Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  09/25/2010
Modified:  09/26/2010
Date Climbed:   09/17/2010
Author:  downhillbri

 East Ridge (Twin Lakes). A Perfect Day.  

It doesn't get any better than this.

Let's start with the basics:
Started on trail: 6:35AM
One 20 minute break @ 11,400'
One 10 minute break @ 12,500'
Summited: 10:35AM
Lunch 1:10 minutes
Headed down at 11:45AM
Back at trailhead 3:20PM

Up in 4:00 hours (or 4:20 for the rest of my group).
Down in 3:35 hours (we stopped for many photos since the fall colors were spectacular).
Total time: 8:45 hours.

GPS (two separate units) averaged: 8.4 miles RT.
Elevation gain: approximately 4,100'.

Weather: Sunny, cloudless, fairly light winds...perfect.
34 degrees @ the start and 70 degrees @ the car after the hike.

Hikers: Downhill Bri (me), the Uphill Queen (wife), Minnesota Di and Minnesota Doug (adventurous friends).

We stayed in Twin Lakes at a very nice cabin called the Treehouse:
open main level, three bedrooms and a terrific wraparound deck with views of Twin Lakes and Mt. Elbert. We found it at
It was very convenient with a 1.2 mile paved road drive (10 minutes) to the lower trailhead (South TH).
Add 1.8 mile drive (an additional 20 minutes) on a bouncy 4WD road (very doable with any moderately high clearance vehicles)
to the upper trailhead parking area where we parked.
(There is a lower TH parking lot if you want to add extra miles to your hike...but why would you want to???)

The sun had not yet risen when we crossed the bridge onto the Colorado Trail and began the hike. The trail is well defined and well marked where the Mt. Elbert
route branches off.

The well marked trail

We made a bet as to when the sun would peek over the eastern mountains and Diane won with a guess of 7:10. (She had to "buy" beers back at the car.)
The sun filtered through the trees making the trail quite tranquil.

The morning trail

The trail rose sharply through the aspens and pines where we caught up with a lone hiker named Steve (from Kansas) who was reconquering the peak. He was
the only other person we encountered on this route during our uphill climb. As we gained elevation, the trees thinned and the sun warmed the morning air.

The Uphill Queen & Minnesota Di nearing the treeline

We took a light "snack" break around 11,400' near the treeline.

First break at 11,400' with Elbert looming above

Beyond the trees we were afforded great views of Twin Lakes and the colorful fall aspens behind us. The trail was hardpacked, wide and comfortable.

After another break at a huge rock around 12,500', I found my step/breath rythym and told my companions I was going to forge ahead.
Step-inhale, step-exhale, step-inhale, step-exhale, repeat, repeat, repeat.
The trail up was a steady rise to a longer "flat" section where trail turned southeast where someone thoughtfully used stones to outline
and spell out " 14,000' " across the trail.
I knew I was close...well, sort of...probably about .7 miles and 400+' to go. A series of long switch backs headed to the summit.
No scree, no talus, no false summits. The trail intersects the standard route trail and was a short 100 yards to the peak.

I was the first to the summit at 10:35 and enjoyed the quiet and views in solitude. I relaxed until my trailmates arrived.

The "slow pokes" arrive at the summit

We enjoyed a celebration of achieving the summit of the highest point in Colorado, the second highest in the lower 48 states. SWEET!
We ate lunch and smiled for the camera.

Minnesota Di & Minnesota Doug
The Uphill Queen and Downhill Bri (me)
Group shot at the summit

We signed the log and watched as small groups of hikers reached the top.
10 to 12 people who made the trek up the Standard/Northeast Ridge Route summited as we were finishing lunch;
one woman celebrated her 50th birthday on the top with her friends. When we began our descent, Steve of Kansas arrived.

Going down was wonderful because we had the lakes and yellow aspens in view all the way down.

The way down to Twin Lakes
The afternoon's fall colors

We met one group of three and a second of two heading up.
It seems the South Route/East Ridge had far fewer hikers and was shorter with a bit less elevation.
The overall gain for both routes is about 1,000' per mile.
The photo opportunites kept popping up all the way down.

Best Friends Forever
Knuckle-bump buddies

When we entered the trees, the aspens glowed like golden sunlight against a deep blue sky.

The down trail through the trees
Sunlit aspens and blue sky

Minnesota Di paid off her winning bet back at the upper TH with ice cold beers from the cooler.

A silly beer

Trip Summary:
This was our 10th 14er and Doug & Di's 2nd.
Is is our favorite hike. We all enjoyed the well defined trail, the ease of hiking on a hardpacked path, the longer distance,
no false summits, the "healthy" elevation gain and the lack of crowds on our route.


I apologize for not posting this report sooner but after our return, our sweet, beloved dog, Chelsea (the Hiking Pup) passed
away on 9/23/10.

"The Hiking Pup" on the trail
Chelsea was happy in the mountains

She was a Golden Retriever who, at 15 years, 2 months, was too old to hike any more.
Her spirit is now hiking the trails of Colorado she loved so much.

May she rest in peace and love

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Doctor No

Great photos!
09/26/2010 05:10
We did this route the day after you did, and the aspens were popping with color.

Sorry to hear about Chelsea. She looks like a great dog!


photo ops
09/27/2010 00:13
That trail is resplendent(sp?) with photo ops---nice job


Glorious fall colors
09/27/2010 21:15
Great pictures! I did this route yesterday and it was still gorgeous, but one of the hillsides was already wiped of color. I ended up going over to S. Elbert and then couldn't find a great route to go down, but eventually made it back to the trail. So sorry to hear about your hiking pup, she looks like a sweetie.

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