My first 14er - Mount Elbert via East Ridge at age of 73
Left Trailhead at 6:00 AM
Reached Summit at 1:00PM
Returned to TH at 7:00 PM
On September 19, 2013, I left my residence in Aurora and arrived at the Upper South Elbert Trailhead around 5:30 PM after driving up on a 4WD road. After parking my Jeep Cherokee about 100 feet away from the trailhead, I walked up the trail about 1000 yards to get familiar with it for a dark morning hike. After a sunset, I could do nothing except to start counting sheep over a fence. Since the temperature was about 35 degree F, I did not sleep soundly in a mummy bag due to an awkward position in a back seat of my vehicle, but the sleep was adequate all night. At 5 AM, I woke up and got ready for my longest and highest summit climb I would ever undertake all my life. Before that, I experienced two failed attempts to conquer Mount Elbert via Northeast Ridge in July and Quandary Peak in August, thanks to threatening clouds. At 6:00 AM, I got on the trail with my headlight. About 30 minutes or so later, the sun arose for another day.
My beloved Jeep Cherokee was parked about 100 feet away from the upper trailhead of South Elbert Trail.
With much excitement, I spotted Mount Elbert sprinkled with light snow right after leaving the tree line at about 11,300 feet. Had the mountain been capped with heavy snow, I would delay my dream until next summer. There was a true blueberry sky with no single cloud appearing. The weather was too perfect to be true after there were too many negative weather forecasts for any summer afternoon. That is something I had been waiting for so long since last July. At my age of 73, I thought that I must have a perfect weather since it would take me 12 hours for completing a round trip as long as 8 miles. I could not speed up my hiking strides. I don't know why, but I had to listen to my body carefully. Otherwise, I could fall sick with altitude sickness if I pushed my body too hard.
First view of Mt. Elbert while hiking through the woods
Before I started my solo hike, I was hoping that some souls would join me on the same trail. Unfortunately, I did not see anybody until I traveled above the tree line. I finally saw a middle-aged couple from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and after a while, two young men showed up. So five of us were on the same trail to my delight. While ascending to the summit, I was able to keep those hikers in my sight.
A morning fog over Twin Lakes
View of Mt. Elbert from 12,500 feet level
Trail past some boulders to the left
Over the big hill
Final push to the summit
While climbing, I kept hoping that I would be above 13,000 feet level successfully since my two previous attempts were aborted at that level. Once past 13,000 feet altitude, I was all excited about going to the next levels, 13,500 and 14,000 feet. Once I achieved those levels, I had only 433 feet left to reach the summit. The higher I climbed, the more snow was on the peak.
Near the summit
While approaching the peak, I could see some people on the summit cheer leading me to fulfill my longtime dream. Yes, yes, I finally got atop my world at 1:00 PM at the age of 73. About a dozen people greeted me. A nice lady from Cape Cod was so kind enough to be my photographer and she took several good shots of me. While staying on the summit for about 40 minutes, I enjoyed the views of the magnificent Rockies appearing around me. Since the weather was still perfect with no clouds in sight, I was in no hurry to start descending and returning to my vehicle.
Me finally at the summit
Showing off a victory sign
View of Mt. Massive in the center
View of the historic town of Leadville from the summit
a cliff hidden down.
Trail leading up to the summit
Good bye to the ole flag sitting on the summit
View of three lakes from the summit ( Mt. Elbert Forebay and Twin Lakes)
One of several cairns set up by man along the East Ridge trail to serve as a guide post
Trail leading back to the woods.
After I felt that I had spent enough time, I started descending on the same route all the way to the trailhead, almost solo. My Jeep finally came to my sight at 7:00 PM, 30 minutes before the sunset. My legs were about to quit, but I managed to get inside the vehicle. Then I was in a hurry to get my Jeep off the 4WD road and got to the lower trailhead. There I enjoyed a nap lasting one hour. After a wake up, I happily drove back home.
Well-defined trail leading down to the tree line not far away.
My Jeep waiting somewhere deep in the woods to welcome me home.
Thanks to God for my safe and successful summit climb to Colorado's highest mountain! Too bad that I could not find cloud 9 so I could float on it. I wholeheartedly agree that Mount Elbert is a gentle giant. I will always cherish the mountain as my first 14er. Hope to conquer at least 40 14ers before I become too old for a summit hike. Salute to the King of the Rockies!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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