| South Mt. Elbert via Bull Hill (SE Ridge)
First Trip Report
Route: Mt. Elbert via Bull Hill (variation of SE ridge) decend S. Mt. Elbert
Trailhead: Black Cloud Trailhead (9,700 ft.)
The trip started on Saturday, 8/18, when Mtn_Climber1 and I drove up from Denver and met Mtnbikir (and Daisy the dog!) in Dillon at Pug Ryans. After a few beers, we bought a couple growlers (Pali Pils and Kilt Lifter Scottish) and headed to Twin Lakes with a brief stop at the Leadville Safeway. The Black Cloud Trailhead is 10.5 miles west of the 24/82 junction on 82 and is easily missed just past the Twin Peaks Campground. On summitpost it says you can camp at the trailhead if you're broke. Well, we're not broke, we all have good jobs, we just don't believe in paying for camping if you don't have to. The area must have been private land before, because there were remnants of barbed wire fences. Because of that, don't set up in the dark. There were several other spots to camp at in the basic camping area but we were the only ones there. After studying all our maps and drinking all our beer (except for the victory 3), we were all asleep by 10:30pm.
We woke up at 4am, made some coffee and oatmeal and were on the trail by 5am. The sign for the trailhead is very pronounced and visible from the parking area.
With our headlamps on, we began our acsent. Mtn_Climber1 and me:
Shortly after crossing a stream at about 11k, we left the Black Cloud Trail and starting climbing up Bull Hill (13,761). This is route 3V2 in Roach's book. At this point the scenary began to become especially spectacular with amazing views (I believe La Plata Pk.?) to the south.
We came up to a sweet abondoned shack and took our first break.
We continued up a difficult, steep ridge until we summited Bull Hill at 9am. From Bull Hill we had a great view of Elbert and S. Elbert.
We decended NE from Bull Hill to the saddle (13,340) between it and Elbert. Bull Hill from the Saddle:
Elbert from the saddle:
We reached the saddle at about 10am and it was at this time we started seeing some serious clouds start to move in. They were mostly gray and there was no lightning or thunder, but we could see some black in the distance. We decided we would keep going and keep a close eye on the skies.
We reached the saddle between Elbert and S. Elbert (13,900) at 11, and we had to decide whether to attempt to summit Elbert or retreat back via S. Elbert. It was at this point we saw our first and only people of the entire hike. The clouds were moving faster and becomming increasingly darker, so we decided to call it and began our accent up to South Mt. Elbert (14,134).
We reached South Mt. Elbert's summit at 11:30am. Daisy on top of S. Mt. Elbert:
Mtnbikir on top of S. Elbert with Elbert behind:
Me with Elbert behind me:
As you can see, the clouds were getting darker by the minute and we could see rain coming in the distance. We stayed at the summit for a mere 5 minutes before we decended.
Only a few minutes later the rain came. It was light, but we put on all our rain gear anyway. We decended about 1,000 ft. when we looked back at S. Elbert and saw beautiful blue-bird skies with only a few white clouds.
We were a little disappointed that the storms blew over that quickly and we could have safely summited Elbert, but we were glad we were safe and knew we made the right decision at the time.
Mtn_Climber1 made a wrong turn coming down S. Elbert into some scree. Mtnbikir found the trail way before the two of us did. If you look closely, you can see me in the skree field just left of center in the lower 25% of the pic:
We all eventually found the trail and made our way down to treeline.
Except for Mtn_Climber1 who brought a gallon, we ran out of water shortly before treeline, but there were plenty of stream crossings to refill from using some iodine tablets.
We finally got back to our campsite at about 3:30 after 10.5 hours on the mountains. We had our final three beers (Skinny Dip), took down camp and caught some excellent Mexican food and margaritas in Leadville.
So didn't accomplish our ultimate goal of summiting the Rocky's highest point, but we had an awesome hike and got two summits in the process. We had spectacular views the whole time, complete solitude (except for a brief encounter with two others on the Elbert/S. Elbert saddle) and good times all around. All in all, our Southern "Tour De Elbert" was a success.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):