| Solitude on Elbert?
As a resident of Leadville, I seen get to see Mt Elbert on a daily basis; however I hadn’t gotten around to climbing it, which I thought was pretty much inexcusable. I have heard many times that this mountain is nothing spectacular despite being the tallest in Colorado as it is merely a walk up from pretty much any way you attempt it. It has also been a goal of mine to watch a sunrise from the top of a 14er. A recent thread about night hiking and my delinquency in climbing a mountain so close to my home inspired me to try to make it up Elbert and watch my first sunrise atop a significant peak. Sounds like fun to me!
With my previous climbing I calculated that it would take me about 4 hours to summit and considering sunrise was set to occur at 5:30am, that meant a bright and early start at 1:30… not really the most exciting prospect, but at least I’m only 7 miles from the trail head.
I left the trail head right at 1:30 as planned and began the long hike up Elbert. I had heard that the snow conditions were pretty favorable with an exception of the .5 miles prior to tree line, which were a post hole disaster. As I approached tree line, I saw what they were talking about, I was lucky enough to be able to avoid most of the post holes in the morning as it was fairly chilly and the snow held my weight. In my opinion, gators are a must for this section as I post holed occasionally in the morning and a ton on the decent. I was also surprised to meet a nice couple who had started at 12:45, I expected to be solo the whole time and it was nice to chat a bit and get a bit of advice about the trail location. Keeping on the trail is quite hard through this area as the trail is basically buried in varying levels of snow. Once above tree line I located the trail and continued up. I’ll tell you one thing, for a walk up, Elbert never quit! As this was my first 14er of the year, my legs were not all there and started cramping up a bit near the crux that Roach describes. This lead to many short sitting breaks which were enough to keep my legs going. As I proceeded higher, time was running short as the sky was getting more and more bright… it seemed every time that I thought I was almost there, the next ridge was more than I expected! All in all I made it up to the final ridge as the sun rose at 5:35ish; however the cloud cover was not all that favorable for an amazing sunrise AND a brief snow squall passed right about the time the sun rose, obscuring my view. I continued on to the summit and signed the register and rested very briefly. The weather wasn’t looking all that great despite the early hour. I did get to see some very cool cloud movements and got some pretty neat shots of the sun interacting with the cloud cover (a few pictures are shown below), so despite the less than ideal sunrise, the experience was pretty awesome! I'm not sure many people can say they had Elbert basically to themselves, but with the exception of the couple (which I didnt see again after the initial meeting), I had the peak to myself! Overall, I really enjoyed this hike despite the less than ideal weather
Trail sign at the splitoff from the Colorado Trail.
Near sunrise over the Mosquitos.
Looking out toward Pikes Peak.
Looking down the Arkansas river valley.
Looking over at Mt Massive.
Some cool clouds as a storm passed over.
Good ole Elbert!
There were multiple people looking to see the current conditions, so as I descended I shoot a few pictures to show what is present.
This picture reflects the snow/dry mix that is present in some places nearing tree line.
These next two are a few of the snow conditions near tree line.
The next two pictures are the sparse snow cover that is present on the northeast ridge proper.
And the last one is the final ridge.
Thanks for taking the time to read! Happy trails everyone!