My first 14er!
After driving through the night, we arrived from Tulsa (elevation 660') to Leadville at 6am local time on Friday morning. The 10,100' elevation was apparent from the minute we stepped out of the car. We quickly discovered that there was no place open to unwind from the long car ride and enjoy a warm breakfast. We unloaded and found an unofficial campsite just west of Elbert Creek Campground site #8. The campground is clean, has vaulted toilets, and a hand-pump for ice cold well water. Its also directly across the road from the Elbert-North Trailhead.
South side of Elbert Creek Campground
Saturday morning we got up and hit the trail at 6am. Altitude hit us fairly hard from the start; the air didn't even taste the same as Oklahoma air. Many hikers were easily passing us. I jogger even passed us near 11,000' and met us again on his way back down as we breached the treeline. Needless to say, we pushed on.
Leaving the treeline
After the first and second false peaks I began to actually have doubts of making it to the top. It felt like each deep breath I took was only taking in about 1/3 of the oxygen I normally would. The lactic acid was building in my legs and my right quad started to cramp. I unhitched my pack, consumed some electrolytes and water, and took several hits off my portable mini-o2 can that I brought along. The leg pain reduced and I started up the steep part around 13,200'.
Standing in front of false summit
Finally the summit came into view. I got a huge burst of adrenaline (my second wind) and pushed quickly forward about 20steps before I realized all my energy had been depleted. Back to taking it step by step. After I reached the top I felt amazing. I stayed on the summit enjoying my accomplishment and the sheer beauty of the view. The summit was rather crowded with people and many dogs of different types.
dog playing in the last bit of snow on south side of summit
After about 30minutes on top, I headed back down. Once I got used to the footing on the way down, I realized how much easier this side of the hike was. I stopped once on the way down to hydrate and enjoy a Cliff bar.
The next day I felt like I was in a gang-fight, but I had been the only member of my gang to show up. I was walking like a 90year old man and it hurt to even roll over in bed. Chalk it up to the pains of success.
Proof (for my wife) that I actually made it to the top
One word of caution is that mosquitos were EVERYWHERE. I think I even slapped at a few on the summit. The nights were still chilly (around 40degrees), but daytime was warming up (68-70) just enough for mosquitos to be in full force. Bring your bugspray.
My other word of caution is to be prepared for the wind. On top all was fine, but coming down the wind was so powerful that I actually thought it might blow me over. Bring a wind jacket and some chapstick.
Enjoying the view