Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  07/24/2011
Modified:  07/25/2011
Date Climbed:   07/23/2011
Author:  mkdenver1
 Why sugar-coat a trip report? Standard NE Ridge route  

We had always been interested in climbing Mount Elbert and earlier this year we decided to go for it. I read SEVERAL trip reports on this very website that said "3 1/2 hours up, 2 down" and my personal favorite "this is one of the easiest climbs in the state."

Folks, I'm here to tell you, please do not believe a word of these sugar-coated reports. Mount Elbert is extremely challenging and will test your patience and cardiovascular health. Plus, you need to allow 7-8 hours for a round trip with 4 of those being the trip up and 3 down.

My wife and I arrived at the trailhead for the NE Ridge just after 7am. We were lucky enough to be able to snag the last available legitimate parking space. We camped at Sugar Loafin' which is about 10 miles NNE of the TH. It was an absolutely gorgeous day (as you'll see from the pictures), a little cold (36 degrees when we woke up just before 6am) and even the Weather Service was only saying a slight chance of storms in the afternoon. As expected the weather did hold out and all we had were fairweather clouds as the day progressed (and there were still no storms anywhere in the region).

The first part of the hike is very easy and completely reminds me of a Jeffco Open Space Park. Some reports mention the remains of an old cabin just before the split off to go onto the Mt. Elbert Trail. We didn't see anything even resembling an old cabin. Either it is completely gone or we weren't looking in the right place. Once you do get past the split to get on the Mt. Elbert Trail, this is where things get interesting. A little ways after the split, do not expect much of any small inclines. Expect very steep and very challenging terrain even before you get past timberline which is at 12,000 feet. I struggle with continuous steep terrain so my wife went ahead (she's a marathon runner so steep terrain is no issue for her) and I took my time.

I was getting very frustrated as the steepness went on and seeing the false summit ahead is even more demotivating. But, I pressed on (mostly because my wife was completely out of sight and gained tons of time on me).

I made a few hiking buddies along the way (who were on my very slow and easy pace with frequent breaks) and they were great supports. My wife said she summited at 11am, I finally made my summit at 12pm.

We both spent about 15 minutes together at the top getting as many pics and video as possible and we started back down at 12:15. We made it back to the car around 3:15pm and this is with just one short break the whole way and keeping a rather fast pace.

We were very surprised that we saw exactly zero wildlife on the trip. We always see at least a marmot or a chipmunk, but nothing this time around. Wonder what was up with that.

Please folks, do not sugarcoat your trip reports! We were both fooled by several of them and that made us quite frustrated on our trip.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

In reply...
07/25/2011 04:48
With all due respect, maybe those hikers did summit in that time. Especially since there was so many. I don't think that many people would mislead you. I have had people pass me on 14ers running! Besides everyone's physical ability is so different.

You just have to do your research. Know your pace and then calculate your trip that way. 1.28 miles an hour is not unreasonable for some. I do write ups about hikes and describe many 14ers as ”easy”. But that ”easy” is used in high altitude summits in reference to the class 4 and 5. Not in relation to hikes in elevation below 9K. Hopefully you still find this site useful, we're all here to share, have a fun and stay safe.


07/25/2011 04:48
I think you need to remember that most people are comparing their hikes and reports to other 14ers (in general), and I don't believe that they are sugar coating them in comparison.

When comparing to many of the 14ers, ”Mount Elbert is extremely challenging”, isn't true with the great conditions you had, as long as you are in relatively good shape.

”Expect very steep and very challenging terrain” What is challenging about the smooth path?

Doctor No

The User Climb Times are your best friend...
07/25/2011 05:05
Whenever I'm hiking a new fourteener, I like to go to the climb times, and find someone who (1) was about my time on a fourteener I've already climbed, and (2) has also climbed my next mountain. That gives me a pretty good idea of the times.

While there are a few people whose times I doubt on the climb times, I've legitimately seen some fast people out there (and I believe their climb times). I'm certainly not one of those folks - I start early, take a lot of photos, and need to catch my breath more than I should. But it's not a race.


07/25/2011 06:55
Congrats on bagging the tallest mountain in the state! I understand your frustration...I read a report about Long's Peak that took 9 hours, when it took me 13.5 (it's 15 miles round-trip). It's demotivating, but Doctor No is's best to find someone whose pace matches your own. Elbert's label of ”easy” is probably true compared to the other 14ers (I'm hoping to climb it this week). It's all up to individual ability and experience, so it's going to be different for everybody. You hiked 9 miles in 8 hours, to the top of the tallest mountain in the state, no less! I'd say that that's a good pace and a very reasonable time. The most important part is that you got back safely.


07/25/2011 11:12
If you are an old flatlander, like me, I estimate 1mph for up and 2mph for down.


Easy is relative...
07/25/2011 14:39
I doubt that there's any sugar-coating that took place in the reports you read. For many of us, Elbert IS an easy climb, and takes 2-3 hours to get to the summit. You just have to remember that the person writing the report has a different level of fitness and experience than you apparently do. And there's nothing wrong with that person or you. The first time I climbed Elbert, I remember thinking ”wow, that was hard.” The second time I climbed it, it was nothing more than a good workout. The difference? I had a lot more experience and was in MUCH better physical condition.


Thanks everyone
07/25/2011 16:12
I guess I was just frustrated with the fact that we went into this hike with ”this should be just like the others we've hiked” on my mind and in fact it was the opposite. The three others we've hiked were all indeed 5 1/2 - 6 hours round trip. It had seemed (again based on reports) that even though you start off at 10,000 feet and eventually get up to the highest elevation in the state that it was really ”not as bad as it seems.”

