Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mt. Elbert, 14,433 Feet

Mt. Elbert (14,433)


East Ridge from the South Mt. Elbert TH

11.2 Miles/4,850 vertical

Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave Hale, Dave “Hoot” Gibson, Steve Hoffmeyer, Kevin Lund, Mike “Eagle Eye” Via, Ricky Carr

As if there are not enough Mt. Elbert TRs, I’ll add yet another to the pot. This is mainly to give a quick summary of the day and link to pictures.Dave and Hoot have been making a winter trip up Elbert an annual tradition for the past few years. We have been discussing the possibility of this trip for a while and we just “happened” to schedule our trip immediately after several large groups have packed a nice trail . Steve and Kevin were immediately interested as well and Mike and Ricky totally surprised us. We got on the trail at 7:20am under clear, calm and cold conditions. We were soon quite warmed up once we got the blood flowing and enjoyed a bit of sun hit, but we could see snow devils blowing up high and we knew the pleasant conditions would be short lived.The trail was amazingly packed, and I was secretly wishing that I had my Kahtoola running crampons and a lighter setup, as Elbert would be an awesome snow run right now on the packed trail. We all settled into our own paces as the hill got steeper and we all stopped every 20 minutes or so to regroup, have a snack or adjust layers as necessary.Above tree line, the wind really started to pick up, but fortunately, the temperature was in the high teens or low 20’s, so it did not feel too bad with the proper gear. We stashed our snowshoes a bit below 13,000 feet and continued our progress up the wind scoured East Ridge. The last 1,000+ feet we were got a bit spread out, all of us in our own survival modes, battling a fierce headwind.Even though I have hiked this route in the summer 10+ years ago, I was still a bit deceived by the seemingly endless stretch to the summit. The final slopes to the summit were a test in mental and physical fortitude for me and I just put my head down and kept grinding it out. I bonked pretty hard about 30 minutes from the top, but did not feel like stopping to pull out food in the bitter wind. Despite the bonk, I felt surprisingly good in regards to the altitude, as I have not been above 14,000 feet since last August.I was quite pleased to gain the ridge, but the fury of the wind increased a bit, spinning me around in the direction I had just come several times, as if the winds were trying to deny my access to the true summit. I kept having flashbacks to my run up Mt. Elbert last summer and how comparatively effortless it was on a warm, calm summer morning.I dug my poles in to maintain forward momentum and finally gained the summit at 12:13pm. Hoot and Dave rolled in minutes later, followed by Steve, Allison, Kevin and Mike. Unfortunately Ricky decided it was in his best interest to turn back a bit below the summit, but either way he put in a great effort. We spent nearly 50 minutes on the summit as the group coalesced, ate, took pictures etc. We had great views all around, but we could not find much relief from the wind, so we beat a hasty retreat.The trip down was great, as we had a bit of a tailwind and a nice packed trail. Hoot managed to complete the round trip without snowshoes, and several other descended without, as the trail was amazingly packed most of the way.We all had a great time together on this trip. It was awesome to get out again with my usual and occasional hiking partners, great to meet Mike and see Ricky again. The day before and the day after this trip, the weather was lousy up high, so we really could not have timed it better. I was so pleased to get a new winter 14er and really just happy to get up high again after a long dry spell of high peaks.Those who were on the trip, please feel free to add any comments or pictures, and thanks again for a great time!Photos:

Pt. 12,601 Attempt

Saturday 1/19/08

This was a loose attempt at 12,601 from the La Plata TH. It really just turned out to be 4 hours of fun snowshoeing in the trees, as the winds up high were brutal and the temps were in single digits. We had a great time and got a little exercise breaking trail up steep North facing slopes in waist deep powder.

Snowshoeing at Independence Pass


After driving up to Twin Lakes and checking in at the Mt. Elbert Lodge, Allison, Sierra and I drove West on 82 to the road closure and started snowshoeing along the road. After about 1/4 mile, we followed some snowmobile tracks SW across the meadow, and up a nice gradually ascending trail. We had very limited daylight and it was snowing, so we kept the outing short, maybe 1:30 total. It was very tranquil, as we were the only ones within miles.