Mount Elbert was the first fourteener I ever summited. I climbed it with my grandpa while I was still in elementary school.
I am suprised still that I made that hike back then. Elbert is the tallest mountain in Colorado and is heavily managed by the forest service, so access is limited and the hike is long.
I have climbed Elbert three times since, and will probably return a few more times. It is a beautiful hike, and there is something about standing on the highest point in Colorado.
Click the map above to see a larger version.
We arrived before sunrise and were able to drive up a ways, but then got the Jeep stuck in a snow bank so we wasted some time getting it unstuck. Fortunately a couple of guys came up behind us in a truck and helped pull us out. They said they were climbing Elbert too, but that was the last we saw of them that day.
The hike to treeline was easy since the path was well traveled. Near treeline we post holed a little.
Once above treeline the snow was windblown and easy to walk across. Mount Massive dominated the view to the North.
Turqoise lake was frozen over and the town of Leadville had a blanket of snow.
We saw a Ptarmigan hiding in the snow. There could easily have been hundreds more around, they blend in so well with the snow.
After a while we lost the trail in the snow so we just followed the ridge up. This was actually pretty pleasant hiking as long as we avoided the slick areas.
We had snowshoes and ice axes with us, but really no need for either.
As we neared the summit La Plata Peak came into view (on the right side of the photo) over the South Elbert ridge.
I had some difficulty breathing near the summit. I think the elevation and cold air got to me. That thin and cold air however, made for some beautiful vistas.
The snow covered mountains were amazing. I recommend summiting at least one fourteener in the winter.
The summit had a fair amount of footprints, but we had the summit to ourselves.
Down towards Twin Lakes the valleys had much less snow and the lakes were not totally frozen over.
We felt great about this successful hike.
This photo outlines an approximation of the route to the summit using the Southern trailhead.
On the way down we were able to do a little glissading, which sped up the decent.
We got back to treeline fairly quickly, but after this we ran into snow that was warming and so we did a lot more postholing on the way out. Still we made good time and weren't terribly exhausted after the end of this hike.
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