We had actually planned to be completely done with the trip by 12:30 (1pm at the latest) based on the trip times posted in other reports. Now if it was just one report that said it, we would have expected to actually spend 8 hours round trip.

I know it's not a race and we're supposed to enjoy the mountain as much as we can, but when you do research and then conclude with one thing and it ends up being something different, that's the main frustrating thing right there. We purposely didn't bring lunch with us (just some small snacks) as we were thinking we would have been back at our campground early enough to eat a full meal and spend the afternoon resting.

We did have a productive and enjoyable time (even though I was doing nothing but sucking air from just below timberline on up) and we do feel we really accomplished something by making it to the top of Elbert.


07/25/2011 16:18
Congratulations on reaching the summit of the second highest peak in the continental states, that is something to be proud of. I agree with most of the other comments above. My pace at 51 is much slower than my pace at 40 when I started hiking 14ers. I now plan 1-mile/hr on the ascent. Usually a little faster, sometimes I have been slower. This weekend on Castle I did 1-mile per hour almost exactly. I had two people come from way behind me and summit way before me. Once you know your pace you can take the wealth of knowledge from this site and put it into your own formula. Happy hiking! Dr. Dave


07/25/2011 17:44
”even though I was doing nothing but sucking air from just below timberline on up”

Sounds like you need to condition some more, and understand that you may be slower than most on here.

Tory Wells

Your wife....
09/03/2011 14:45
probably could have hiked it in about 6 hours. Sounds like you need more conditioning.


07/26/2011 02:40
First off, great job on climbing to the top of CO, no easy feat. I am new to the website and fairly new to climbing CO 14ers (by no means am I new to having a generally awesome time in the great outdoors). As someone who recently posted an Elbert report, and posted our climb time of exactly 5.5 hours, be careful in your wording as to ”not believe a word of these sugar-coated reports”. If you are not able to keep pace with other climbers, there is no shame in going at your own safe rate, but please don't knock others and discredit their information, I doubt anyone is trying to impress anyone else with false climb times, I try to stay away from using the pickup line ”hey baby, I climbed Elbert in 5.5 hours ”.

I would guess that somewhere between 5.5 and 6 is a pretty average time for this hike of moderate effort and no technical challenges for someone who is in the mountains 30 or 40 weekends a year, in good physical condition, and is well acclimated to the alt.

Good luck in your future climbs, maybe see you out there.


good to see it
07/27/2011 22:21
I am pretty sure i was one of your, trail buddies on the trip. i was the kid with the long goatee that you talked to at about 13000 and then again at the summit. looks like you beat me in putting up the trip report. still might anyway as it was my first summit. any way Congratz, taht was a long tough day on the mountain. 6 hours up for me with my dad


Climbed it Yesterday
07/28/2011 19:55
So, my best friend and I climbed it via NE Ridge yesterday! It was her first 14er ever, and it took us 5 hours up and about 3 hours down. I thought it was awesome timing considering she wasn't in the best shape. I'm in better shape than she is (I had already climbed this summer and I've been running), but even if I hadn't done it with her I'd have only been moderately faster. The pace of about 1 mph up and 2 mph down was almost spot on for us. It was certainly easier than some of my other 14ers, but still a challenge in it's own right.

Fast Jimm

made it up in 3.5 hours today
07/31/2011 01:54
Was a perfect day for hiking, very crowded, actually managed to shoehorn my accord into the main parking lot at about 8:00 AM. With this post on my mind, I set to business. I think I could have made it more quickly, but I was waiting on, and pacing, a friend who topped out 16 minutes after I did. Once we got to treeline, I just went pretty much all-out.

I could see getting back in 2.5 without a problem. We went slower, but he was down to about 1.1 mph for the last 2 miles with his sore knees.

Bottom line is that the data available '4700 foot gain', '9 miles R.T.' should give you an idea of what to expect. If your other climbs were 6 hours but had different elevation gains over similar mileage, you had the information necessary to make an informed estimate.

It seems that you are blaming others for the fact that you had an unsatisfying lunch.

Fast Jimm

mountain Lord spotted
07/31/2011 02:00
There was a guy, wearing short shorts, super long blonde hair, long beard who was pushing up at at what looked to be 3 mph on the way up, but not running- I met him on the way down about 1 mile from the summit. By the time I got to treeline for a break and to wait for my friend, he was running past me.

He took the time on the way up to say 'another day in paradise' and smile and give me a thumbs up as he ran down when I asked him if he had made it. Wow!!

Wonder what his time was


struggled on Elbert also
08/03/2011 14:53
I attempted Elbert with my 14 year old son several weeks ago. He became altitude sick (as he did on Pike's) at about 13,300 or so.
I'm 44, in pretty good shape and I struggled a bit on Elbert also. Of course, we come from 287 ft. above sea level (East Texas)and I know from personal experience and from conversations that being in good shape is often neutralized somewhat by altitude adjustment. Perhaps that was an issue for you.
Glad you summitted. Elbert summit still awaits me.


almost made Pikes
08/06/2011 03:30
Interesting comments on this 14'er. My son and I attempted Pikes Peak from Crags yesterday. We started at 6:30 and he summitted 3 1/2 hours later. He's 20 and an Eagle Scout-supremely conditioned. I lost it about 750 feet from the summit and let him go on up. I'm 55 and have done 12 14'ers. Pikes was just too long and I did not rest enough during the hike because we wanted to summit before the weather came in. The altitude did not bother me but I just lost my legs. As I told Patrick, the mountain will always be there. It looks like from the comments that Elbert will be similar-but 4 miles shorter. We're going to attempt this on Monday-weather shows 0% chance of rain so I can go at a pace that fits me. Hope to see you'll up there!!!!

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