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Ascent of Mount Elbert on 2016-05-09

Climber: Craig Barrett

Others in Party:Malachi Barrett
Date:Monday, May 9, 2016
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Mount Elbert
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:11395 ft / 3473 m

Ascent Trip Report

Arrived in Denver on Sunday, May 8, 2016, rented a vehicle and then and stopped at REI in Denver, which was a wise choice. We ensured we had the right map, purchased a new 2 man tent and rented crampons. REI representative told us to expect snow, hike early to avoid the mush and be off the summit by noon to avoid lightning. We planned to do all these things but it was good to hear it reinforced.

We drove to Mt. Elbert with the thought that we would camp at the intersection of the Colorado Trail and the split between Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. at our last stop a Law Enforcement Officer told us we probably wouldn't be able to get to the campsite with our vehicle and they he had participated in a rescue for some local hikers last week at the same location...humbling.

We encountered snow on the road as he transitioned to dirt, then had to conduct several snow/ice crossings before stopped about 1.25 mile short at the Half Moon Lake Camping Area. There were two (2) other vehicles from Iowa and apparently a third vehicle was joining them making their party nine (9) total hikers. They were there for the week with the same goal---hike Mt. Elbert, then Mt. Massive.

We hiked our 65lb. packs the 1.25 miles to our campsite. Snow, ice and slush was on the road and the hike at 9,500' plus with no acclimation was a wake-up call. We established our campsite and were the only ones present. We scouted the trailhead, which was completely under snow and realized that at 0330 we would be lucky to stay on the trail and definitely required snowshoes and/or crampons. We built a fire, warmed up and ate a meal before turning in. Campsite was at about 10,000' and a couple hundred feet from the stream and the trailhead.

At 0330 I awoke and it was snowing, returned to sleep. At 0430 I awoke and it was snowing, returned to sleep. At 0530 I awoke and it was lightly snowing, beginning to get light out and the party below us was just approaching our campsite and the trailhead. We dressed, ate a light breakfast and departed for the summit between 0545 at 0600.

Trail was easy to follow behind the party of nine (9); however, it was not easy. There was 4' or more of snow in numerous places and we often punched through and had a leg, with a crampon on it, disappear all the way up to our waist. Hiking about 10,000' with less than a day of acclimatization was not ideal and we were dragging.

At 0830 it had not stopped snowing, we had reached 11,395', were still below the alpine level and the peak was not visible. After drinking some hot cocoa, warming up a little we called it and began our descent, returning to our camp around 1030. We watched the part break out of the alpine from our camp, move a couple hundred feet toward the summit before they turned around as well. We watched them return to the alpine and figured it would be another couple of hours before they passed our site. With the peak still covered and snow still coming down we packed up our camp and hiked back to our vehicle. Do not recommend this hike at this time of year unless you have time to acclimate, time to wait for ideal conditions and the right equipment (snowshoes to the alpine level, then crampons or micro studs to the peak). Ideally, a party should rope in together once above the alpine.

Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1895 ft / 578 m
    Elevation Loss:1895 ft / 578 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8 km
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Tent Camp, Bivouac
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Breezy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1895 ft / 578 m
    Distance:2.5 mi / 4 km
    Route:Half Moon to Colorado Trail to Mt. Elbert
    Trailhead:10000  9500 ft / 2895 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1895 ft / 578 m
    Distance:2.5 mi / 4 km
    Route:Mt. Elbert Trail to Colorado to Half Moon
    Trailhead:9500 ft / 2895 m



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