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939 Mount Elbert - '14 2014-07-02

Flowers and clouds line the Northeast Ridge of Mount Elbert

Monday, we left Rocky Mountain National Park and after stopping a few times to shop for specific gear, we made our way toward Leadville, Colorado. Near town we chose a familiar campsite at Turquoise Lake and then went to town for dinner and then back to the campsite for an early bed.

Tuesday, we arose to a cloudy morning. There was a low chance of rain, so despite the clouds, we headed toward the North Mount Elbert Trailhead. At 0550 we left the trailhead (10,040 feet) on the Northeast Ridge route and headed up the familiar slopes. We didn't have to walk very far before we remember why we came. We had to climb to reach the summit. In fact, we had to climb 4700 feet in 4.5 miles! Ah, but the route is on a mostly good trail.

This was our first trip of the season above 14000 feet and we could feel it. Panting, we slowed our pace and played like snails as we climbed.

Climbing the steep trail through the clouds

To slow us further, the clouds distracted us as the shades of white and gray crossed the ridge. Then, there were the beautiful flowers, marmots, pica, and ptarmigan that gave us more reasons to stop and watch or photograph.

Looking at clouds across the summit of Mount Elbert

As we reached the summit the clouds lifted giving us good views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

To add a little pizazz to the day, we descended the East Ridge. It too was a fun route, but added to the daily mileage.

descending the East Ridge Route toward Twin Lakes and the reservoir.

At the junction with the Colorado Trail, we turned north and returned to the North Elbert Trailhead.

It was a good long day. We met a few other hikers and had fun sharing the mountain and trails with them.

Elbert is the highest mountain in Colorado. For many hikers, it is the only 14,000 feet peak they will ever climb. The Northeast Ridge and the East Ridge routes are not technically difficult, but the steep slopes and thin air make for a big adventure for most hikers. Of course, we saw a couple of trail runners climbing and descending the mountain, that were not breathing hard or sweating! Oh, well.

Happy Elbert trails


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