Adventure 2018: Mount Elbert (September 20)

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As promised, this is the first in a short series of posts about some final adventures from 2018.

A funny story from last summer: As we climbed Redcloud Peak, I thought about the last fourteener I climbed. It was way back in 2001, when I climbed La Plata with my Vermont friend Andy Follett. As we reached the summit, I briefly turned on my phone to send out a few pics of Nate’s first fourteener. As you would expect, my phone downloaded a number of e-mails while it was on. When I got back to camp, I discovered one was from… my friend Andy. What are the odds? He was planning a trip to climb the high points of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nebraska and wanted to know if I would join him.

A little more than a month later, Andy and I left the East Ridge trailhead of Mount Elbert at 7:30am. We had met the night before, our first meeting in 18 years, at the Twin Lakes Inn in Twin Lakes, Colorado. This is a quaint, cozy place with lots of character. We had a very good dinner, and they prepared us a breakfast-to-go for our early start. The road to the trailhead was rough, but the Jeep once again proved its mettle by getting us all of the way there.

Mount Elbert, at 14,440’ above sea level, is the highest peak of Colorado, the Rocky Mountains, and the entire Mississippi river watershed. While my guidebook lists it as an 8.4-mile round trip hike, the trail had been recently rerouted, and the actual mileage was almost 12.

Strava track, showing the location of the old trail as well as the route of the new trail.
Strava track, showing the location of the old trail as well as the route of the new trail.

It had been raining for days, and the morning started cloudy and cold, but the forecast was accurate, and the clouds burned off as the day went on.

The hike started with golden aspens, but tree line was soon below us.

The hike itself isn’t technically difficult, just a long walk at high altitude.

The summit was fairly crowded. Elbert’s distinction of being the highest draws hikers from across the country (including Andy, of course). The views were spectacular and the weather was fine, which made up for it.

Photo taken by Greg Pajot, a random guy we met on the summit.  I suggested shooting wide open using his 10-18mm lens to get the lens flare. I did the post-processing.
Photo taken by Greg Pajot, a random guy we met on the summit. I suggested shooting wide open using his 10-18mm lens to get the lens flare. I did the post-processing.
La Plata Peak, the last mountain Andy and I climbed together
La Plata Peak, the last mountain Andy and I climbed together

The hike down was a grind, made somewhat better by the now-spectacular yellow aspens, glowing in the sun.

Overall, I was happy with my performance. While I slowed down at the higher altitudes, I didn’t have to deal with any headaches or nausea, which was nice. Apparently I put a lot of stress on my body, though, and tweaked my back the next day- ouch!

Strava link

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