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.”