Mt. Elbert's Northeast Ridge route is definitely one of my favorites. Challenging, yet achievable with effort. My wife and 10-year-old son and I took our two dogs up it this past weekend. We got started at 5:30, right at sunrise, because of the questionable forecast for scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon.
We were thrown for a bit of a loop right off the bat with the missing sign at the first junction and pretty much took a guess that the route to the left was correct. Not until about a mile later were we put to ease by the very obvious "Mt Elbert Trail" sign at the next junction.
Now, the weekend prior, we had hiked the Bierstadt West Slopes route, which is rated Class 2. So, since this route is rated Class 1, we thought it would be easier. Not really the case. One of the two routes is incorrectly rated, because the Mt Elbert Nortwest Ridge route is much steeper and more rugged than the standard Bierstadt route in my opinion.
Anyway, the route was very enjoyable and had great views even below tree line. At about 13,000 feet we lost track of the trail a little in the rocky terrain, but realized our error and corrected in short time. The wind picked up about that time and our son became quite cold. After adding layers and gloves and such we continued on past the two false summits and then made it to the summit at around 11:00 for a quick lunch.
14er descents are often slogs for us. After being exhausted from reaching the summit we just want to get back to the car. This time was different, it was actually quite enjoyable. Maybe it was due to the new trekking poles we brought along. First time we've used them. They really do help a ton, especially for bad knees.
The only other thing to report is that my son left something at our rest stop at tree line, which we didn't discover until about a mile later. So I went back up and down the 1000 vertical feet, in what seemed like record time to retrieve it for him. That cost us about an hour.
We were back at the trailhead at around 4:00. So minus the lost time, that was 5.5 hours up and then 4 hours back down. Not too shabby. This was our son's 2nd 14er and our 12th.
EDIT: photos added 9/20/12
Just beyond treeline. The goal ahead. "Look, squirrel!"
Smiling on the summit
Mountain dogs taking a break