Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  06/11/2011
Date Climbed:   06/11/2011
Author:  anasarca76

 Solitude on Elbert?  

As a resident of Leadville, I seen get to see Mt Elbert on a daily basis; however I hadn’t gotten around to climbing it, which I thought was pretty much inexcusable. I have heard many times that this mountain is nothing spectacular despite being the tallest in Colorado as it is merely a walk up from pretty much any way you attempt it. It has also been a goal of mine to watch a sunrise from the top of a 14er. A recent thread about night hiking and my delinquency in climbing a mountain so close to my home inspired me to try to make it up Elbert and watch my first sunrise atop a significant peak. Sounds like fun to me!

With my previous climbing I calculated that it would take me about 4 hours to summit and considering sunrise was set to occur at 5:30am, that meant a bright and early start at 1:30… not really the most exciting prospect, but at least I’m only 7 miles from the trail head.

I left the trail head right at 1:30 as planned and began the long hike up Elbert. I had heard that the snow conditions were pretty favorable with an exception of the .5 miles prior to tree line, which were a post hole disaster. As I approached tree line, I saw what they were talking about, I was lucky enough to be able to avoid most of the post holes in the morning as it was fairly chilly and the snow held my weight. In my opinion, gators are a must for this section as I post holed occasionally in the morning and a ton on the decent. I was also surprised to meet a nice couple who had started at 12:45, I expected to be solo the whole time and it was nice to chat a bit and get a bit of advice about the trail location. Keeping on the trail is quite hard through this area as the trail is basically buried in varying levels of snow. Once above tree line I located the trail and continued up. I’ll tell you one thing, for a walk up, Elbert never quit! As this was my first 14er of the year, my legs were not all there and started cramping up a bit near the crux that Roach describes. This lead to many short sitting breaks which were enough to keep my legs going. As I proceeded higher, time was running short as the sky was getting more and more bright… it seemed every time that I thought I was almost there, the next ridge was more than I expected! All in all I made it up to the final ridge as the sun rose at 5:35ish; however the cloud cover was not all that favorable for an amazing sunrise AND a brief snow squall passed right about the time the sun rose, obscuring my view. I continued on to the summit and signed the register and rested very briefly. The weather wasn’t looking all that great despite the early hour. I did get to see some very cool cloud movements and got some pretty neat shots of the sun interacting with the cloud cover (a few pictures are shown below), so despite the less than ideal sunrise, the experience was pretty awesome! I'm not sure many people can say they had Elbert basically to themselves, but with the exception of the couple (which I didnt see again after the initial meeting), I had the peak to myself! Overall, I really enjoyed this hike despite the less than ideal weather

Trail sign at the splitoff from the Colorado Trail.

Near sunrise over the Mosquitos.

Looking out toward Pikes Peak.

Looking down the Arkansas river valley.

Looking over at Mt Massive.

Some cool clouds as a storm passed over.

Good ole Elbert!

There were multiple people looking to see the current conditions, so as I descended I shoot a few pictures to show what is present.

This picture reflects the snow/dry mix that is present in some places nearing tree line.

These next two are a few of the snow conditions near tree line.

The next two pictures are the sparse snow cover that is present on the northeast ridge proper.

And the last one is the final ridge.

Thanks for taking the time to read! Happy trails everyone!



 Comments or Questions

Planning first trip to the 14ers and need advise
06/12/2011 19:19
Greetings to all; I need your advise!

I have been planning my first trip to the 14ers to climb Mt Sherman, Elbert and Massive starting on Wednesday 6-15, Thursday 6-16 and Friday 6-17. I have been reading all the Trip Reports of the remaining snow on some if not all the mountain peaks I hope to summit.
I have a lot of experience snowshoeing and have been training for this trip since February. I have also researched the vast information about safe climbing, including trail routes for these peaks. I planned on camping near Fourmile Creek and Elbert Creek CG, so you now the routes I will likely take.
I am well prepared with cold weather gear including winter camping. I love a challenge and feel ready to test myself, but safety must always come first.
I still want to make this trip but I am seeking the advice from those who have the experience.

Please let me know your thoughts!


06/12/2011 19:41
Well, the peaks and routes you have chosen are good peaks for beginners. It sounds like you are preparing well and have a good clue of what your doing. In general you want to start early and try to be off the peaks by 11-12 and drink lots of water and don't push yourself too hard until you know how you will handle the elevation. Regarding snow shoes and my experience on Elbert... I'm not sure they would have been a tremendous help as the days have been quite warm and you may post hole even with them in the afternoon, but if you don't mind the weight it couldn't hurt to try them out... If I did it again, I still wouldnt bring them as I did ok without. I cant speak to Sherman or Massive as I haven't been up those recently. Be safe and have fun!

Oh, and a better place to post the questions above is in the general forum, many more people will be likely to read it and comment in that area.


06/13/2011 13:59
Thanks for the up to date info on Elbert conditions. I made a winter ascent attempt in feburary, hit the tree line and the deep powder and turned back. Did you take the South route, from the parking lot, just above the campground? Or some other route.


06/13/2011 14:25
Thanks for the update and comments.
Weather this week sounds great, chilly, but clear.
I will put in my first trip report when i return.


06/13/2011 14:29
I actually started from a north route, started from the North Elbert Trailhead and went up the Northeast ridge route. I believe its the most common trail up the mountain. I havent gotten into winter climbing yet, so I cant even imaging how hard it would have been with powder and even more cold!


06/13/2011 16:09
Sounds about like my experience as well. I would suggest to pay attention to the direction you're headed through the snow in the trees, because the trail is not discernible during this section of the hike. My buddy and I had a pretty easy time making it up through the fields, but had a rough time finding out way back down. However with the warm temperatures coming up, I doubt that this will be a problem for that much longer.


good report
06/16/2011 12:15
Thanks for the details in your report. This sounds like a good early-season objective.

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