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Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby ATSinged » Mon Jul 25, 2011 12:53 pm

I absolutely know this has all been covered somewhere on the forum, but my searches are not really coming up with much.

I'm planning my first trip to Colorado since I was in my early 20s, hoping to bag a 14er if my low altitude lungs and brain can handle it, and I'm hoping for some input:

Some information that may help anyone inclined to give advice.

Me: 42Y/O seasoned backpacker, few thousand trail miles, AT thruhike, good gear. I live in Houston (sea level) but I've been training (incline work, sustaining 80 percent of max heart rate for increasing durations, working on wind, dropped 25 lbs, good health, BP is low normal) since the beginning of May for a trip to the Leadville area I'm planning in late August. I had minor altitude issues (headache) on the first day only in Lake City last time I was up, and we did go over 12K on that trip.

Friend with similar experience going as well, also interested in a 14er. Has not been doing cardio work though (despite my badgering).

Father also going, but not planning on going much above Leadville itself unless it involves his truck, fly fishing or an interesting ghost town.

My current plan is to tent camp in the Leadville area and just hike and fish for 2 days to adjust a little then make a go at the SW route up Massive with my friend. We do have a 4WD with good lift, but it is a little worrying because it is a large pickup truck and I know little about the the road itself. Is it a pretty typical FS type road with some room to turn around or is this more suited to smaller 4x4s like Jeeps?

If the Massive hike were to go well, and I'm pretty realistic that it will be pushing things for me, I'll probably rest a day then try another 14er on our final full day in CO. I have a strong feeling this one will be a solo jaunt, which doesn't bother me, I'm open to suggestions here, is Elbert possible? Even just a pretty hike with a good view at the end would be fine though.

Secondly, I've been doing my research and finding a lot of camp sites around Leadville and further south towards Twin Lakes, but they mostly look like they are oriented more towards the RV and comfortable tourist crowd and I'd really prefer someplace a bit more backwoods and low budget. Reasonably priced fee sites are fine, flush privies and tons of amenities are optional. Any recommendations?

All advice and good links appreciated!

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby colokeith » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:19 pm

Good information on acclimating to altitude.
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=28691

Some good resources for climbing your first 14er
http://www.denverdavis.com/hikes/14er_info
http://www.alanarnette.com/alan/fourteenersfaq.php

Halfmoon road is large with enough room for two cars to pass in most places. There are two campgrounds halfmoon creek and elbert creek campground. Both are good and offer access to a creek directly from camp. I was up there earlier this month and didn't have much luck fishing in the creeks b/c they were flowing way to hard. This should be getting better soon. Both of the campgrounds are nice, and offer good privacy. 90% of the campers were tent campers with a few having tent trailers. The main benefit of elbert creek campground is walk up access to elbert / massive trailheads. You can stumble out of and into your tent without hassling with trailhead parking. This was the creek behind our campsite at elbert creek http://gallery.me.com/kganger/100292/P1030223/web.jpg?ver=13107744350001

There are also dozens of good free sites along halfmoon creek road.

Twin lakes are very scenic and would be a good place to daytrip / fish. You will encounter much more of the RV crowd camping there.

Independence pass is worth the drive up as well. Just a beautiful drive with great scenery on top.
A couple of nice views from independence pass
http://gallery.me.com/kganger/100292/P1030311/web.jpg?ver=13107745310001
http://gallery.me.com/kganger/100292/P1030336/web.jpg?ver=13107793130001
To climb is to push yourself in a way you might not normally imagine is possible. If your stamina, skill, and luck are sound you will get to stand on top. ... I realized that with climbing, I'd found something that nourished my soul and could forge me into a better version myself - Jim Davidson

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby peter303 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:26 pm

1) I'd recommend Huron first. Its easier than Massive or Elbert.

2) They have several endurance races in August. At certain times the support people can congest access roads.
http://www.visitleadvilleco.com/trail_100

Its very beautiful around there. You should have a great time.

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby GreenHorn » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:33 pm

There is very little in the Sawatch that you won't be able to do in a full-sized truck with 4wd. Half moon should be no problem for you. Elbert is totally doable if Massive goes well for you. Have a great trip!
Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.

--JEAN-LUC PICARD

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby mkdenver1 » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:34 pm

We just came back from an awesome weekend camping near Leadville!

Camping is about the only thing to do since the city is rather limited on hotels/motels. I strongly recommend Turquoise Lake especially if your dad is into fishing. This is just a mile or so from the best privately-owned campground in the area, Sugar Loafin'. www.sugarloafin.com

Mt. Elbert is the most popular 14er in the area because it is the highest one in the state. I'm in average shape and it took me 5 hours to hit the summit and 3 to make it back down (via the standard NE Ridge route). I wouldn't recommend this one to a first timer especially a first timer from low altitude. There are numerous bike trails in the area that are good alternatives (with amazing views of Elbert and Mt. Massive). The roads to the trailheads for both mountains are easily accessible from any car. They are dirt roads, but still very well maintained. As for hiking Mount Massive, I have never hiked it but since it's right next to Elbert I'm going to assume it's just as challenging; but I don't believe there are false summits.

Just remember, this entire region is 10,000 feet and higher. I would recommend arriving 1-2 days prior to doing any recreational activity so your body can adjust to the altitude.

Also dress for the weather! It will get at or below 40 at night and maybe 80 during the day if you're lucky.

Enjoy your visit; Leadville has tons to do!

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby MtHurd » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:23 pm

I did the road in a Chevy Tahoe 4x4 but didn't use 4-wheel drive. There is one really steep rough section, but you shouldn't have any problems in a 4x4. There is camping along the road.

