| Mt. Elbert via South Mt. Elbert trail
Took a group of 10 (five men, five youngsters 11-14) to climb Mt. Elbert on Sat. 8/13/05. We camped Fri. night at Lakeview campground just below the South Mt. Elbert trail.
We left camp at 5 am and drove to the end of the 4WD road, hitting the trail at 5:30. We managed to find our way to the south Mt. Elbert trail in about 20 min. I was surprised at how steep the trail was so early in the hike, and so were our guests. 6 of the 10 had never climbed a 14er before, and two had climbed only Grays/Torreys.
It was a beautiful hike through aspens, with abundant wild flowers. The skies were surprisingly clear in the am. We finally reached treeline and enjoyed our 1st long break, about 15 min.
From treeline to summit we had to stop several times, as the newbies were struggling with the climbing and altitude. Finally, after an extended rest at 13,000 ft. I announced that it was "every man for himself" to the summit, as I was concerned about the clouds building up from the southwest.
5 of us reached the summit together, about 4 hrs. after our start. This was my 9th fourteener summit -- all this season! Same for my 11-yr. old son. We enjoyed the wonderful views. I was surprised to see 4 of the remaining 5 in our group reach the summit over the next hour. The final member of our group stopped just 400 ft. from the summit with altitude sickness including a horrible headache.
By this time the clouds were increasing and getting darker. We could hear thunder from the south. The collegiate peaks were largely obscured by thunderstorms there. I encouraged my group to get going and we ran down the mountain, returning to the trialhead in just over 2 hrs. We heard thunder most of the way down, but had very little rain fall on us. The storms kept passing us to the south, to our relief.
This was a wonderful hike for a group of beginners, but the 4,000 ft. elevation gain was a bit much for some -- but hey they made it, didnt they? The youngest climber was an 11-yr. old girl and she was awesome -- never a complaint and she claimed to be ready for another at the end of the day.
By the way, the "4WD road" was not bad at all -- should be no problem for 2WD vehicles with higher clearance. I never slipped it into 4WD the entire way.