Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Post Date:  11/25/2011
Date Climbed:   11/24/2011
Posted By:  griff410

 Elbert for Thanksgiving - NE Ridge   

Left Denver at 4 AM and made it to the trailhead around 6:30. The road to the trailhead was good but fairly icy about 2 miles in, went slow in 4WD Low. Snow started to stack up towards the trailhead so you'd need clearance to get all the way.

After getting all our gear together we hit the trail at 6:45 AM, it was a very calm and clear morning at 4° F with just enough light to go without headlamps. After checking out the first bit of trail and it was already broken and fairly packed snow, so we opted for microspikes and left the snowshoes in the SUV.

Trail at the Trailhead

The trail was good as you could tell someone had been on it recently so it was packed snow for the first mile or so and we hiked at a moderate pace. The sun finally showed itself at the turnoff of the Colorado Trail at 7:30.

Turnoff of CO Trail

From here the intensity and elevation started to increase as we moved closer to the treeline, the snow also started to become less packed so there was a bit of trudging but staying in previous tracks helped.

Trail just below the treeline

We made it above the treeline (12,000 ft) at 9:40 so just under 3 hours and attributed a bit of time loss to thicker snow in certain areas of the trees. From here on up we were on rock, scree, or ice with a few patches of snow blow here and there. The wind started to increase as we moved towards the 1st false summit.

Looking up towards the false summit

From here on it got very windy and the trail up the ridge was all covered in snow/ice. The microspikes helped big time here. As we made our way around and up the ridge it got really hairy in spots so we had to be very sure footed and glued to the mountain when a big gust of wind would come. After reaching the top of the false summit it was a mental battle to get to the top as our legs were shot, we had both done strenuous leg activity just 3 days earlier so I suggest being well rested before attempting this climb. We finally reached the summit at 1:30 PM (6 hrs 45 mins) and spent just enough time at the top to take a few pics then headed back down as it was very windy and cold.

Summit looking west

It took us 3.5 hours to get down which put us back at the vehicle at 5:00 PM, quite a day. This hike is not one to be taken lightly, it's the tallest in CO and 2nd highest in lower 48 for a reason, its tough. Also my GPS recorded our round trip route at 11 miles, 3 miles longer than the 8 mile trail route recorded here on this site. I believe my GPS to be accurate so that's something to consider as well.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Nice TR!     11/26/2011 03:51
Thanks for the trip report. I was looking for a hike in the next week or so and this may be a good one but perhaps a little on the long side. I think your GPS is right and confirmed with Dawson as he had 11.25 miles and 12 hours RT (this site has 9 miles). So you made pretty good time.



Sure Thing     11/26/2011 22:29
Yeah man it was a nice trip for sure, just be sure to check the weather for fresh snow, as I believe any fresh accumulation would call for snowshoes and making your start time need to be a bit earlier. Good luck and let me know how it turns out!



Box Couloirs     11/28/2011 18:51
Thinking about climbing via the Box Couloir route soon, skiing the couloir. You got a good picture of the couloir. Any comments on what the snow up there was like? Nice and fluffy, or icy hard pack? Also, was the snow continuous to the summmit from the top of the box cirque?


RE: Box Couloirs     11/28/2011 20:24
Well I was able to glissade down that area on the ridge just above the couloirs so it was pretty hard pack in that area. Along the interior of the bowl I assume there'd be more accumulation of fluffy though since it's just out of the blown area. I took note of that fairly closely as I had considered the snow route as one of my options before going up, but seeing it in person I was glad I didn't attempt it. It looks very challenging and is much steeper than it looks in the pictures. Not to say it's not doable but it would be tough. There were some rocks visible just down past the base of the couloirs so that told me their isn't much accumulation and may be more difficult to control speed on skis, depending on skill level of course.

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