| Mt. Elbert - East Ridge
A few opening comments:
1. This was my first 14er, so hopefully my commentary, as viewed through first-timers eyes, will prove to be of some value to you all
2. I greatly appreciated all who posted before me. You trip reports proved to be a great resource and greatly reduced any anxiety that I had, so thank you. I guess you could say I'm paying it forward to my fellow citizens that will be hiking the mountain this coming Memorial Day weekend!
We started at the TH from the main campground parking lot at 7am. The first important point to note is we could have driven -- with a standard 2WD -- all the way up the dirt road, shaving about 1.8 miles each way from our trip.
Also important to note: there are a few ways to start this trip. There is a sign pointing to the Colorado Divide trail, which I believe was a few steps off of the parking lot. You are welcome to take this route -- it meets up with the dirt road I mentioned above, only of course, it is not as easy hiking as the dirt road. I mention because it was the source of some confusion, and you don't want to start the day wondering if you took the right road!!
The temp at start time was about 30 degrees. This will change daily of course - the piece of information that I found valuable was that temps rise about 4 degrees every 1,000 feet. Because we were hiking off of the east ridge, we caught the sun early in our ascent, which more than offset the rising temps. The temps continued to rise thought the day, and although there was some wind that required a wind breaker layer as we broke the tree line, by day's end, we were down to t-shirts. As I understand, the weather is unseasonably warm for this time of the year. The temp and the mild spring had an impact throughout the day, notably, as we only crossed a few snow patches. I would recommend bringing gaiters for these few areas. Snow shoes strike me as not being worth the efforts of carrying / putting on, etc. for just a few patches.
The total trip time was about 10 hours, for the full 11.2 miles. I'm quite sure a more experienced climber would shave hours from this time. Not to mention parking further up the dirt road as mentioned above. It took a little over six hours to ascend, we took a break at the summit, and about three hours to descend. The trail is well marked for the most part. The unclearly marked sections were mostly around the snow patches. What I would say is you mostly need to go straight across (vs. uphill) through all snow patches. I would also keep a lookout for man-made rock piles as trail indicators in these areas.
I've read about false summits. I've learned to dislike these two English words. I must say however, from the east ridge trail there really are not any false summits...what you see is what you hike!!