| First snow ascent of Mt. Elbert
So this is my first trip report (8th 14er of the year) and this earns the title of my "first" due to the amazing time we had. Coming into the week we realized the trip would involve snow, making this our first 14er with a snow ascent. Having climbed other snow mountains (hills) of the smaller variety in South Dakota and other states until moving to Colorado, we had a good idea of what to expect. My friends and I got some extra gear from REI prior to the hike just in case.
We planned for a 3:00am departure from Aurora, but I set the alarm for PM instead of AM, so I was 25 minutes late getting up (shucks...). We hit the trail head for the East Route @ 6:30 and quickly decided we would take this one easier, as getting acclimated to ensure a good shot at the summit was key. The lower portion of the trail was snow free, but once we hit 12,400' we started our push through some lighter areas of snow. The wind kicked up pretty good at that height also.
From 13,000' on up we were walking in areas that had 12-18 inches of snow, with some places slightly deeper. However, there was areas that it was just a dusting on the rocks due to the wind sweeping it to other areas. The sun would come out for a while, then we would be in the clouds minutes later with strong winds pushing the snow from the ridge into us.
We were going easy on the ascent and watching our steps which caused us to take extra time, but we all agreed to be safe and not rush it too fast. Because of this decision we got many wonderful pictures of the white capped mountains around us and some pretty cool videos.
*Side note* This is a silly thing that I did, but since I came prepared it was not too much of an issue. I had my water pack tube uncovered for about 10 minutes and it froze completely solid. Nothing I tried would unfreeze it, so from 13,000' to summit and back down to about 12,800' I was not able to get water from the pack. I always pack at least 1L to 2L in bottled form inside my pack however, so no harm. Still, a lesson learned on that one!
We hit the summit at 12:30, so it was a 6 hour ascent. We sat up top and enjoyed the view for a while and we were joined by some hikers from the North East ridge route. To our knowledge, there was no one else that day that did the East ridge, my first experience of not seeing anyone on the trail but us. Shockingly, on the summit one hiker was wearing shorts and claimed "I climb all my 14ers in shorts". Good for you buddy, but I don't like hypothermia all that much!
The descent was quick and super easy. We were back at the TH by 3:00PM, making it just over 2 hours on the descent. On the way down we stopped on a dry stretch of the trail and even laid down to soak in the sun for a few minutes.
Overall the trip was by far the best 14er hike we have done together. The mix of dry land, snow, distance, elevation gain and the amazing views made it something I will not forget anytime soon!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):