March 20/21, 2004:
My climbing partners were Mark
(San Francisco) and Mike
(Detroit) . And since I'm from Chicago, that makes us all lowlanders.
We spent the first night in Leadville to help acclimatize. Due to our late arrival, we didn't hit the Lakeview trailhead until 10:30am the next morning. Fortunately, the jeep road was open and we were able to drive in about a mile.
There were several days of unusually warm weather for March; 79 degrees in Denver and upper 50's in Leadville. That made the snow really slushy. We put on our snowshoes almost immediately. Even though the snow trail was well trodden, the snow was collapsing in quite a few places. It took us about 4 hours to reach tree line where we camped for the night.
We woke at first light, made some oatmeal and coffee and started for the summit by 7:30am. We maintained a slow, methodical pace the whole way, to help offset the effects of altitude. We brought our snowshoes with us, just in case, but didn't need them above tree line. There was plenty of snow in patches, but it was pretty well packed.
We reached the summit at 11am. The wind was gusting at about 30 MPH. (Not too bad.) The sky was crystal clear and we could see for 100 miles in all directions. The view of the surrounding peaks is awesome! We stayed about 20 minutes then headed back. We broke camp and got back to the trailhead at 3:30pm.
The Mt Elbert trail is a very easy but enjoyable hike. The only challenge for a lowlander like me is the altitude. Spending a day to acclimatize and taking a slow pace really helped.
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