Getting High In Colorado

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 39.11741°N / 106.44525°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 9, 2010
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer

Elbert – Northeast Ridge

I began planning my Mt. Elbert trip about 6 months ago. (I had just started a new job and had to put 6 months in before I could take any vacation) I left work on Friday afternoon, flew Southwest Airlines to Denver, and then immediately headed to the mountains upon arrival. I met up with a friend who was in Colorado for the Copper Triangle bike ride that next day. Once she finished the ride, we headed for Leadville.

Elbert & Massive

Since I’m a flatlander (Dallas, TX) we decided to do a drive up of Mt. Evans on Sunday. Mt. Evans was absolutely beautiful. We did the short ¼ mile hike from the parking lot to the actual summit, spent about 30 minutes with no problems. On Monday, we hiked Mt. Sherman for acclimatization purposes. All went well there too. (Separate trip report)

After we finished Sherman, we headed to Elbert Creek campground, in hopes of getting camping spot #9. We got there too late and all of the good spots were taken. We decided to go back up the road to a spot we had seen outside the campground area. This spot ended up being pretty nice. It had a covered fire pit and was right next to the creek. There were no other tents anywhere near us.
Camping Along Halfmoon Creek
We set up camp, had dinner, and prepared our packs for the next day’s hike. The tent (an REI Mountain 3) worked out well since the night time temperature was in the mid 30’s. The sky was moonless but was lit up by the millions of stars that were visible. Despite perfect conditions, I didn’t sleep much. I guess I was anticipating the hike.

We got up at 4:00 the next morning and made coffee and hot breakfast by headlamp. We got to the trailhead and started the hike at 5:00. There was a pretty big group of guys leaving at the same time so we all took off together.

The trail is very easy to follow as it gradually gains altitude on the switchbacks through the forest. At dawn, we could see Leadville through a break in the trees.
In the dark
The first 2 miles passed very quickly, probably due to hiking in the dark. At about 3 miles, we reached tree line and removed our outer layers. We quickly realized we had removed our layers too soon. It was windy and cold on the bare mountain. We made another stop to put our layers back on. We kept them on for the entire time we were above tree line.

With 2000 vertical feet and less than 1.5 miles to go, we realized it was going to be steep hiking from here. We just kept a slow, steady pace and made good progress. The trail was still very easy to follow as it’s wide and very well worn.
First False Summit
After a boulder field and a few false summits, the summit ridge appeared. It was a short walk across the ridge to the summit.
On Top

This was my 3rd 14’er and probably one of my easiest climbs. We spent about half hour on the summit taking pictures, eating a snack and chatting with other hikers. We even made a geocache find while up there. The ascent took just under 4 hours.

On the way down, we stopped to chat with many hikers. We got back down to tree line and removed our layers. The hike through the woods seemed to take way longer than it should have but we finally made it back to the trail head by 1.
I was surprised to see that some people were just starting their hike this late in the day.

To sum up the day.... it was perfect. The weather was sunny and cool, but most of all it was dry. I had expected to only see a few other hikers on a mid-week hike but we passed probably 40 hikers on the way down. This was my 13th state high point and by far my favorite!


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