep green valley far below as sleet and rain began to fall and the temperatures dropped drastically. I added another layer, my rain gear, fleece hat, and gloves as the wind was driving the sleet and rain directly into my face as I proceeded up the rocky switchbacks leading to a false summit.
I was really starting to get concerned about the weather as I was extremely exposed in this area and I thought of what a drag it would be to be turned-back so near to the summit. The wind continued out of the west but the precipitation was tapering-off and the large cloud was now directly overhead blocking the sun entirely and making it feel even colder. I rested at a small level section just below what I thought was the summit as the trail climbs steeply on a number of short switchbacks where the rain stopped. Upon reaching this last false summit I could now see the true summit ridge ahead and climbed up the last section fairly quickly and reached the summit at 8:23.
There were four people on top who had all hiked-up from the Twin Lakes TH. The sun was blocked by the clouds; the cold wind continued to blow from the west and kept the temps low. I enjoyed the spectacular views in all directions as many other 14’ers are in clear view from this summit. I took many photos and rested until 8:50 then started back down. I couldn’t get over what a beautiful summit this is with wild flowers nearly all the way up to the summit and very green. The summit was now filling with lots more people as I was leaving.
I took my time heading back down and took many more photos along the way. The weather was now improving rapidly and I stopped to “peel” down into my short clothes again as the sun was now out and the temps were steadily climbing. Lots of people were now heading up as I was going down and it was getting a bit crowded as I had to pause to let people pass. By the time I got back down to the forest and back down to the creek it was downright hot and I stopped to dip my hat and bandana in the cold water and place them back on my head and neck for a nice relief as I made my way the short distance back to the TH at 10:56.
I found this to be a most beautiful hike from start to finish and other than some early morning sleet & rain I totally enjoyed the whole experience. My 14th 14’er and another beautiful Colorado morning. Sweet!!