| Elbert - East Ridge
My week started with a drive from NE Kansas to Colorado Springs, and since it was less than an hour out of my way, I decided that I would hit the Kansas high point, Mt. Sunflower, on my way.
After a short 3 day work week, I packed up my gear, did the Manitou Incline as a warm-up for the weekend and then hit the road to Leadville to meet up with Evan (kufreak). After dinner and a couple of beers at Leadville’s Silver Dollar Saloon, it was off to South Elbert TH to camp for the night. The night ended with a small fire, a couple of Avery’s 14 ESBs and tales of 14ers past.
It was 11 degrees at 0530 when we woke up, though it wasn’t an uncomfortable night inside the tent in my sleeping bag and bivy sack on top of my Thermarest Z Lite and two huge fluffy blankets that we laid on the floor of the tent - thanks to Evan for those! We all stepped off at 0645 but 5 minutes in I realized I had forgotten my water and Evan realized that he had forgotten his camera, so we turned around and headed back. We were 15 minutes behind by the time we stepped off again, but by the time we reached the summer TH we had caught up with a group of 3 hikers consisting of Nancy (Sunny 1), Wes (Weschun), and Britt (Globreal).
The hiking was great, as the entire trail was either packed from other hikers or windblown and crusted over. Our plan was to do a loop from Elbert to South Elbert to Mt. Cosgriff, however after running into two hikers coming down and learning that a storm was moving our way, we abandoned that plan along with our snowshoes (which we all had tied to our packs). Brit and I settled on Elbert and South Elbert while the other 3 settled on Elbert alone. Britt and I broke off from the others and headed up together, but after I realized that I was almost out of water I pulled the plug on South Elbert and Britt and I split ways. After 6 hours of hiking I had finally reached my goal; the summit of Mt. Elbert, the roof of Colorado and my 3rd state high point!
On the summit I met up with Mike (ItsTheLittleThings), Jason (jsindeaz) and Leslie (WIclimber). Jason and Leslie headed down after about 10 minutes and Mike and I stayed for another 20 before heading down. While there, Mike and I met the guardian of the mountain, a vicious little shit of a mouse that had a long pointed snout. Its lower jaw was like a dagger and it was using it to jab a hole into my hand the whole time I was holding him.
On the way off the summit Mike and I ran into Wes, Evan and Nancy as they summited. After a short while we caught up to Leslie and Jason and the four of us descended together, getting in some decent glissade action in the process (my first glissades, fun stuff!). Even though we made it from the summit to the vehicles in less than 3 hours, it still couldn’t have happened sooner, as all of our mouths were watering for cheeseburgers - thanks Leslie! Mmmm… cow and cheese!
After a quick drive to Wild Bills Hamburgers in Leadville and a short wait, we were all chowin’ down on some serious beef in the form of bacon guacamole cheeseburgers, not to mention about a pound or so of fries each. Mike and I had 3 patties each for a total of a pound and a half of beef between us while Jason and Leslie each had a single patty. My basket was the first one empty and in no time I was back at the counter ordering two scoops of praline pecan ice cream. Following the meal and some conversation, during which we discovered that I was Wild Bill, we said our goodbyes; Jason headed to the Super 8 in Leadville, Leslie and Mike went back to Denver and I was off to the Leadville hostel where I got a bed for $20. I decided to call off Yale on Sunday morning as my ankle was pretty sore from being strained on the way down Elbert, not to mention I would have been hiking into this:
I took my sweet time heading back to the Springs and drove around some gravel county roads, seeing all kinds of mule deer, two elk, and doing a little bit of off roadin’. All in all a GREAT last weekend before heading to Iraq.
Mike - thanks for the gaiters on the trip down!
Nancy - glad you had a great birthday!
Everyone else that was there - I had a blast and just want to say thanks for sharing such a beautiful day in the hills!
I can’t wait to get back and get to climbing again, and I am looking to do some couloir climbs this spring/summer when I get home. Anyone up for Holy Cross couloir after a warm up climb or two on Torrey's?
Lessons learned for me:
1) Double check your gear before you step off so as not to forget your gaiters and your water.
2) If you are camping in winter make sure your sleeping bag is meant to be used in winter. As stated before, the night in the tent wasn’t bad, but I will say that I would have been warmer if I had a bag rated for temps lower than 20 degrees F.