|On top! 14,433ft, 2nd tallest in Cont. USA|
After nearly 5 hours and 4.5 miles of gaining 4700 feet in elevation we were standing on the top! It was an incredible challenge and a very long hike, but an amazing feat to reach the summit; this is the 10th, 14er that we have hiked and it’s very fitting that it was the tallest in Colorado.
The Mt. Elbert trailhead standard route starts a short drive from the mountain town of Leadville, about 1.5 hours from our home in Golden, CO. From Leadville, drive south through the town and follow the signs toward Hwy 24 East. Just as you are leaving the south end of Leadville turn right onto CR 300 and immediately cross the railroad tracks; drive for just under a mile and make a left turn onto CR 11 toward Halfmoon Creek.
|Rough route; green-alpine; red -Class 2 hardest; blue-easy|
The Journey: I could not contain my excitement days prior to our hiking Mt. Elbert. I was dreaming about hiking at night and daydreaming about standing on top of the tallest mountain in Colorado, (second tallest in the Continental United States) for two days; ever since forgoing our plans to drive to Durango for a closer hiking/camping experience. We had planned on leaving Friday evening, but Josh was delayed at work and rather than set up a tent in the dark, we decided to drive out super early on Saturday morning, set up our tent, then hike Mt. Elbert. We managed to leave the house by 5am and chose our San Isabel national forest campsite around 7:30am which was about 300 yards from the Mt. Elbert trailhead; and we were on the trail just after 8am.
|Emerald Lake from woods|
The trail starts with a long hike through the woods, which encompasses about half of your hiking experience on the mountain. During the entire hike there is a 4700 foot elevation gain, much of that from the trailhead at about 10,000 ft, to above the timberline at over 12,000 feet. The section through the woods is pretty steep and rocky, and Josh was not feeling as great as he had last week, so we stopped a few times for him to adjust clothing and eat. I, however, was feeling awesome and enjoying the scenery and experience. I became one of those hikers, who, when annoyingly asked by someone coming down the mountain “how are you today,” rather than my usual breathless comment about wishing I was heading down the mountain, I became that person who exclaimed, “I'm great, what a beautiful day, how is your hike?” This is pretty unlike me when hiking a 14er, usually I am so focused on making it to the top, that I sometimes miss some of the hiking ‘experience.’ And this euphoria made me wonder if I had altitude sickness or something; a thought that literally made me laugh out loud. However, I have hiked a lot this summer year and I think that I am more conditioned to the altitude than in previous years and I can definitely tell the difference.
|Steep alpine valley climb|
|Me pointing to the actual peak, finally! Josh didn't believe me, but it really was the top :)|
|Beautiful aspen trees and Colorado blue sky :)|
|Pooped pup on the top :) Belle|
|Summit looking west, the wind block made it downright warm on the top.|
|Josh and I on the summit, just heading back down, Twin Lakes behind us.|
|Geological Marker on the summit|
|Views of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains|
|Belle chillin while we had a snack on the way back down.|