I have done many hikes, however nothing could compare to the 7 hour hike up Mt. Elbert.
With an elevation of 14,439 Mount Elbert is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the highest point in the U.S. state of Colorado and the entire Mississippi River drainage basin.
This somewhat spontaneous trip started with researching camp sites near Twin Lakes. While there are plenty of options, I quickly realized I don’t have the best sleeping bag for the night temperatures. Therefore I booked my first (and probably last) last minute cheap hotel room on the outskirts of Leadville. I KNOW! I AM A FRAUD! I DIDN’T CAMP INTO THE MOUNTAIN! But hey, I can only get better at this whole outdoor thing, right? 😛
Packed my bag with many layers, as I didn’t know what to expect with a prominence of 9,072 and a gradual incline to 14,439. It looked something like this:
- dri fit short shirt
- dri fit long sleeve
- cotton flannel long sleeve (optional)
- windproof puff jacket
- outer shell rain jacket
- warm gloves
- hat or headband to cover ears
- toilet paper in plastic bag
- 1-2 liters of water (personal preference)
- trail mix | protein bars | sandwich
- external phone charger
- extra socks (optional)
- everything kit >>> hand sanitizer | eye drops | tea tree oil mist | compass |swiss army knife | flashlight | gauze pads| safety pin | tweezer | ointment | duct tape| petroleum jelly | sunscreen | whistle
Began the hike early to avoid foot traffic, which to my surprise was not as heavy as I expected (maybe 30 people). The beginning was slow but steep and it was so nice to see the sun rise while listening to the birds (as well as my heavy breathing). I have been living in Denver for almost a year and feel pretty fit, so at least my lungs were not a problem. The climb was more promising once you leave the tree line, however there is a series of two fake summits prior to the real deal. So at times it can feel discouraging but I just kept walking.
Made it to the rocky, slightly snowy peak and immediately put on all my clothes. Despite the previous summit in the 13000s being average temperatures, the wind immediately kicked up once you reach the peak. The views were breathe-taking! I watched a large black crow glide slowly in the wind while a small American flag was flying on a stick in the rocks. Needless to say it was majestic.
Had a leisurely lunch on the first fake summit, which was entertaining to watch the Marmots curiously creep out of the rocks nearby. The storm overhead luckily passed completely and all that was left was to get back to the car.
The descent was the only part of the 7 hour hike with a 20lb pack that really kicked my butt. My knees were weak and I felt like a old limping lady. I can see why people bring walking poles to help counter the weight, however I really want to a few more without it to really push myself.
As with most things in the life, the journey there was new, but retracing my steps was not so much. Can certainly appreciate a loop trail vs. an out and back going forward!
Next up, Denali…or in the meantime Mt. Bierstadt!