Peak:  Mt. Elbert (14er)
 Route:  Southeast Ridge
 Range:  Sawatch
 Posted By:  Barb4rian
 Date of Info:  01/29/2011
 Date Posted:  01/30/2011

Clearly no one had taken this route in some time (no tracks to be seen, other than rabbit tracks). We were only able to keep trail via GPS and that wasn't always easy. The snow on this route changes drastically depending on where you are. At the trailhead the snow is knee deep powder, but once you reach the initial climb up Black Cloud Gulch it becomes hard and soft in an annoying and unpredictable pattern based solely on where the sun hits the ground. Conditions above the initial ascent improve and if you want to take this route I would do it soon to catch our trench/tracks to save you much effort. Unfortunately the approach took us about 6 hours (~2 miles) before we finally reached the ridge pitch and by then it was late (~1 pm) and we were far to tired to summit. If you make it this far you may consider finding a route on your own to the ridge because our tracks we somewhat worthless. The sun was beating down on the snow so hard that when we sat down water was squeezing out of the snow-pack like water from a sponge.

The picture gives a good look at the South Elbert ridge above treeline.

Possible Avy Danger: Yes, the snow seems very unstable on this side of the mountain. During the approach through the upper gulch the snow would frequently collapse within the snow-pack (not visibly) in a haunting sound. This was all on flat ground so we did not find it to be much of a worry but when it happened at treeline (where we turned around) it was too risky to continue. Conditions regarding this would greatly improve once out of the trees due to little snow above 12200'.

Photos (click for slideshow):
Image #1

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