Mountaineering – Mt. Elbert (14,439 ft)

Winter Camping Gear Schmear
Gear Schmear, for Winter Mountaineering trip up Mt. Elbert

Approaching 11,000 ft on Mt. Elbert
At 11,000 ft and almost to our camping spot. Enjoying the bluebird day.

Mt. Elbert and Bill
Bill, the CMC Trip Leader. He’s taking a breather before we reach camp. Elbert stands tall behind him.

Silly Summit Shot on Mt. Elbert
Flying High on the summit of Mt. Elbert!

I wanted to try winter camping and I hadn’t yet climbed Mt. Elbert. So, why not join Bill’s CMC trip which would combine both elements? Bill is leading a trip to attempt Aconcagua later this year, so this trip was a warm up and test of sorts for his participants. Lucky for me, there was a last minute cancellation on his trip, which opened up a space for me, AND my friend, Helen, needed a partner for her tent. It was almost like I was meant to be on the trip, all along!

Helen and I at the South Elbert Trailhead
Helen and I at the winter trail head (South Elbert). You can see Mt. Elbert behind us. The summit looks like a long ways away!

Michelle at the South Mt. Elbert Trailhead
Michelle packing the last of her gear at the trail head.

CMC Mountaineers at South Mt. Elbert Trailhead
Our CMC group at the trail head. Helen and I were ready to go, but it took the group an extra 30 minutes to get their stuff ready. Such is working with groups!

Selfie on Colorado/CDT Trail
My first time winter camping. You can tell I’m excited as I take this selfie on the CO/CDT trail!

Michelle and John on CO/CDT Trail
Michelle and John

Bill on the CO/CDT Trail
Bill taking the Aconcagua training seriously…he had at least 60 pounds in his pack. Most everybody else had between 30 and 45 pounds. One guy was going ultra lite and only had 20 pounds, but I’m not sure he understood that it was supposed to be a training hike and not a race to the top of Mt. Elbert.

The Bridge
Bill made some sort of joke as he took this picture. I swear, I was actually laughing.

Bill Climbing One of the Steeper Slopes
Bill climbing one of the steeper slopes.

Tenmile and Mosquito Range Panorama
The view looking Eastward from 11,000 ft!

We made it to camp around 4:30pm and had plenty of time to throw up our tent before dark. Helen and I figured out how to put up her brand new Marmot 4 season tent. I showed her how to stake out the tent in winter by filling the baggies with snow and burying them in a deadman style.

We were hunkered down in our sleeping bags by 7pm and then we spent the next 2 hours melting snow for dinner and to fill our bottles with water for the next day. I was surprised the little Jet boil fuel canister lasted the whole time! We weren’t planning to get up until 6:30 or 7am, since we didn’t feel a need to start in the dark. That meant we had lots of time to spend sitting around in our sleeping bags while we were boiling the water. For both Helen and myself, this was the most challenging part of the experience…waiting around in the tent.

The next morning, when we got up, it was pretty cold and we were both a little tired. All night long, the wind howled which made it hard to sleep. We’d hear the wind starting up at the top of the mountain and then grow in intensity as it rambled down the ridge. I was very glad that we staked the tent out so well and it was totally solid.

I really didn’t feel like getting up out of the sleeping bag and for me, this was the second hardest thing about winter camping. Overcoming the desire to stay toasty warm and tackle the mountain!

By the time we left the tent, I think it was sometime around 7:30am.

Darren Climbing Mt. Elbert
Here’s Darren about 15 minutes above camp.

Helen Climbing Mt. Elbert
Helen is ready for a challenge!

Mt. Elbert
Mt. Elbert’s windy summit! As we hiked, it got more and more blusty. I would estimate the winds gusted up to 50mph, with steady blowing from 30-40mph. Not easy, but hey, it is Winter!

East Ridge of Mt. Elbert
The wind scoured East Ridge!

Bill on the Lower East Ridge of Mt. Elbert
Looking back on the lower section of the East Ridge. (Taken from the same spot as the previous picture!)

Looking Southeast from East Ridge of Mt. Elbert
Bill making progress through the windy section (from 12,800 ft to 13,600 ft).

Josh Climbing Mt. Elbert
A really nice guy named Josh, caught up to me at the top of the mountain.

Mt. Elbert Selfie At 13,500 ft
At 13,500 ft!

Summit Sign on Mt. Elbert
A Summit Sign on Mt. Elbert

The Summit of Mt. Elbert
Wind scoured summit of Mt. Elbert

Winter Summit of Mt. Elbert - Success!
Yay, I made it!

Bill, Mark, and Darren on Summit of Mt. Elbert
To Commemorate the Year of the Mountaineer (Celebration of 100 years of RMNP)

After the summit, I headed back down to camp and met up with Helen there. She helped me pack up my things and then we deconstructed the tent and hiked back to the trail head. Since I was there way before Bill and the rest of the crew, I had to wait for them to hike down. Helen gave me a really nice cold beer and then she had to take off.

View West from the South Mt. Elbert Trailhead
View from the South Elbert Trail Head

Thank you for the Evolution IPA, Helen!
Oh Yeah!

Celebratory Toast After Success on Mt. Elbert
Toast to Helen and a fabulous trip up Mt. Elbert!

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