Description of Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert is situated 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Leadville in Lake County in
Colorado, United States. The mountain of Elbert reaches an elevation of 14,443 feet
(4,401 m) and it is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. If anyone
told you that climbing a mountain this tall will be a piece of cake,
they lied. There certain things that me and my friends came over that
caught us by surprise and created certain complications. It is not to
discourage anyone from climbing (I think it is one of the best climbs in
my life), but to share an experience so that you will be prepared.
altitude sickness is not made up condition. In fact I affects almost all
hikers from the low attitude cities who tried to climb too fast. It
includes dizziness, headaches, sleep disorder, overall weakness and many
other symptoms. In some rare cases it might take severe forms of edema
of the brain and lungs. It
affects people differently depending on age, health condition and
adaptability. Aspirin, Motrin or whatever will work will certainly help
with some of the signs of these condition, however the best way to climb
is to take time and do it slowly. The base of the mountain is located at
10,000s feet above the sea level and for many who live in the cities at
the low attitudes this might be enough to cause some discomfort and bad
health conditions. I would suggest spending one or more nights at the
base of the mountain. Visiting places like ghost town of
Saint Elmo and
various abandoned mines as well as hiking on small trails can help
adapting to the climb. Most locals can spend a day climbing the mountain
with little or no gear. However I would suggest breaking the climb into
two days. It will help further in acclimatization to the surrounding
conditions and it won’t put too much pressure. Spending a night on a
summit is not the desirable.
you decide to break the climb into two days, your base camp should be
located in the forested area. Thunderstorm
are quiet common in the area. Mount Elbert being the tallest mountain in the region attracts thunderclouds like an
lighting rod. The easiest way to avoid getting killed by a lighting is
to put your tent among tall trees. Lighting will strike that ever is the
tallest structure. Setting a base camp on top of the mountain is not
such a good idea since you automatically become the target from above.
The second day of climbing the mountain should start as early as
possible. If you see a thundercloud gathering over the peak
you should stop and return back as soon as possible. Thunderstorm
gather very quickly in the region and they get very dangerous very
quickly. If you are caught on top of the mountain you go down as soon as
possible. It is only once you get to the forested areas you can feel
are no rangers in the area an no one will bother you with firing
regulations, but it is a common sense that all fires should be
extinguished once you leave the place. Forested part is full of dry
wood. It is easy to find fuel for fire, but this also potentially can
create huge forest fires.
Map of trails
easiest trail to climb is North Elbert trail. Both South and North Elbert trails can take a day to climb up and down. That is of course if you are
adapted to high altitudes and start as yearly as possible. The hardest
is the Black Cloud trail. Not fully shown, but it is the hardest and
steepest approach. It would probably take two days. However it is very
beautiful and you get to see both valleys once you get to the summit
with twin lakes on one side and river on the other. It would be a good
idea to buy topographic map with indicated trails, elevation and
forested/ alpine region clearly marked.
cute and social animal, probably due to the fact they live secluded
lives. They are very interested in tourists and won’t cause any
trouble, however they can (and they do) steal food so it would be
probably better to scare them a little.
Black cloud trail there is abandoned mining camp. This could be a good
place to stop and rest before steepest climb. Just below burned building
you can find a fireplace with huge logs for benches. Creek that is
running nearby is a good and safe water source as long as you boil it.
Some tourists drink straight from the creek, but it is not advisable.