3:57 a.m.: Alarm goes off. Time to wake up and prepare for our big day. Shower, Bible time, grab breakfast, fill up Camelbaks, finish loading packs.
5:30 a.m.: Leave cabin. Drive an hour and fifteen minutes to Mt. Elbert’s trailhead, which is near Leadville. The last five miles to the trailhead were very bumpy and rough, but every time those wheels turned was one less step we had to walk, so we were grateful.
7:00 a.m.: It is barely light, we have unloaded from the van and set off. We can see enough of the trail to be fine, and light was quickly coming. As a side note here, we have stayed on Central Time, so Mountain Time, it was actually 6 a.m. Two other vehicles are in the parking lot, and a third one pulls in behind us. It’s easy hiking for about the first hour, with part of the trail being on the Colorado Trail. It seems too easy for a 14er. But, we know with a 4500+ foot elevation gain, that can’t last. So we enjoy it while we have it.
7:45 a.m.: We hit steep trail. We aren’t surprised. John is in the lead, and as he rounds a bend, he hears a “Good morning!” and he sees a sleepy-looking guy’s head appear from a single-person back-packing tent. John greets him back. The man smiles, watching us. “I heard something awfully big, and I thought I’d better check it out.” He was relieved it was only us. “I didn’t think anyone would be out this early,” he said. We apologized for waking him up, but he assured us it was no problem at all. Later on, we met up with him, and we had a great talk. He is a white-water rafting guide from the Appalachian Mountains, so this is his off-season. It is obvious he loves being outdoors and enjoying nature. He planned to hike Mt. Massive the next day.
8:30 a.m.: We leave the tree line. Beautiful views. As we hike, people are drinking water, thanks to our Camelbaks, and occasionally eating an energy bar. It is important to keep hydrated for the climb.
9:00 a.m.: Seeing as it only took us an hour and a half to reach the tree line, we have many switchbacks to traverse as we continue on. We keep a steady pace, but occasionally, we stop to catch our breath and enjoy the view. One truly does feel on top of the world at heights like these. So far, we’ve not seen many people: just the tent-guy, and two tiny figures up the trail a long ways, crossing what appeared to some to be the summit.
9:17 a.m.: I took this next picture, and sent it to Christopher, with the comment that we were making good progress. I thought that peak was the summit. No. It was one of several false summits.
9:43 a.m.: Still climbing. Passing us from behind, an older man, and his dog, Macy, stepped on by. This man was on his 18th ascent to Mt. Elbert, and he had climbed every 14er in Colorado. His wife was waiting for him in the car. About this time, we split into three groups. Joseph, John, and Jesse went ahead, and Anna, Mary, and I were in the next group, with Dad and Mom picking up the rear. It was steep, as we gained much elevation.
10:13 a.m.: Jesse, Joseph, and John summit. The older man and Macy are coming back down already and pass us girls. He encourages us.
10:36 a.m.: Anna, Mary, and I summit. What an exhilarating feeling. We stop to chat with a couple from Arkansas, who had summited by coming up the south ridge. We took the standard north route. We join the guys.
A well-deserved break. To be honest, Anna and Mary were the ones encouraging me on the way up, as a bit of loose rock and steepness had struck fear in my heart. But, with their encouragement, I pushed the thoughts aside and excitedly pressed forward and was fine.
10:49 a.m.: Joseph had gone down to meet Dad and Mom and climb the final part with them. Here the three-some are making the ascent.
10:53 a.m.: Even though it is early, we dive into lunch. Notice the sandwich Jesse is holding? He only eats part of it and sets it on a rock.
The temperatures are pleasant on the summit.
One usually isn’t alone after summiting, and Mt. Elbert is no exception. A lady, and her dog Toasty, summited soon after we girls, and another gentleman, a retired farmer, also came up. It’s great to have company, with a side benefit of easily getting pictures. Toasty’s owner took our family picture, and then I took her picture.
11:04 a.m.: The guys do fourteen pushup jumps, in honor of climbing a 14er. They find a good location.
Toasty, a five and a half month old black lab, and her owner were going to head back down, and Toasty, now off leash, ran over to us, and caught sight of Jesse’s half-eaten sandwich. Toasty snatched a huge bite of the sandwich. Jesse valiantly dove for it, but it was too late. At least he had other snacks.
What an awesome group!
It was great that Mom could join us and make a 14er.
11:31 a.m.: We decide to head back down. It’s important to summit early, due to thunderstorms that often happen in the afternoon. John and Jesse stay longer, and they’ll catch up with us.
11:55 a.m.: Going down, one can appreciate the view even more. It’s simply stunning.
I love the shadows of the clouds on the mountains.
