| Elbert Snow climb
Finally got a chance to upload some pics:
Decided last minute to climb Elbert again, this time with my Brother in-law for our last day here before heading back to NY. Kevin had been looking forward to climbing Elbert and after my ordeal on La Plata on Sunday, with a decent weather forecast, I thought this would be a bit less stressful...bad assumption. Nevertheless, it still was a great day, and although the weather threatened later on, skies were generally favorable. It seems as the day went on the snow was melting out and other routes on the south or easty side held less snow.
We departed a bit late figuring the weather would hold and any risk for T-storms was small and we got to the trailhead at 7:45AM to start at 8AM (we climbed Tues, 10/14); not only were we the only car there, but there weren't even any tire tracks on the road in the new snow, strange I thought (there were two trucks with hunters with spotting scopes set up looking for Elk-we had our orange on again). The silence in the morning was deafening, the new snow muffling any sounds-very cool actually and wonderful to just take it all in. The road to the trailhead was completely white with an inch or so of new snow, which looked quite nice, very drivable though.
I was a bit concerned when the outside thermometer on the truck read 13 degrees as I turned off 24 onto R300 towards the trailhead, a bit nippy. However, it warmed to a balmy 18 degrees as we got the trailhead, yipee. It was snowing lightly on the drive in, requiring some careful driving and Elbert and Massive were draped in a thick white (as was the road), which made it feel like January - Looked like Christmas. it was a bit intimidating with the cold weather. The first couple photos show Elbert from Route 11 in the morning and then one of the trailhead when we arrived.
So we start up the trail, which was covered in an inch of new powder from the start, which gradually increased to 4,5,6 then about 7-8 inches above treeline before the wind-driven drifts appeared, which scattered the snow to all sorts of depths as well as bare places in between the deep drifts.
Fairly uneventful until we got to a bit above treeline, when the amount of new snow on the slopes hit us as the skies started to clear and turn blue.
Wind was still calm which was nice. Elbert's summit was as white as a marshmallow from the base of the fasle summit up. Crampons became more necessary midway between treeline and the rise to the base of the false summit, where the snow we were on either had some ice underneath making it slippery or was on a steeper slope. This was partially due to the fact that we took a slightly steeper route on the northern slope, as the regular trail was not readily visible from where we were.
Kevin, my Brother inlaw did a great job today on his first climb in the snow and first attempt at a 14er (I know, real bad vacation timing with the conditions and recent storm, major bummer). After we went over some basic skills in crampons and axe use before the climb, he made it to about 13K, which all things considered today with the cold and snow depth was an awesome job!
After that point, the route became pretty hairy, the trail essentially vanishing into the snow, which again was up past the knees and in many cases up to my mid thighs as I postholed up the false summit. The couple pictures below where my axe is in convey some of the snow level before the summit and then on the northern flank of the false summit.
Luckily, there was very little wind up until this point, althouth there were some dark clouds moving in from the south and west and from the looks of them, dropping some intermittent snow over Massive and other peaks to the south as well, including La Plata, which, being completely white, looked stunning, very Himalayanesque. The southern slopes of Massive and other peaks to the north were nearly devoid of significant snow, while the peaks to the south had their Northern exposures covered, as the summit photos reveal below. This was interesting as Massive from the road (east side) was covered.
Ascending the false summit, I lost the trail and just went straight up, and towards the right, not the wisest decision, given the pretty steep slope, deeper snow and large boulders, (the spaces between them swallowing my legs), my axe plunging to the head with each step automatically belaying me as I struggled to get my legs out from the deep snow to make another step up (see photos below). I was climbing this section using my hands as well as it was steeper than the trail was, from recollection when I did it in the summer. After pausing two or thee times for a reality check to see if I could climb this safely, I made it to the plateau on top leading up the real summit.
The snow was blown off the false summit up to the base of the second bump then the true summit, revealing bare ground in many places. The views from the summit were incredible, really something else with the snow, the clouds, the falling snow and the shadows. Very cool! I had my obligatory summit Snickers and moved down quickly, wanting to beat any potential snow coming.
The area leading up to this point held quite a bit of snow, particularly around the actual route, which I finally located again on the descent. The snow here at least 3 feet and was up to my butt as I slowly made my way down, sliding and sinking, with the moderate exposure to the left made me a bit worried as I was literally half buried in the snow with each forward step, my axe leash tight to my wrist and my fist around the axe head was submerged into the snow with each plunge. Then it started snowing a bit, not very much but coupled with the wind that just started and the grey cloud the started to envelop the area, was a bit nerve wracking given my location and the inclination for gravity to take over at inconvenient times.
I finally made it down off the last ridge from the summit then past the false summit, then the snow was only knee deep, for a 1/4 mile or so before leveling out before treeline.
Interestingly, much of the snow had melted in the forest as I made my way back down with the exception of the first long switchback from the log foot bridge. Lots of squirrels incidentally around today.
I have new respect for Elbert today.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):