Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  09/25/2011
Date Climbed:   09/24/2011
Author:  srikirti
 Experience defeating the king of false summits - Mount Elbert  

I have climbed few 14ers and each hike was a different experience. So, this hike did not let me down in any way on that front. Infact, I would probably say, this one was a different one. It was an amazing experience for making me practically understand that almost all the time it is just a "Mind-Over-Body game".

We wanted to mark Mount Elbert, the first one in the Sawatch range and the highest peak, as our 7th 14er for this summer. (Woohoo!! The numbers make me feel so nice). We were trying to find one weekend with a descent weather good enough for hiking. After waiting for 3 looooong weekends, we identified that this one was probably going to be the best weekend. It was 65F-32F, 0 precep, 5-10 mph wind, Clear sky!!! Dodge that!!:-)

The D-Day: We reached the trail head at 0450 after driving for 2.5 hours. It was pitch dark and because we knew that it was going to be a lovely day, we all took a power nap till 0545 and were all fresh. Got ready, and started the hike at 0615. We all heard a lot about Mount Elberts false peaks and frankly I did not feel it was an issue to consider at all. We werent in any rush either because there werent many people on the trail. I found that a bit wierd becuase I read that this trail is known for attracting lot of people.Anyways.. hiking along with short breaks, by the time we were at the tree line, it was 830 AM and we have walked for 1.8 miles. (You would get to see the altitude gain happen in burst mode. So, it would be straight and then for a short distance it would be at about 60 degree inclination).

The view from just above the treeline was quite beautiful. You would see 2 beautiful lakes in the horizon right next to the lush green mountains with high density Pine trees. There were patches of aspen trees hidden in the view.It was my first experience hiking during the fall. Bringing out thier mystic yellow colours made the view even more attractive and special.
View of the 2 lakes and some Aspen Trees - Tree Line View

From there on, we were able to see the first peak. I felt great!! I have read many posts saying that this trail had lots of false summits. I had a hunch that this could be a false summit but I couldnt believe it, becuase there was no other mountain around it or behind that I could find connected to the summit. I have read it in lots of forums about the false peaks and somehow felt it was all a complete BS. So, after hiking for an hour from the tree line, I reached this summit, only to know that the folks who wrote the posts werent kidding!!:-) I then understood that, when I find a peak and felt that was the summit, my brain makes sure that I have so-much access to my energy resources, so that it is just enough to reach the summit. This was the major challenge I had to face when I found the first false summit. Adding to it, the summit I saw now and the treeline I just came from were at an equal distance from the first false summit on either side. So, I had to go quite a long way to reach the peak I could see now. I knew, it was going to be more of a mind game than the game challenging my endurance or my skill. So, I took a small break, digested all the disappointment and started heading towards the new peak. (At the back of my head, I was hoping the first summit to be the first and last disappointment.:-))
View of the 2 lakes and some Aspen Trees - First false summit view

So, I hiked for another hour to reach the summit I saw from the first false summit. Right after reaching that summit, I had only one line prop up in my head - "Damn it!! You got to be kidding me!!" So, this was a second false peak!! The only way I managed to cope up this blow was by munching in couple of Almond snickers. I was so done with these silly games:-P. I was getting really tired physically, more so because of this pyscological hits. I was taking one hit after another. Now, the usual way, like before, I was able to see a new summit and this time I wasnt bothered if it was the actual summit. (Now...You all know, I am just saying that!!!)

View of the second false summit from the first one

I was also interested to see howmany more times it can possibily trick me. The only thing that was keeping me going forward was the certainity that - it would eventually run of tricks and I would reach the summit. So, after hiking for another half hour - through patches of snow and muddy-slippery sand, I was at a place where I could see few people sitting and taking snaps. I knew, that was it!! The last ridge connecting the last (third) false summit to the actual summit had few inches of ice. A bit bit slippery but wasn't hard to cross over.

Finally I was at bliss once i reached the peak. Sat for a few minutes having few energy bars and water. Felt Good!! Had a few standard snaps - With the altitude printout, Wichwich bag and the copper mark. After spending 15 minutes, we started the desent.
View from the top

Standard Pic -1

Standard Pic -3 - Pic with the hieght

Standard Pic -3 - For a change;-)

Getting down was quite easy. I was stopping at few places and had some smiles looking back at all the false summits that played thier part to make the hike a memorable one. I wasnt tired by the time I reached the trailhead. I guess, the pyscological win over the false summits made me enough numb to forget if-any physical strain that I were to experience!!

Before I wrap up the trip report, just wanted to share this JLT(Just Like That) point for some laughs. I wanted to make this hike a special one, because it was my last one for this season. So, I thought of doing something I have never done before. I would say that I always wanted to try it for a long time - Hiking without the shirt on!! And I have finally done it this time. Frankly, if it is a sunny beautiful day - it is really comfortable hiking withouht the shirt on....Try it if you havent yet:-)
Just for Gags -1

Just for Gags - 2

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Brings back memories
09/26/2011 12:25
Elbert was my very first 14er almost exactly 3 years ago, and I remember how frustrating those false summits were. I was a newbie, I was hiking alone, and I didn't really understand how to read a route description. I went through the same mental process you describe...unconsciously setting your energy levels and the disappointment when you realize how far you actually have to go. Congratulations on persevering and on a beautiful climb!

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