Mt. Elbert - 14,433 feet
|Elbert in Warm January|
January 11, 2010
Route: East Ridge from Twin Lakes
Players: me and syzygy01 (JP)
First off, I made a funny little summit video:
Well, this trip came together on very late last minute. I was going to do this route with Benners, but it didn't work out. He actually went down to Uncompahgre with Kiefer. I posted a need for a partner for the East Ridge on a Monday, and JP happily responded.
We met at the T-Rex parking lot by the road cut on I-70 at 4:30 in the morning, and flew up the road and over the passes in no time at all.
Once we arrived at the trailhead, we tried to bring the 4WD suburban to the upper TR (some 2 miles), but to no avail. The snow was too deep, and I don't recommend trying. Tracks go up maybe 1/5 of a mile, but no more. I wound up driving in reverse all the way back down to the lower parking.
Once that was over, we started hiking at 7:20 AM. The aspens trees were very scenic, and the temperature warmed up very quickly once the sun began shining.
I started skinning after about a mile of walking on very firm, packed snow trail. The snow in the trees (off the trail) had the consistency of loose sugar - the entire snowpack is loose sugar from treeline down to lower altitudes.
JP had no trouble walking on the trail the entire way up the ridge - he hardly postholed once thanks to the frozen trail of the morning. The trail in the evening (especially down low) is another story, but it wouldn't be too bad to walk out on in just boots.
JP was in excellent aerobic condition, whereas I was in bad shape after not really doing anything but schoolwork for the last four months since August. I made it to the summit in just over five hours, while JP made it in 4 hrs 45 minutes (estimate?).
It was like Spring in January too, going up the ridge. It was so hot, the snow was melting, and it seemed like the spring runoff.
I was happy to have done a 14er over winter break, and it was nice to be the highest people in the Rocky Mountains!
The descent on skis (snowboard for JP) was through a horrible layer of dense wind blown snow. I encountered some of the nastiest Sastrugi of my life that day. JP was happy though:
Another group of skiers departed the summit 10 minutes before we went down, and they picked a clever route avoiding wind loaded slopes. The route was down the south ridge from the summit of Elbert, then traversing through thin rock filled snowfields on a 40 degree slope.
The skiing was not very good, and as a result, we didn't capture too many pictures of the descent. I had some helmet cam trouble, and I was under the impression that I had recorded the descent of the south face, but it didn't. The footage will not be missed - I don't think it would have been that great at all.
To get out of the gulch, we continued until we could go no further in the stream bed.
What ensued was a miserable slog of postholing and rockhopping from skier's right of the gulch to the left side to regain the East Ridge route.
I was forced to take off the skis and climb up a small hill, but I was higher (and farther back) than where I had taken them off, so it was a complete descent for me. It is possible to make a complete summit descent if you stay left in the gulch.
We were able to regain the East Ridge again, and we followed the trail on skis and snowboard all the way back to the car. The ski out was sub-par and not very much fun.
The East Ridge is NOT continuously skiable right now. Once section just below the Box Creek Chutes does not have enough snow for a long stretch. It is necessary to descend an alternate route, if you are seeking a full ski descent to the car.
Overall, I had a good time, but I don't intend on going back to Elbert anytime soon... Oh well, it was a good day, all things considered!
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