Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  03/08/2012
Date Climbed:   03/07/2012
Author:  jacobshark1
 Just a few guys from MI....with AMS (South Elbert Trail)  

A few months back and few friends and I got the crazy idea to climb a mountain over our Spring break. Tired of the typical "Let's go to Florida!" idea that many Michiganders have during this time of the year, we started to plan our trip. We decided on an attempt of Elbert, due to the low avy concern and supposed ease of the route. We have all climbed mountains before... but we knew winter climbing is a different monster. So with our limited avy knowledge we planned South Elbert, hoping to summit with little acclimation time.

We planned on having a 3-day period where we would evaluate the weather and choose the best 12-hour weather window to climb, day or night. We stayed in beautiful Salida, at the wonderful Simple Hostel, which is an excellent starting point for almost any 14er in the Sawatch range. The best period to climb was between midnight and 11am on Wednesday, so that was our plan. We got to the South lower TH at around 5am ready to climb and attempt a summit by 11am, where shortly after it was forcasted to snow (not major snow though... we just wanted to avoid as much weather as possible. We climbed the 4WD road at a steady and quick pace in anticipation for for the upper TH and summit push. After about 30 minutes we reached a clearing where you could clearly see the Twin Lakes and the beautiful La Plata and Belford peaks (I think...)

We got some instant motivation to keep rolling knowing that this was only a fraction of the beauty we would experience today.

We kept climbing and reached the upper TH after about 50 minutes of climbing. It was an easy climb to this point and we hoped that luck would continue as we climbed higher. At around 11,200 we reached a clearing where we got our first look at the summit and southern face of the mountain as a whole. We paused for some pictures and some water.

Elbert summit at top right

Elbert summit at top right


After this short rest we continues to climb. Right after this point I started to experience my first symptoms of AMS. I tried to stay on top of hydration, but would soon find out this was a losing battle. We continued to climb and eventually reached the tree line. I saw up ahead that if I could gain the ridge, we would have a fantastic view of some of God's beautiful creation. As my headache worsened I knew that spot would be the end of the trip for me. My legs felt great, which made the turn that much harder for all of us, so I motored ahead of my group to get to the ridge as soon as possible. And as I suspected, we got an incredible view from the saddle at the bottom of the east ridge. We took about 20 minutes to take pictures and bask in the glory of our Lord. Our final resting place was a still impressive 12,200 ft.

Jumping pic at 12,200...classic, Mosquito's in the background

me with the Mosquito's in the back ground

PBR and tanks-on-tanks... -5 degree windchill... He is crazy!

Great friend! Great beer?


Mt. Massive in the background

me and my bestie with the Mosquito's in the back ground

Though we were not able to reach the summit, we were content with what we were able to experience. I guess in the end I could not have expected much more from a couple boys from MI trying to reach 14,000 ft in under a weeks time. Our safety was placed miles above our pride, which is exactly what we prayed for before the trip started. We must thank God for letting us experience his beauty. We started our descent with heads held high and the prospect of Filet Mignon at Quincy's for dinner.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Wish I lived in CO

Only one problem ......
03/08/2012 19:55
...... Spilled beer in photo #8. Unless of course you were able to drink it in mid-air! Looked like it was a fun outing.


03/08/2012 20:53
I can relate. About 19 years ago, I came out from Michigan and tried for Grays/Torreys. Completed Grays, but had an awful headache and couldn't continue. Had to sit it out for about 30-60 minutes before I could function and head down.

At least you got some pretty good views and a slab of meat.


Fun times
03/08/2012 23:35
Glad you had fun, thanks for the report!
Did you not use/not need snowshoes at all? Thanks for the info!


Perfect trails!
03/09/2012 00:15
Hey Madbuck, we had what felt like smooth pavement for the entire trip. The ridge looked completely wind swept, though I cannot be positive as we did not hike it. We did not need snow shoes at all on the trail, though if you ventured off the trail you would sink about 3-4 feet. That happened a few times as there are a few very short sections where it's a little harder to find the original trail. There was some snow on the mountain later in the day, I think it was only supposed to be a few inches though, and it was windy... So the trail we followed may not be as visible as it was for us.


03/09/2012 02:40
Now there's a pair to draw to.

(Glad y'all had a safe trip. I have had occasions visiting Colorado when I left DIA and went straight up to 10,000' and paid the price with altitude sickness. I think it is different with everybody, but for me I've learned that spending at least one night no higher than 8,000 - and getting out and stretching the legs on warm up hikes - makes the rest of my trip a much more pleasant experience.)


Michiganders Represent!
03/10/2012 20:03
Congrats on successfully staying safe and having a great time despite not summiting Moved out here from GR in 2005 and haven't looked back since. Let me know when you guys are headed out here next, as long as you are not Wolverines

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