Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday, 01/18/09 Mt. Elbert

Mt. Elbert
11.2 miles
4,850 vertical
Start: S. Mt. Elbert TH
Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave Hale, Dave Gibson, Matt Kubrick, Steve Hoffmeyer, Carol Gerber, Ed Gerber, Steve Knapp, Chris Orwat, Mike Via, Ricky Carr, Shep and Sierra
8:16 RT (Start 7:20am, Finish 3:36pm)

On what has become an annual tradition, we had yet another great expedition up Mt. Elbert on an absolutely PERFECT January day. We had pretty much the same crew as last year, minus Kevin Lund unfortunately, yet we had a few new additions to the group.The forecast throughout the week kept reading mid 30’s and low wind. Could it really hold? Much to my surprise, the forecast did hold true, as a strong high pressure system held steady over Colorado.We left the house at 4:20am, picked up Steve H in Idaho Springs and made it to the TH in plenty of time for our ~7:15am proposed start. The lot was about full (mostly our group) and there were two parties on the trail ahead of us. We followed the well packed trail easily without snowshoes and made good time along the gradual road to the summer trailhead. Once the trail steepened, Allison and I put on our snowshoes for traction, but they were really not necessary. Before long, we were walking along a long flat stretch that was obviously off track. We all knew that whomever forged this track, missed the correct route on to the ridge. Despite this, it was easier to follow the packed trail than to break a new trail, despite the circuitous nature of the diversion. At the very least, it was scenic and was a perfect day!We all generally spread out and formed small groups of 2 or 3 and would occasionally regroup. Eventually, we chugged up a very steep hillside through an aspen forest and gained the normal route just below treeline. Someone even liked this alt. route so much, they marked it with orange flagging, however all of us who are familiar with the original route would prefer the latter. We all stashed snowshoes in one of the final patches of trees, hoping no one would “find” them and take them home thinking they did a good deed. We noted the contrast to last year, where we put on everything we had at this spot, but this year it was quite a bit warmer with very little wind, amazingly pleasant for January. Settling into each our own pace, we steadily made our way upward on patchy snow and bare ground. I felt great and made surprisingly easy progress up the final 1,800 ft. or so, feeling much better than I did last year (it helped tremendously to not have a bitter and howling headwind).Sierra shepherded me all the way to the summit, where we arrived at 11:15am and I let out a loud yell of joy. We enjoyed the solitude for 10 minutes or so, communicating with one another in a way that some may not understand, enjoying this perfect day on top of the state, certainly a special moment I will never forget.Soon, Chris arrived, followed by Steve Knapp and we exchanged handshakes and high fives. I knew Allison was a bit behind, so I dropped about 500 feet until I met up with her and offered to carry her pack, but she declined as she was too proud. Instead I paced her to the summit, where most of the group trickled in one by one. Soon, there were 10 from our group and 6 from the other two groups on the summit where it seemed like a typical summer day on Elbert. The mood was quite festive where we enjoyed a long and leisurely break, eating, conversing and snapping many pictures.Reluctantly, we started down the hill at 12:42 and passed Mike and Ed who were getting very close. The trip down was uneventful and we were all on a euphoric high from such a great day, it was like walking on air.It was great to get out again with old friends and meet new friends and was especially great to see Dave and Shep back in the mountains after a long hiatus.


  1. Jeff - between you and me, okay? I am going to give up on understanding what it is you do on these trips. Actually, I understand it ... I just don't comprehend it. It is mind boggling.

    No more slow trips up Fern for me for a bit ... that stuff is fun but a bit ridiculous. Maybe Green.

  2. I need some snowshoes!

    I went back and looked at the one and only time I hike Elbert and it was 5 hours from the end of the 4WD road on the south trailhead. So 8 in the snow. Props to your group!