Mount Elbert

Date to Climb: July 18, 2009

Date Climbed: July 06, 2009

Elevation: 14,433

Range: Sawatch

Latitude: 39.11770, Longitude: -106.44530

Route: Northeast Ridge ll, Class 1

Round-Trip Mileage: 9

Pre-Climb Comments

We did the Southeast Ridge a few years ago. The climb was easy and quiet, but when we got to the summit a royal zoo was awaiting us. Maybe with an early start we will beat the heat and mobs to the top. Elbert is a pretty lackluster peak to be the highest in the Rockies. I guess the attraction to Elbert's height keeps some of the crowds away from the nicer mountains. It can stay highest as far as we care. If it wasn't on the list we probably would not be doing it again.

Post-Climb Comments

We left the Twin Peaks Campground at 5:30 heading toward the Mount Elbert Trailhead. It was about a twenty-five mile drive. Jake was coming with us. He wanted to climb the highest mountain in Colorado.

Compared to the Southeast Ridge, the Northeast Ridge is more direct and is therefore steeper. The Northeast Ridge is the more popular route. The one thing it really has going for it is the trailhead. There is no 4WD advantage, everyone starts at the same location. Those with the 4WD legs who are used to driving halfway up the mountain, are forced to walk the full way.

Leaving the trailhead, the path joined the Colorado Trail and continued for a mile. We woke up our legs on the even stroll and then turned onto the North Elbert Trail. The trail went straight toward the summit finding the least line of resistance. Roach called for switchbacks, but all we could find was a beeline heading up (okay there were a few switchbacks higher on the trail, but it was not even as steep there.)

Jake on Elbert

Jake nearing tree line on Mount Elbert

Breaking out of tree line we took our traditional break. Instead of losing layers, we donned our wind jackets. From the trees, the trail switchbacked through the tundra to gain the ridge. The grade was much easier than below. Soon we began to pass hikers. A father and son from Houston, had just flown in and began hiking. They were having trouble. We couldn't figure why they seemed so ill prepared and why in the world they would even be trying to summit without acclimating? At best they would summit but have a miserable experience, at worst they would not summit, have a miserable experience, and get caught in really bad weather. Come on guys, is out there and waiting to help you. Follow the advice.

We reached the summit in three hours. Luckily we almost had it by ourselves. We don't mind sharing summits, but we are not into celebrations larger than the climb itself. Quietly, we look around, take a few pictures to prove our summit, and head back down.

Mount Elbert

From Mount Elbert summit toward La Plata

On the way down, there was a line of hikers trying for the summit. A group of college age boys were practically running toward the top. Others were having trouble trying just trying to keep moving. The father and son from Houston were just a hundred and fifty feet (elevation) from the top, but were ready to call it quits. We gave them details of the remaining route and lots of encouragement. They continued, but the boy seemed wrapped in the desolation of the moment. We hope they made the summit.

We thought going up was steep, but going down felt even steeper. When the grade is too high we have to work too hard just to stay in control and prevent too much feet-pounding while heading downhill. We moved as quickly and safely as possible, still making it to the trailhead in a couple of hours, for a roundtrip of five hours.

Jake enjoyed the hike except there was not much water after leaving the Colorado Trail. He did get to play in the snow and drink from our water supply, to keep him cool and hydrated.

The Northeast Ridge trail was fun and did not have a 4WD road. It was a quick route to the summit.

Mount Elbert - July 06, 2009 summit check