On the evening of Friday, December 3rd, 2004, Eric, Drew and I left the Colorado Christian University campus for the Mount Elbert North Halfmoon Trailhead. After steak in Leadville, we actually made it to the summer North Halfmoon Creek parking lot in Eric’s trusty Nissan Pathfinder.
We slept the night in a tent less than 20 yards from the Pathfinder. Just before sunrise, we woke up, loaded our packs, and headed up the trail. Lacking snowshoes, we took turns breaking the trail through the shin deep snow. However, the snow soon became knee deep and Drew became more eager; Eric and I let him break the trail.
After spending considerable time without a trail below tree-line, we decided to check the maps to make sure we were on track to hit the Northeast ridge. Sure enough, we were, and we soon began the long trek up the summit ridge. Several false summits let us down, but we continued on anyway. The ridge was quite wind-scoured, making rock stepping tedious. We would’ve preferred a snow-covered ridge.
Finally, we reached the final push towards the summit. The summit offered incredible views of Mount Massive, La Plata, and powder-filled bowls. Once on top, we took a few minutes to rest and eat lunch. It was about 2:30 PM when we headed down the mountain, and we barely made it before dark.
The round trip took almost exactly 10 hours. This was a great first climb of Colorado’s highest mountain. We were thrilled to have the mountain to ourselves – that’s the advantage of climbing in the winter! The three of us have climbs (mostly fourteeners) planned for all winter and spring, and Mount Elbert was a good introduction to a season of adventure in the mountains!