Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2008
Date Climbed:   07/31/2008
Author:  PeteMakousky
 North Trail  

7 years ago I tried the South Mt. Elbert trail but did not make it to the top. I thought that by making the trail a bit shorter, I could probably make it so this time I tried the North Mt. Elbert trail. I was sadly mistaken. My wife drove my sister and me to the trailhead and we prepared ourselves for the brutal ascent. We started our climb from an elevation of 10,040 feet at 7 am. This was slightly later than I planned partly because of my sluggishness. I was already feeling altitude sickness. The north trail was nothing like the south trail as it was a relentless uphill battle. All three of us huffed and puffed for what seemed like an eternity and I thought we would never make it past tree line. We eventually did make it past tree line and I was still carrying my gear including our Canon digital camera, my water, and my headache and nausea as well. We, of course, were passed by many small parties going up as if it were no big deal for them. We learned from this trip that we are called "flatlanders." We are from Minnesota.
We three flatlanders could only make it to an elevation of 12,826 feet as our bodies could not take any more of the uphill abuse. (pictures are from this elevation) We had hiked for 4 hours and 11 minutes going only 2.72 miles for a total of 2,786 feet. We still needed to climb another 1,607 feet to make the complete ascent of 14,433.
Initially I thought I would never attempt this again, but now that some time has passed, I have given 2nd thought to the idea. If the conditions are right, I would try again. However, my new plan of attack would be to take the South Elbert trail again and to stay 2 days in Denver, 2 days in Estes Park, and then 2 days in Leadville and then trying the hike on the 7th day. I did acclimate more this time than my first attempt but apparently still not enough.
Kudos to any other "flatlanders" who can make this hike.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

North Trail
08/07/2008 03:58
I live in Nebraska. When I travel to the mountains I acclimate by hiking at progressively higher altitudes just like you plan to do. It works. Secondly drink as much water as you can stand to combat mountain sickness. Thirdly, start early, stop often, and hike absurdly slowly. Finally, there are many more gorgeous and spectacular mountains with less elevation gain than Elbert (i.e. Sneffels).


Elbert TR
11/14/2008 16:03
Give it another try, fellow flatlander. Definitely give yourself a few days at altitude there before you try it again. Coming from Wisconsin, I usually spend 4 or 5 days in RMNP before I even think about hitting any 14ers.
And stick with the South Elbert trail. I‘ve heard all the false summits on the North Elbert trail can be a bit disheartening.


03/12/2012 21:50
Thanks for the comments above. It has been some time since I have gotten on 2012 will be my 3rd attempt at Mt. Elbert. I will be doing the South Elbert trail, staying longer to acclimate longer, drinking a ton of water, and using hiking poles and headlamp to get an absurdly early start. This in addition to all the stair climbing I have been doing should help me to accomplish this goal. What do you think?


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