The guys should have been hired by the Colorado Parks and Recreation as a hike encourager. We passed many people working their way up while we came down. We gave them comments like “way to go” and “not much longer” until we got to a certain point. Then, John said, you really couldn’t offer much hope to the climber, as they had so much ground to still cover, it didn’t seem they would make the summit, either before a storm hit or physically they wouldn’t make it with time to get back down before dark. The last couple we met were sitting on a log, well below the tree line, taking a break. Unfortunately, they had started at 10 a.m., and they didn’t appear to have much motivation to make it to the top. Hopefully they didn’t get caught in the thunderstorms that were brewing and would have unleashed in the next hour or two.
Coming down, John and Jesse enjoyed talking with a wrangler and his dog, Faith, for awhile.
3 p.m.: We reached the van, tired, but with a feeling of accomplishment. We hiked 9 1/2 miles with an elevation gain of 4,546 feet.
If you click into this picture you will see a light red line which shows our approximate route up to the summit.
It was a blessing for all eight of us to climb Mt. Elbert together and marvel at God’s creation. We are grateful for the Lord’s sustenance and strength throughout the day.
“It is God that girdeth me with strength,
and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds ‘feet,
and setteth me upon my high places.”
We continue to be blessed by spending time together in God’s creation.
Saturday, we went for a hike that last year quite a few of the group did, but from the opposite starting place. It was a cool morning, but temperatures warm up pretty quickly, and one warms up too, depending on the load one is carrying (i.e. camera equipment, etc). The van was parked at the trailhead, and later on, John and Jesse came back down, and drove around the mountain to meet us.
The same bridge some of the family got their picture taken on last year.
Jesse made it quite aways up, but he had a foot injury from going on a long run two days before, so he took it easy, and then waited in a meadow near the top, before turning around to go back to the van.
Hmmm. A little stream crossing.
Up on the ridge!
A sorta family picture, minus Jesse. The Gorillapod came in handy, perched on a pile of rocks.
Pringles round out a mountain lunch perfectly, and we’re so grateful for John carrying them up in his pack.
Behind the scenes.
Lunch on the ridge.
I opted to stay on the ridge while the rest hiked up to a view point further up. It was a beautiful time to sit, review 1 Peter 1, think, and enjoy the solitude.
If you look closely, you’ll see the small specks, which were some of the family. I enjoyed the quiet, until something caught my eye, and I discovered I wasn’t alone.
A little prairie dog sort of animal was digging himself a nice tunnel.
iPhones take awesome pics. Thanks, Anna.
Getting up higher does offer beautiful views.
John was the first down, running as he came, because he wanted to make good time to the van, where he and Jesse would drive over to St. Elmo to pick us up. This would take an hour to do so.
Joseph was next, quite a bit ahead of the rest. I noticed we had a visitor coming over the trail-less part of the ridge, and as he came closer, it was obvious he was a hunter. When he came over, we had a nice conversation, and he told us about all the wildlife he had seen. He was hunting for an elk and had enough supplies with him to last for five days.
When the rest of the family came back, we started down the other side.
Anna and I stopped here for a few pictures in a pretty little meadow. The only thing missing? A picturesque black bear to saunter through the area.
John and Jesse beat us to St. Elmo by a few minutes. They made extremely good time coming down the mountain and got all the way over to St. Elmo. It was great to meet up with them.
Feeding the chipmunks was great. The only thing missing? The little grandgirls. They went a week ago Friday afternoon, the 17th, when we were still on our way in from Denver.
Another behind the scenes.
Tuesday’s plans? We’re all tackling Mt. Elbert, the highest 14er in Colorado. Backpacks are being packed with water and food, and we are looking forward to the challenge.
“In God is my salvation and my glory:
the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”
Some of us decided to explore and take a hike up behind our cabin. We were gone for about five hours, and we hiked almost 3 miles, with an elevation gain of 2100 feet. It was an intense climb, figuring out our own trail, but the views were rewarding.
As we climbed, we couldn’t see our end goal, which helps in making yourself push forward. This, though, reminded me of Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We couldn’t see our destination, but we knew it was coming. It’s the same way with faith: we can’t see it.
Jesse found a big walking stick.
At the crest of a ridge, we stopped to eat lunch.
We then began another steep climb to the next ridge.
The mountain in the background that has a sharp peak is one my grandpa climbed years ago.
Those buildings show how far we climbed.
As we came down, we found pieces of an animal carcass scattered in a large area: everything from the skull to the vertebrae. It was obvious this was the remains of either a moose or a large elk.
As we descended, Anna found flowers to put in the jaw bone. She thoroughly washed her hands when she got back, and we’re going to procure some bleach next time we go to the store to sanitize the bone.
We children also enjoyed reviewing Scripture we have committed to memory on the trek back, in addition to singing. Singing would not have worked going up, as our lungs were maxed out.
Oh, a side note, we ended up coming back down very close to where we started: amazing for not having a trail!
After our long, hard hike, Anna treated us to chicken enchiladas. Yum.
Our time is half over, and we have been so blessed by this special refreshment.
“I press toward the mark for the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”