Mount Elbert Climb

	Northeast Ridge II from Mount Elbert Trailhead
        Elevation - 14,433ft
        Mountain Range - Sawatch
        Colorado Ranking - 1 

Mount Elbert is located 12 miles southwest of Leadville Colorado. It is part of the Sawatch Mountain Range and is the tallest mountain in Colorado. In fact, it is the second highest mountain in the "lower 48" states, rising 14,433 majestic feet! A good friend of mine Jason Miller and I arrived in Leadville on the night of September 27, 1998, got a motel room, watched "Austin Powers", and hit the sack. The next morning, we awoke later than we wanted, quickly ate breakfast at a restuarant next door to our motel, and headed for the San Isabel National Forest. We drove south on US 24 to Colorado 300 where we turned west. We headed south again on Lake County 11 until we saw the sign for Halfmoon Creek camp grounds (southwest). We turned down this dirt road until we got to the Elbert Creek camp grounds just .3 mile from the Mount Elbert trailhead. We selected a site and set up camp. By the time we hit the trail, it was already 11:15. From the Mount Elbert Trailhead trail (topo map) we followed the Colorado trail south for .8 mile before turning west on the trail to the summit. The Northeast Ridge II trail is Class 1, but it is a steep climb most of the way up. Not having had really enough time to acclimate to the altitude, we were quickly winded and took frequent breaks. At 1:30 we reached the treeline at about 12,000 feet. We stopped to rest and eat lunch and soon had uninvited lunch guests. The local birds have evidently met hikers up here many times before. After saying goodbye to our feathered friends, we continued the uphill struggle. The temperature started dropping and the wind picked up as the trail steeply climbed before us. Mount Elbert is a cruel mountain. There are several false peaks that tempt you with feelings of triumph. You come around a ridge, thinking that the end is near, only to see even more trail ahead. To a couple of out of shape flatlanders, these false peaks were very discouraging, but we plodded on. It was 4:45 when we reached the summit. We were tired and cold, but the view made it all worth while. Spectacular does not even begin to describe it. Surrounded by peaks, including Elberts next door neighbor Mount Massive, we signed the peak sheet, took several pictures, and started our descent. Storm clouds were moving in, and we had very little daylight left. Each step on this steep rocky downhill trail pounded our knees. Descending quickly, we reached treeline about 6:15. There was still alot of trail left but little daylight. Thinking that we would be back before sundown, we had made a major mistake. We did not pack a flashlight. A flashlight will be a permanent fixture in my daypack from now on! It got so dark before we got back to camp that we could barely make out the trail. Tripping and stumbling through the darkness, we finally made it back to camp at 08:15. Both Jason and I were extremely tired and extremely sore. There was only one thing to do, Mexican food! Yes, we piled into my car and headed to La Cantina on US 24 just before getting to downtown Leadville. It has become a tradition of Jason and I to stuff ourselves with Mexican food after a long spell in the woods. Although we had only spent 1 day in the woods, we thought it was a good reward for standing atop Mount Elbert!

Mount Elbert Trail Head

Just above treeline at 12,000 feet.

They look like small puddles from up here!

Jason and I standing atop the 2nd highest mountain in the lower 48. 14,433 feet.

A long way down!

Among the golden Aspen!

Mount Elbert as seen from the trail.

Mount Elbert from the Mount Massive trail.

Mount Massive!