Mt Elbert

12 Jul 2001 - by George Sinclair

(During a recent family vacation to Colorado, I had an opportunity to hike up a couple of the state's Fourteeners, including the highest. Here is a report of my climb of the highest peak in Colorado.

Although Mt. Elbert is almost as high as Mt. Whitney, it seems like a much lower mountain. Mt. Elbert is located in the Sawatch Range near the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The mountains in this part of Colorado are not jagged, and do not contain any grand cliffs. However, the range does contain more 14,000-foot peaks than any other area of Colorado.

Professor Whitney actually came to Colorado with a team of surveyors a few years after Mt. Whitney was discovered to investigate rumors that there were peaks possibly higher than those in California. After spending some time in the area and discovering numerous high peaks, the professor was able to leave the state happy in the knowledge that his mountain in California would remain the summit of the 48 contiguous states.

When I read that a jeep had once been to the top, and I could see on a map that there were at least two well-defined trails up the mountain, I presumed that Elbert would not offer much of a mountaineering challenge. By following the recommended trail up the northeast ridge from Halfmoon Creek near Leadville, I was able to reach the summit in about three hours. Although the trail is steep in places, it is easy to follow, and continues all the way to the top. It is a popular trail, and I encountered many people along it. Although it was early July, at no point did I cross any snow on my way to the top. A simple register, consisting of a plastic tube with a few scraps of paper inside, was found on the summit. No other artifacts were found on top. The descent back to the car took about two hours.

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