I’d hoped to do this last summer, but schedules just never worked out. Everything came together this past weekend though – no one was busy with other plans, good weather was in the forecast (save a bit of wind), and there was a mostly-full moon.
Originally, we were going to start pretty early in the morning and finish up mid-day. I half-jokingly suggested to Andrew that we just do it overnight, summit at sunrise, and finish up early. After thinking about it for a minute, the overnight plan made a lot of sense – not having to wake up at 2am is always nice, and we’d miss the hordes of mid-day hikers by being off the mountain before most of them even started.
Andrew, Brian, and I met at the lower parking lot (which would allow for a bit of Colorado Trail riding on the way out) and were pedaling at 12:45am.
The pedaling didn’t last for long, maybe a mile up the road to the 4WD trailhead. From that point on we pushed. There was a long way to go, and avoiding going anaerobic early and often was the smart call. Just over four and a half hours after leaving the car, I was sitting on top of Colorado.
The views were great, as expected.
Appropriately, I enjoyed the can of Sunshine while waiting for sunrise that we each hauled to the summit.
It had been pretty windy, but the sun warmed things up nicely, and the windbreak on the summit made for nice viewing of sunrise.
Early morning light is as good as it gets in the mountains, and is a big part of why I like to hit the summit so early.
After about 45 minutes on top, we got ready to drop. I put on my fullface and some pads, which I decided were worth hauling up after seeing this video of someone on Elbert after losing his brakes. A loose, rocky, tight 5,000′ descent at an average 20% grade is not a very brake-friendly descent.
There was some haze in the air from the wildfires all around the west, but it wasn’t too bad.
Before long the mid-day sun showed up and flattened all the colors.
At one point, the hiking trail had been braided to seven tracks wide. And people say mountain bikers don’t respect trails.
It was a blast descending through so many different environments so quickly – from loose, chossy rock, to alpine tundra, lower still to evergreen forests, and finally aspen as we got closer to Twin Lakes below.
We took quite a few breaks to let the brakes cool, and still they were overheating on the way down.
Andrew has said “never again,” but I’m sure I’ll be back. Getting up high in the alpine without having to walk back downhill is a wonderful thing.
If you missed the video (posted yesterday), here is a direct link.
One thought on “Mt. Elbert Sunrise Bike Descent”
Hi Mike! I work for a nonprofit called the National Forest Foundation and I was just looking for high quality photos of the terrible braided trails on Mount Elbert. At the NFF we’re launching a new campaign to help stewardship groups around CO build sustainable trails to 14ers – and restore damaged areas like these braids on Elbert. Would I be able to use one or more of your Elbert photos showing the braided trails? Let me know! Thanks for taking great shots!