Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2011
Date Climbed:   08/29/2011
Author:  mc24337

 Mt Elbert East Ridge - Upper South Elbert Trail  

Third stage of our Colorado 14ers hiking trip. We were well acclimated after Bierstadt, Grays and Torreys.
We camped at the Twin Lakes campground, just short of the Mt. Elbert Parking lower trail parking lot.
The day before the hike, we scouted the 4WD road to the trailhead. It was in poor condition (we have a 4WD vehicle, but even then, some big rocks required extra caution).
The night before the hike was stormy, and rain lingered into the early morning. We were hesitant, but after 7 AM we couldn't hear any more rumbles, and were encouraged by a break in the clouds.
We set forth towards the trail head. To our surprise, a grader had straightened up the 4WD road after we had returned from our scouting trip the day before! We could more easily get closer to the trail head.

We started the hike at around 8 AM, on a cloudy, cool morning - temperatures probably in the lower 40s. The initial part of the hike follows the Colorado trail - flat and not challenging at all. You then get to the very obviously marked intersection with the Elbert trail. The trail climbs at a moderate rate towards the end of the tree line - at that point, the rest of the trail becomes really obvious.

Just as you cross the tree line, you get a great view of the Twin Lakes and the Elbert Forebay.


The trail becomes somewhat steeper after another relatively flat segment. It got colder and windier, and we decided to wear the outer shells of our jackets once we reached 13,300 ft.

Here's a view from approximately 12,500 ft.


The trail becomes slightly more rugged above 13,300 ft, but always very easy to follow, and not too steep. Close to the summit, you'll reach the intersection with the trail that comes from the Halfmoon Creek Trail Head.
The summit is not too far at that point.

We met relatively few people during the climb - probably 10 total, including those who came up from the Northeast Ridge.
Here's my son on the summit - we reached the summit in about 3h 15', hinking at a moderate pace:

And here's the two of us:


On the summit, the winds were strong (I'd say probably 30 to 40 mph) and the temperature in the 30s. Unfortunately, the clouds obstructed much of the view - but, hey, that's the mountain: it's not always about blues skies and clear views.

That's why I took this picture - of an old seal of the "US Coast and Geodetic Survey." Not the best view you can probably ever enjoy from the top of the tallest Colorado 14er - but we were there!


We spent a good deal of time on the summit, in spite of the cold - hoping for the weather to clear up. At some point, the clouds broke up a bit and we could enjoy a partial view of the "other side:"


As we descended the weather somewhat improved:


And the summit became more visible from below:


It got a lot warmer as we reached the intersection with the Colorado trail:


A great day overall. Lots of pride as we returned safely to the trail head after our 3rd 14er experience in about a week!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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