We headed up to Mt Elbert over Memorial Day Weekend. We weren't sure what we were getting into in terms of snow so we were prepared for a full 12 mile hike from the Lakeview Campground where we were camping. It turned out to be our lucky weekend as the 4WD road was clear all the way up to the South Elbert Trailhead. We got to that trailhead before 7am and were the only vehicles up there. It was our Forester XT's first 4WD road (only got her 2 weeks ago) and there was no clearance issues at all.
We started out on the Colorado Trail which was deceptively easy. Before long we veered left and up the real 14er trail…immediate climbing. It may have been 36 degrees when we left the car but layers were stripped off in the first half mile of the hike. I spent the majority of the hike in capris, gaiters, a long sleeve base and a t-shirt. Depending upon the wind I’d alternate between a light zip up and my windbreaker, or neither.
Hiking up Elbert above tree line
The weather was perfect, the skies were beautiful, the animals were out and we were all in good spirits. We took our time with the hike averaging about a mile an hour. It was comfortable, it was fun and we had plenty of time to snack our way through our packs.
Panoramic before we hit snow
We knew this was going to be a rather snowy climb so we were prepared…at least in the gear department. We had waterproof shoes, gaiters and cold weather layers. We were ready. Well, I thought I was anyway. Climbing straight up hill in snow is not that much fun. Its actually kind of hard and rather discouraging.
The incline in the snow
But we did summit! And the summit was perfect - nearly wind-free!
As soon as we had all fed our faces and took approximately 359 photos each we strapped on our spikes and headed down the mountain. Personally, I don’t think the spikes helped to much. I didn’t have the hardcore MicroSpikes like the others did but the snow was melting and slushy enough to just dig your heels into on the way down. Besides, everything below about 12,500 or so was mostly snow-free so spikes definitely were not needed there.
Hiking down between the snow and treeline
Usually the hike down sounds far more awesome than it is. You’d think downhill would be easier. Its not. It does a serious number on your knees and quads. Any remotely flat ground becomes the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen, just because it gives you a minute or two to recovery. But this hike was different. There was snow. A snow covered slope has some advantages on the way down…like glissading.
On the hike down we met two people hiking up with boards/skis - it was later in the day so I'm not sure how high quality their ride down was, but there was quite a bit of snow...enough that we were jealous of the guy with a snowboard!
Sliding down Mt Elbert
You can find more photos and a full recap here.