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.”
19 thoughts on “Mt. Elbert, The Highest 14er in Colorado”
wow, I’m so proud of all of you, esp. Teri! Thank you for the beautiful photos and also for taking the time to write so many details. I felt like I had a mini-vacation just now…it reminded me a of climbing Mt. Humphrey, tallest peak in Arizona. (only 12,600…piece of cake for you!). I was exhausted after that hike! How are your knees doing?
Knees are fine. Mt. Humphrey could have been harder, depends on the distance and height you started. Good job.
Wow Sarah! Congrats to you and your family and that awesome climb! That’s such a great way to enjoy God’s wondeful creation together.
I love your family so much and I always look forward to the enjoyment & encouragement I get from reading your blog everyday and your mom & dad corners every month, I thank you for being such a Blessing to me and I pray the Lord continues to richly Bless you and your ministry always
What a wonderful adventure you all shared–Praise the Lord! Thank you for this wonderful description of your climb and all the great photos–enjoyed seeing everything. 🙂 Looking across all those mountains is such a precious reminder of the awesome God we serve, and the beauty He has created for us. Thank you again for sharing, and continued prayers for all the Maxwells. Love, Mrs. Patti 🙂
Beautiful pictures of God’s wonderful creation. You all are amazing. The visits with various hikers must have been interesting. What an experience and thank you for allowing the rest of us to live vicariously through you all
I enjoyed this posting so much. You made a lovely story out of your climbing adventure…… and the photos were wonderful but probably not half as beautiful as seeing it first-hand. You must all be in tip-top shape to cover this journey in such a great time! It is also amazing what encouragement can do for others when taking on something new, or difficult or even in our everyday lives.
Wow! That was very vigorous! Not everyone is able to or desires to do that, but you guys did a good job! Good pictures. Get some rest!!! almost 4 A.M.? That’s super early! Enjoy the rest of your trip.
Beautiful photos. I had to laugh at the black lab. If there is food a black lab is sure to find it and scarf it down. My daughter’s black lab once ate an entire birthday cake that had inadvertently not been put up high enough.
You must all be pretty physically fit! I don’t think I’d make it.
Beautiful pictures! Looks like fun! I’m glad you are enjoying your trip. God’s blessings. In Christ, Grace
Clearly you have had sufficient training, so are now cordially invited to come to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and hike all of our 4-thousand footers. There’s even a “4,000-fter club” you can join! The boys can just run up all the mountains and run back down. 🙂
Thank you. I’m sure it is beautiful in New Hampshire. Who knows maybe the Lord will work that out some day. Blessings.
Thanks for sharing the pictures!
I did my first 14er this month with some of my brothers and dad, and we enjoyed doing a second one a couple weeks later. My family and some friends are going to be hiking Elbert in a couple of weeks. So it was fun to get a little sneak peak 🙂 Elbert will be my mom’s first attempt at a 14er, so I think she was excited to see all of the pictures as well 🙂
Thanks again for sharing!
Beautifully done post, thank you. Loved the pictures.
Wonderful job and thanks for the beautiful pictures! I was able to climb one 14er while living in Denver. Now in Flagstaff, my husband and I have climbed Mt. Humphreys twice together and he has done it a couple other times by himself. He wants to take our 4 and 6 year old this year! By the way, the main route for Humphreys is 9 miles long and an elevation gain of 3833. So close to what you all just did! Blessings.
Love all the photos of this most recent big hike. Not only am I taken aback by the natural beauty of where you are, I am encouraged to see that there are still vast expanses of nature in our country, which I forget living my daily life in the concrete jungle. I’m sure I am not alone in feeling sometimes trapped by not enough open untouched space, but the photos you posted give me renewed hope that we haven’t destroyed every square inch of this Earth with manmade structure.
That aside, what an accomplishment for you all to make it to the top of that big mountain! I’ll bet there were some happy heads hitting the pillows that night!
Tho photos from the top made my stomach “flip”! Great photos!
Wow! Amazing! Have any of you ever considered training for a half marathon/marathon? It takes a lot of hard work and training but similar to reaching the top of a 14er the end result is so rewarding.
Way too much time. For bodily exercise profits a little. We work to keep it in perspective.
What glorious views our God has given to us! Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos. Question: Where did you ladies get those wonderful skirts? I have been trying to find some like that for my girls and I…
Answered on a previous comment. Let me know if you can’t find it.
Congratulations to all of you on reaching the summit, what an achievement! I’ve never done any type of hillwalking or climbing so I am amazed by this. I too am laughing at Toasty the cheeky labrador. The picture of poor, unsuspecting Jesse holding the sandwich and being stalked by Toasty is classic. My parents have a black lab, they are just so cunning about food! I think they must be genetically hardwired to sniff out food and scoff it. We have lost several meals to her mooching, including a half-eaten Christmas turkey. It’s hard to stay angry with them though, when they gaze at you with those sweet amber eyes.
Colorado looks like a very beautiful place indeed. I hope I get the opportunity to visit it one day. Although I will have to do some serious work on my fitness if I were to attempt even a small hill!
That’s wonderful! Great views – looks like you had good weather. Grateful for the Lord’s blessings to you all!
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