Earlier in the month I attempted to reach the summit of Mount Elbert—the highest point in Colorado, and the second highest in the contiguous United States. Though I made it to the top of the mountain, I didn’t make it to the peak.
My wife, who is both an adventurer and a great athlete, was eager for me to not only try again, but to take her with me. So, we left our home in Texas at 5:00 A.M. Friday morning and drove over 700 miles and twelve hours to central Colorado.
We hit the trail at Twin Lakes campground at 5:15 A.M. Saturday. Since we don’t have four-wheel drive, we had to hoof it the three miles (both ways) to and from the South Elbert trailhead.
The trails leading to South Elbert (the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail) and the South Elbert trailhead itself, are much easier than the Black Cloud trail I took two weeks ago. The climb is so gradual for most of the hike that it doesn’t seem like a climb at all until close to the summit.
The views are stunning throughout the entire hike, and since it’s not as demanding as the Black Cloud trail (called the Southeast trail on All Trails), hikers are able to enjoy them. We had a terrific aerial view of the twin lakes below and the Rockies all around when we emerged from the aspen and pine forests.
Near the summit, a cold cloud and wind covered the mountain from around 13,500’ and up, and a strong sleet came down. We were dressed for cooler weather, but not cold weather, so that was tough.
I slowed my wife down considerably. Because it was getting so cold, she finally had to leave me and go on to the summit which she reached by 10:00 A.M. By the time she got back down to where I was still slogging up, we were both almost too cold to function and started back down.
This makes my second failed attempt to reach the summit this month. Both times I was very close but might as well have been five miles away. Whether there will be a third attempt is yet to be decided, but if I go back, I know that I’ll need to go alone.
If the mileage of the south Elbert trail itself is 13 miles, and we hiked 3 miles to get there and three miles back, we assume we covered 19 miles, but we didn’t use any tracking device so we don’t know for sure.
Regardless, it was a tough and awesome hike, and one of the best days I’ve had.