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Ascent of Mount Elbert on 2015-09-08

Climber: Vanessa Arnold

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Elbert
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:14433 ft / 4399 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bottom Line Up Front:
Weather: windy, clear
Trail: South Elbert Trail
Time: 0515- 0935 to the summit from the lower paved parking lot using Colorado trail
0935-1300 back to parking lot. Total Time: approximately 7:45. Would have been closer to six hours if I had parked closer.
Gear: gloves, raincoat, trekking pole, hiking boots, sun protection, water resistant clothing, plenty of water ALL came in handy during my two attempts.

This was my second stab at Mount Elbert; the day prior I had made an attempt on the North Elbert Trail but had to turn back due to rain / snow / lightning. This time, I was staying on the other side of the mountain, and since I didn't want to break an axle on the potholes in my tiny rental car, I opted to do the South Elbert Trail, which is paved up to the first parking lot. (With a non-4wd vehicle, it is suggested to only go this far.)
I started at 0515 on the Colorado Trail (MISTAKE: I would suggest following the road up to the second parking lot. The trail up to the second parking lot is circuitous and took me about 45min. Also, I think I scared a lot of wildlife, and consequently myself.) If you do take the trail up to the second parking lot, if it is dark, it is hard to see the trail where the trees have been felled. I noticed that it is marked with nails hammered into the trees along the path. There are three bridges for river crossings, and only one area where a small stream was running, but it was very easy to cross (I assume this would be the same every day,as Elbert had received a lot of rain the day prior).
As I was arriving at the second parking lot I could see some vehicles already pulling into that parking lot. This was disheartening, as I had been on the trail for nigh an hour, had just reached the altitude I had started at the day prior, was already two hours behind for that altitude (bc i had started earlier the day before), and everyone else was just getting there! The rest of the hike was rather unremarkable; steep grade through the aspens, lesser grade through the pines, and then up the ridge to the summit, buffeting wind the whole way above the tree lines. I later discovered that if someone wants bigger lips there is no need to get botox, just hike Elbert and that will swell them right up!
This was the first time I have been the first to summit for the day; an accomplishment which I both relished and rued. Relished, because, although I have been living at sea level, I still managed to make great time. Rued because there was no one coming down to tell me how much further I had. In fact, the only time I stopped was right below the summit (unbeknownst to me), when I had tired of the switchbacks and was sure they would never end. I ate half a bag of energy beans then kept going. Right around the corner was the top of the trail!(I say this because I got a bit psyched out. There are no false summits on this side; you just can never see THE summit until you are there.)

The descent was killer on my knees. I still have not mastered the art of descending; I tried all sorts of techniques on Elbert, and eventually just walked backwards, pretty much from the tree line to my car. (On my flight home, the guy sitting next to me suggested skipping. I like skipping. I'll try that next.) Since my knees were pretty much immobile by the time I reached the car (the extra hour of hiking down the CT to my car didnt help), I decided to go to nearby Buena Vista and try out the Cottonwood Hot Springs. It was AWESOME. I highly recommend if you have time post Elbert to treat yo'self to some local hot springs action.



Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4873 ft / 1486 m
    Elevation Loss:4873 ft / 1486 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Very Windy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:4873 ft / 1486 m
    Route:South Elbert Trail
    Trailhead:Lower Parking Lot  9560 ft / 2913 m
    Time Up:4 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:4873 ft / 1486 m
    Trailhead:9560 ft / 2913 m
    Time Down:3 Hours 25 Minutes



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