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Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby Tobyhanna » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:57 am

I will be visiting Dillon in early July, and my friend and I want to try Mt. Elbert.
It will be our first 14er, and we are fairly fit and very active, though we live at sea level. When I visit Dillon every year I have been able to bike to Vail the next day, but I do acknowledge that hiking a 14er is much more strenuous and serious!
Do you think this 14er is a good choice, and, should we do the Northeast Ridge, and, do you recommend that we hire a guide to accompany us?
Thanks so much for any advice, we appreciate your experience!

Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby gonzalj » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:03 pm

I definitely wouldn't worry about hiring a guide. There'll be more than enough people on the trail the whole time to follow. Elbert's a pretty good choice for a 1st 14er, just mske sure to give yourself 2 to 3 days to acclimate before you go up and maybe try some less strenous hikes around summit county the day before, going up to 10K or 11K feet, but definitely doable. Just be prepared to drink plenty of water and I would recommend at least 3 liters for elbert.

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby denvermikey » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:04 pm

Different people react in different ways to altitude. Having previous experience in the area with a fairly strenuous bike ride under your belt may be to your advantage. The Northeast Ridge is a tad longer, but easier access to the trailhead by car. A guide is complete overkill for this hike. Chances are extremely high that you will come across many other hikers of all skill levels on your hike. Post again as you get close to your visit, and you will very likely be able to partner up with others for your hike.
Always start very early, bring plenty of water, rain gear, and enough snack/food for the day.
Have fun!

(p.s. - plenty of good sunblock too, at least 30 spf if not higher)
"Every man dies, not every man really lives" - William Wallace
"Because it's there" - George Mallory
"In the end it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years" - Abraham Lincoln
"You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough" - Mae West
"Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world." - Unknown

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby CO Native » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:06 pm

Elbert is a great first fourteener. I would recommend the Northeast Ridge assuming you won't have a 4wd vehicle. There are easier ones, but it's doable. Besides everyone likes to be able to say they climbed the tallest mountain in Colorado.

Don't waste money on a guide, the trail is obvious and easy to follow.

Being in good shape will help, keep it up. Take a couple days to acclimate if you can before you do the hike it will help a lot. Watch each other though for signs of altitude sickness. Way easier to spot the early signs in others than yourself, mainly because one of the first signs is reduced mental function. Start very early too (4 to 5 a.m.). This is a bit of a long route and you're going to want plenty of time.
Remember what your knees are for.
http://www.hikingintherockies.com

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby MtHurd » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:22 pm

If you plan on going mid-June through mid-September, you won't have any problems and do not need a guide. Just remember to get a 5 a.m. start with a headlamp so you can be off the summit by noon. Lightning will be your biggest issue and getting off the summit by noon will minimize the risk.

The south Mt. Elbert trail is the route I used last year and it is quite easy. You only add 4 miles round trip if you don't have a 4x4 and the incline is mellow.

If you would rather not drive too far, Quandary is a good one and it's not much lower than Elbert.
Last edited by MtHurd on Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby peter303 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:24 pm

The positives include:
(1) walk-up trail (classic Halfmoon), no rock scrambling at top
(2) 75-120 minutes from Denver or nearby Leadville hotels
(3) lots of free camping on Halfmoon road; fee-forest campground too
(4) good gravel road to trailhead for sedans
(5) great view from top!

The negatives include:
(1) longer trail than "easier" 14ers: 9 miles versus 5 for Sherman or Bierstadt
(2) more time at high altitude because it is taller than several other mountains
(3) crowded parking lot and trails, especially summer weekends; lot filled by 6AM
(4) chance of descending wrong trail, especially when foggy

Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby gonzalj » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:34 pm

In terms of the negative about being crowded, that is definitely true, but any other easy front/tenmile/mosquito range 14ers, you'll be dealing with that too. As mentioned, starting at 5 is probably not a bad idea to give yourself the best chance to summit and be on your way down before noon.

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby Tobyhanna » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:52 pm

All good advice - thank you all very much! Looking forward to our first 14er!

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby Rodd Tundgren » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:22 pm

We used guides for climbing Mt Elbert last summer. It was $50 per person but that included rental gear and provisions.

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby scalba123 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:53 pm

peter303 wrote:The negatives include:
(1) longer trail than "easier" 14ers: 9 miles versus 5 for Sherman or Bierstadt
(2) more time at high altitude because it is taller than several other mountains
(3) crowded parking lot and trails, especially summer weekends; lot filled by 6AM
(4) chance of descending wrong trail, especially when foggy


I've definitely descended down the wrong trail. I spent an hour picking my back to the correct trail above the treeline (and cursing my existence the entire time). ](*,)

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby Fairlight » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:04 pm

Elbert was my first 14er and it was perfect for me (from North Half-Moon Trailhead). I agree with starting early as well as spending some time at altitude before attempting. Leadville is a great, sleepy little town that is worth hanging around in. It's also located above 10k ft. You might also get a copy of Gerry Roach's book and study the included maps and descriptions - http://www.amazon.com/Colorados-Fourteeners-3rd-Ed-Climbs/dp/1555917461 - His write up's (along with further digging into this site) really helped me decide where, when and how to prepare. Knowing what to anticipate on a particular hike is really key. And yes, you'll pass dozens of people coming and going on most summer weekends (a nuisance for locals, but some peace of mind for visitors). Quandary is also an excellent (and scenic) choice (#2 for me). It's close proximity to Breckenridge is a real plus.

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Re: Mt. Elbert for first time 14er?

Postby tjerasdave » Wed Mar 28, 2012 5:45 pm

Elbert was my first 14ers as well and it is one of the easier one's I've done although Sherman and Quandary were both easier. I enjoyed both of those more than Elbert because Sherman had the neat mine ruins and Quandary had the mountain goats. However, I have no regrets for leading off with Elbert. However, Elbert is also the place I learned the hard way that you need to start early and turn around if you see clouds building up. Just make sure you start plenty early and keep an eye on the sky and you'll be fine. Have fun!

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