Mt. Elbert – 9/30/06

Originally written 10/1/06

Yesterday, I hiked up Mt. Elbert (14,433). It just happens to be the highest point in Colorado, and the second highest in the continental US (Mt. Whitney, in California, is 64′ higher).

According to guidebooks, the trip is 9 miles round trip, and comes with 4,700′ of elevation gain.

I’d been planning on going to the Great American Beer Festival on Friday night, which would have cancelled this trip, but I got blown off and decided to go enjoy what may have been the last non-winter conditions weekend of the year. We got a bunch of snow last weekend, but a warm week melted off a bunch of it, making for great conditions. The air was damn-near still up until the last couple hundred vertical feet, where it was a gentle breeze. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so I did get a bit of a sunburn.

Here’s a view of the mountain from a couple miles down the road (took it on the way out):

Now, 4,700′ over 4.5 miles each way isn’t all that bad. A decent slope for sure, but not too bad. The thing is, at least according to my GPS, I only gained about 500′ during the two mile walk to treeline. That left almost 4000′ in 2.5 miles. That’s pretty damn steep. These pictures are representative of the average slope up:

Heading up was tiring, but the number of false summits was mentally exhausting. Three or four times, I would look up, see what I thought was the top, but eventually see a point rise up over the crest of where I was going. Sigh. I finally reached a point that looked familiar from the research I’d done on the hike:

That’s the final summit ridge. Seeing that definitely raised my spirits.

View from the summit:
La Plata Peak:

Mt. Massive – if you truncated the mountain at 14,000′, the resulting plateau would be over half a square mile. It’s got more area over 14,000′ than anywhere else in the lower 48:

More mountains:

And of course my awesome dog:

And me:

The trail after treeline took me two hours to go up. I went down that same section in 45 minutes by running/plunge-stepping down through the snow fields. Damn that’s fun.

No idea what will be next, or when. Heavy storms could delay things indefinately, or we might have nice warm weather for a few more weeks, allowing for a few more easy hikes before I have to break out the snowshoes.