Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  02/14/2011
Date Climbed:   02/12/2011
Author:  RobertKay
 Mt Elbert ski descent via East Ridge   

I have been making slow progress on climbing (or often merely visiting) the 50 state high points and decided to speed things up a little last week. I left my home in Lincoln, Nebraska and drove to Kansas for an unsupported winter assault of the south face of Mt Sunflower. The zero degree temps and high winds forced me to turn the truck's heater on high! Some climbs are easier than others.

The fearsome heights of Mt Sunflower

From there we drove to Oklahoma and actually had to exit the truck and walk four miles to claim the state's high point on top of Black Mesa. The skies turned blue, but the cold and wind were still pretty miserable.

Looking into Colorado from Black Mesa, OK

Proof of our victory

We then drove to Copper Mountain where my friends went skiing while I enjoyed the back country powder on Shrine Pass and Ptarmigan Pass for a couple of days. I had put out the word on for a partner to do Elbert and fortunately nova972 responded (everyone else in the world calls him Zack). After a bit of a late start, we started skinning from the summer trailhead at about 7:45 and the going was very easy as several people had gone ahead of us that day and possibly also on prior days leaving a very firm trail that required no breaking.

A nicely tracked path was a welcome surprise

A beautiful day to be in the mountains

The required bridge crossing picture

We made quick work of things through the trees and onto the lower stretches above tree line. The temps were mild and we layered down to only our base layers for quite a while. However, the winds began to pick up as we exited the forest and by the time we reached the upper ridge they were howling.

Entering the wind zone

We decided it would be wise to put everything on except for our puffy coats and zip/unzip to control temps rather than try to battle the winds once we started to get too cold. This proved to be a wise choice and there was very little unzipping.

View of the summit

At about 12,800' we were forced to remove our skis and hike up the partially snow-covered rocks until we were perhaps 400' from the summit.

Nearly there

There were short sections where we could have skinned had we brought ski crampons with us. The very high winds were the most difficult part of the climb, especially with our skis acting as sails on our backpacks.

The winds abated as we gained the summit making it much more pleasant.

The top of Colorado

Zack feeling strong on the summit of Elbert

We were able to ski down from within perhaps 10' of the top using the upper portions of the Box Creek Couloirs, traversing over one section of rock on foot and then skiing all the way down the East Ridge. Up high the snow was rock hard with lots of wind ridges, while lower down we hit breakable crust, heavy powder, and some hardpack.

Zack making some turns

What is wrong with Zack's bindings? The heel piece looks broken.

Twin Lakes from up high on Mt Elbert

Rough skiing

After all this hard work, a burrito supremo in Frisco was a nice reward. Thanks Zack for responding to my call for a partner as you made the trip much more fun. I'm sorry you needed to wait for this old guy who couldn't steam up the hills as fast as you are capable of!

On my way home to Lincoln, I also visited Nebraska's high point in beautiful temps and sunshine.

Panorama Point, Nebraska

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Binding issues
02/17/2011 15:33
yeah, my bindings were working just fine, Robert on the other hand had an issue with his heels getting frozen and stuck to the ski.
Great day, Highly recommended, not noted in the report but no less important - STAY OUT OF THE ASPENS!!! they are impossibly tight!
Thanks for putting up the awesome trip report... you can see some more pics on my blog at


Nebraskans taking it to Co
03/27/2011 14:56
nice work guys. I'm in Sidney...the other side! Heading to meet my friend Thurs night to ski Elbert Friday. Hoping for good weather, low winds, and a few good turns! Any last minute advice?


Hi Sydney climbers
03/27/2011 16:09
Panorama Point won't be much out of your way and was fun to visit, so I would suggest you go there so that you can mark it off your list. The only other advice I have is pretty basic - check the weather and avy forecast, start early, bring appropriate gear/food/clothing. We were lured into going skiers left of the trail on our descent through the trees because the north facing slope had much better snow. The problem is you then either truly fight your way through very tight aspens for a long way, or need to pick up the Colorado trail at the bottom and walk back up for a little way. I think that would have been preferable for us, but the snow is likely very different (for the better or worse) than when we did it several weeks ago. Have fun!

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