Elbert is easier than Massive, so yes, Elbert would be a good second climb if you get to the 4x4 trailhead, which you will easily.

Another option is Antero since you will have a 4x4. You can drive the road all the way to 13,800 ft. Your father wouldn't have any problems hiking the final 500 ft. to the summit.

On your off day, a good day hike is up to the Alpine Tunnel on the old railroad grade which is now a trail.

http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsint ... nnel+Trail

If you need a day to shower up, Leadville has a reasonably priced hostel.

http://www.leadvillehostel.com/

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby Fairlight » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:27 pm

Go for it man! This week one year ago I made a short trip out from Chicago. Spent a day/night in Leadville (Leadville Hostel +1!) before hiking Elbert. Drove (or bounced rather) to the Half-Moon trail parking lot in a tiny rented Hyundai Accent without a problem. I chose it over Massive because it's a shorter slog and it's the Colorado high point. Absolutely kicked my butt, but doable for anyone in reasonable shape and patient. Sounds like we have some things in common (Me=42, daily treadmill, recumbent work and power dog walking). I don't think as a flat-lander being out there for any longer than a block of several weeks is going to make much difference in acclimatizing IMHO. Anticipating that and not being able to afford that kind of time I still decided to dive in anyway to see what would happen. My only trouble was a chronic headache that zapped some of the enjoyment out of it, but it wasn't a deal breaker. Taking the following day to rest and sightsee I then bagged Quandary before flying out on day 4. Make sure to take ibuprofen and lots of water. Get an early start and take your sweeeeeet time above tree line, resting often. It helps a little to smile and internally curse out the Iron-Person runners and locals who make it look like a sunday walk in the park as you're hanging over your poles, counting each step to that next boulder... :wink:

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby JQDivide » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:36 pm

Camping... Twin Peaks campground a couple miles past Twin Lakes is great,(usually not crowded and I don't know why, it's great). It's also close to the LaPlata trailhead if you're interested in that 14er and the SE Elbert TH.

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby ATSinged » Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:52 pm

Thanks all, very active forum and lots of useful information to digest and things to research. I'm pretty open minded about this vacation so it's nice to have a lot of options, part of why I picked the area. Twin Peaks, Half Moon and Elbert Creek campgrounds were some of the ones I was looking at, they sound pretty good.

I'm definitely going to look at Huron, Antero and the Alpine Tunnel. This kind of information was what I was hoping for, things like that I didn't consider.

Fairlight wrote:Go for it man! This week one year ago I made a short trip out from Chicago. Spent a day/night in Leadville (Leadville Hostel +1!) before hiking Elbert. Drove (or bounced rather) to the Half-Moon trail parking lot in a tiny rented Hyundai Accent without a problem. I chose it over Massive because it's a shorter slog and it's the Colorado high point. Absolutely kicked my butt, but doable for anyone in reasonable shape and patient. Sounds like we have some things in common (Me=42, daily treadmill, recumbent work and power dog walking). I don't think as a flat-lander being out there for any longer than a block of several weeks is going to make much difference in acclimatizing IMHO. Anticipating that and not being able to afford that kind of time I still decided to dive in anyway to see what would happen. My only trouble was a chronic headache that zapped some of the enjoyment out of it, but it wasn't a deal breaker. Taking the following day to rest and sightsee I then bagged Quandary before flying out on day 4. Make sure to take ibuprofen and lots of water. Get an early start and take your sweeeeeet time above tree line, resting often. It helps a little to smile and internally curse out the Iron-Person runners and locals who make it look like a sunday walk in the park as you're hanging over your poles, counting each step to that next boulder... :wink:


Haha, we do sound a bit alike. Dive in, gut it out, get my butt kicked but see awesome places and have good stories to tell. The whole Appalachian thing started as a desire to get out in the woods for "a week or so", after all I've never done that before, then I got laid off, had time and a severance check and the whole thing kind of snowballed a little bit. The third overnight backpacking trip of my life was going up Mount Springer.

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby MtHurd » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:10 pm

If you are not used to 4x4 roads, the Baldwin Gulch road on Antero may be scary, but it's not too bad for a 4x4 road. It would be good if you did have some experience on 4x4 roads though before you attempt it. Another 4x4 road very close by Leadville is the Mosquito Pass rd. It is very rough though but will have some good views.

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby matthewbe » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:28 pm

Hey, fellow Texas climber here, and I actually just got back today from a week climbing in Colorado, mostly in the Leadville area. I took the 4wd road to the SW route of Massive, as well as to the East Ridge route on Elbert in my Jeep and found both roads to be very easy 4WD roads (most of which could be done with a regular high clearance SUV if its dry).

There are plenty of great places to camp. I absolutely love it up there. Actually want to move to CO though. Spent a week in 75 degrees to come home to 106 today. AND no places to hike around here? Clearly I am in the wrong state.

+1 on taking a look at Huron Peak as well because its almost 450 feet lower that Elbert and Massive, so its an easier 14 for sure. I've never had much issue with the altitude, Leadville is above 10,000 feet already, so just hanging around up there will help. Sounds to me like you are doing everything you can for a successful trip.

Best of luck to you!
Not all who wander are lost.

Matthewbe Photography
http://www.matthewbe.com

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Re: Newbie heading to Leadville in late August

Postby matthewbe » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:32 pm

Also- Mosquito Pass was closed while I was there, but I did go up Weston Pass- probably 5 miles south of Leadville on Colorado 24. The road took us up to 11,921 feet and it was definitely worth it. The wild flowers were amazing and we saw wildlife galore which when coupled with a beautiful sunset made it a very enjoyable afternoon while letting the legs recover from a day of hiking. :)
Not all who wander are lost.

Matthewbe Photography
http://www.matthewbe.com

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