Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  08/19/2013
Modified:  08/20/2013
Date Climbed:   08/13/2013
Author:  MattVocks
 Mt.Elbert-Northeast Ridge  

Set out from IL 08/10/2013 to climb this beast, was defeated by it on 08/13/2013......

Started out the trip with a hike from North Halfmoon
up to Champion Mill
as a warm up to get used to the elevation. Went pretty well, got used to catching my breath in the thin air. Out and back was +/- 6 miles. Not a bad day, or so I thought. Caught a little sleet, hid out in the Mill while it passed and ate some lunch. Then the next day, the fun started.....

Got to the North Elbert TH about 0545 and waited the 15 minutes for the sun to get a little higher. A bit chilly (for me, August is always hot?) but got warmed up very quickly. Took about 60 minutes to get to the Colorado Trail/Elbert Trail split. Never did see the "old miners shack". Made the turn and went up what I named "The Stairs", the first truly steep section in the forest. Made about an hour through the climb up through the second steep section I called "The Escalator", because I wasn't even thinking about walking anymore, just going up. Made it to the tree line in about 2 and 1/4 hours.
Was doing pretty well, taking breaks, drinking water at a reasonable level. Then came the really hard part. From about 12,750' to about 13,000' was just horrible. Moving 100' at a time, gaining little on the mountain, struck with a massive headache (I know, it's a couple miles away, so how did it get there!) The last 500' took me an hour to go up.
Finally made it to 13,200'
, threw up and decided the altitude was enough for me. I had the same problem driving up Evans the month before with the headaches. Next attempt is going to be a 6 or 7 day adventure to get better acclimated. I had to "race" back down to the treeline, which still took me about an hour. Sat down and had a little visitor hang out with me for about 10 minutes
, then beat feet to the trailhead to wait for my buddy who did summit.

Total time on the mountain was about 6 hours. I will be back to beat this thing, I promise. But anything above 12,000' someone really needs to spend.....more time than I did getting used to it.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great hike, just keep trying!
08/20/2013 00:28
You made it up the main switchbacks, that's a tough climb, especially for a flatlander. Be proud of what you accomplished. Definitely spend more time here before going up. A few suggestions, in Il. 10 to 15 mile hikes, watch your food/water intake and work out on a stair stepper. Once here do Evans (driving)again till you can stay at the top for a few hours and maybe climb Mt. Warren and/or Rogers peak. I go up there just to read a book. When your comfortable with that, go for Elbert. You already have shown your hiking ability. It took me a total of 7 trys to summit Elbert finally the other day (see my TR). Best of luck on your next hike and just keep trying, its well worth it.


drink more water!
08/20/2013 03:04
maybe that will help.

my first high elevation experience left me totally dehydrated. my second experience i doubled my water intake and just barely stayed ahead of the affects i felt on my first trip.

nice pictures!


Water and Aspirin
08/20/2013 13:56
Give those a shot. Aspirin will help thin your blood a little which should help with the altitude and headaches. Way to keep pushing it though. You will get it bud. When you going back?

Wish I lived in CO

One Word
08/20/2013 16:20
Acetazolamide. Sometimes called Diamox. I'm a flatlander as well and have experienced similar without it (but not quite as bad). With it I'm ready to go right away. There are moderate side effects; but get a Rx and test it at home, often a half dose cuts down the side effects and yet is still plenty for acclimating. Water and aspirin certainly help some but only so much.

Great effort and yet a smart decision to no-go. You'll get it next time!


RE: Water and Aspirin
08/20/2013 16:20
If there is one thing the Army has taught me in the last 14 years, it is ”drink water, take aspirin (and buy new running shoes, N/A in this case)” I drank what I felt was too much water (about a gallon in the 6 hours I was out). Hyper hydrosis is just a big a problem as not enough. Maybe the way I was intaking could be adjusted? I have the itch to go back once a month till I tackle this becomes almost obsessive, no?!? I think next time I am also lugging half the camera stuff I took, losing about 4 lbs......Whatever it is, I'm sucked in!


RE: One Word
08/20/2013 16:27
I have read about acetazolamide....wasn't sure how to walk into the doctor and ask for it.....probably look at me like I'm nuts and give me an endoscopy!


08/20/2013 20:35
” becomes almost obsessive, no?!?...”

Yes, it does...

As others have said - hang in there - you'll make it. And you'll feel like a million bucks when you do.

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