Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2009
Date Climbed:   09/05/2009
Author:  MRottmann

 1st 14 er - Mt. Elbert  

This was my first attempt at a 14er. Flew in from GA on Thurs. Sept. 3. Had to gear up for the adventure. REI loves me now. Our group of 8 met up in and was based out of Breckenridge. Our group was made up of people from IN, GA and CO. Main reason for the trip was to celebrate my brother's 40th birthday. Climbing Mt. Elbert was his goal for his birthday.

We used Thursday and Friday to try and get acclimated to the high altitude.

On Sat. morning (9/5) we drove in to the Mt. Massive/Mt. Elbert Trail Head at around 6 am. Wanted to get an early start so as to avoid any afternoon storms. Had been advised to be at the summit by Noon.

Here is a picture of our crew before the start of our adventure.

We ran into a little bit of difficulty right off the bat. In the dark, we failed to see the left hand turn in the trail (that goes over the creek). Turns out there was a post for a sign to point the way, but the sign was missing. Our group plus others wandered up a different "trail" for a ways until we determined that this really wasn't correct. Too many trees laying over the trail. Once back on the real trail we started to make good time.

The sun was coming up and providing us with some great colors and emerging views.

Our group broke up into smaller groups based on climbing speed. Trail switched back and forth for the next mile or so. Not too bad. My trail training in North GA seemed to be paying off (Stone Mountain, Sawnee Mtn., hills in my neighborhood). Came to the split in the trail.


From here on the trail got a little tougher. I knew from reading reports on that the trail above the treeline would be more difficult, but I was surprised hard and how long it took us to get out of the trees. Our group kept plugging away and eventually made it above the tree line and got our first glimpses of the mountain.

Dang are we really going to climb all the way up there? We're only half way there already? Truly awe inspiring in person. Here's me below Mt. Elbert.

Altitude really started to wear us out from this point forward. Had to take many breaks, but kept making our way up the mountain. Below is a view back down towards the trees. Can see that the mountain was pretty busy. Great views all around.


Below Jim works his may up.


Dark clouds over Elbert. Need to hurry.


Around this point, my brother caught up with me. He had been climbing with his wife. She was giving it a good try, but wasn't going to make it. He came at the right time. The 3 people I was climbing with were starting to wear out. Todd and I joined forces and helped push each other towards the summit. We did encounter some sleet, but it cleared out fairly quickly. We were able to work together through the steep sections of the climb and made good steady progress.

Rain on the mountains to the South of us.


Finally the summit was in sight. Thanks to all the climbers on their way down that gave us an encouraging word.

Todd making a run for the summit.


Finally we made it. Awesome feeling. Great Views. Lots of people and dogs at the summit. Everyone having a good time.

We ate our sandwiches, took many pictures, signed the summit paper and enjoyed the euphoric feeling of achieving a personal goal. Took approximately 6 hours to get to the top. Only 4 of our group of 8 made it.

Here is a picture of a small plane that flew by. Strange feeling to see a plane flying lower than the land you are standing on.


Me at the summit.

Todd and the Mt. Elbert gnome. Anyone know the story of this little guy.

I believe the picture below is of 14er La Plata.

View to the North. Mt. Massive.

Me and my IU flag on the summit. Funny thing was that once I broke out the flag, I found that there were at least 4 other IU grads on the summit at that time. Amazing. Everyone took pictures with the flag.


The weather started to look iffy, so we started heading down. Would have loved to have stayed longer. Picture below of Todd trekking back down (posing).

Way back down was much easier, but we took our time. Didn't want any accidents. Slow and steady down. Luckily the weather stayed solid the whole way down. No issues. Took about 4 hours to climb down. Last picture is of us finishing the trail. A job well done.


It was probably the most physically demanding event that I've ever done. Extremely happy and proud that I was able to make it. Had no prior experience in this type of endeavor. It was an exhilarating experience. I will be back to try and conquer more 14ers.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
James Scott

Well done!
09/15/2009 18:28
Feels great to get that first summit! Did the false summits mess you up? I remember they were pretty bad on that route.


False Summits
09/15/2009 18:32
I guess I was aware of them thanks to But they were a little dis-heartening. Had to just keep plugging along and get to the next one. Made the actual summit that much sweeter. My only regret is that I could not find any 14er ESB beer in Breckenridge. Wanted to open one up on the summit. Next time!

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