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Route #1) Mt. Elbert - Northeast Ridge

Difficulty:  Class 1 
Exposure: Mild exposure in the area but not along the immediate route.
Summit Elevation: 14,433 feet
Trailhead Elevation: 10,040 feet
Elevation Gain:4,700 feet
Round-trip Length: 9.00 miles
Trailhead: North Elbert
USGS Quad.: Mount Elbert
County Sheriff: Lake: 719-486-1249
National Forest:  San Isabel
Author: BillMiddlebrook
Last Updated: 11/2014
TH:  From U.S. 24 just south of Leadville, turn onto Colorado 300 and cross the railroad tracks. Drive 0.7 mile and turn left onto County Road 11 toward the Halfmoon Creek. After another 1.2 miles, turn right on the dirt road to Halfmoon Creek. Drive on the good dirt road (except for the usual washboard and potholes) for 5 miles to the Mt. Elbert trailhead on the left. There is a large parking area with restrooms.

Route: Taken from the northeast, Photo #1 and Photo #2 show most of the route. Leave the parking area and hike into the forest on the North Mt. Elbert trail. After a couple of hundred yards, continue left at Colorado Trail junction and walk over to a stream crossing - Photo #3. Cross the stream and follow the great trail up through the forest. Pass the remnants of an old shack (Photo #4) and continue up to a flat area near 10,600'. Descend about 200' of elevation to reach another trail junction near 10,560', and approximately 1 mile from the trailhead. Staying left would take you on Colorado Trail. Turn right and follow the North Mt. Elbert trail - Photo #5.

Continue up through the forest for 1.3 miles to reach a small clearing at 11,600' - Photo #6. Continue for another 0.3 mile to finally reach tree line near 11,900'. After leaving the trees, follow the great trail as it switchbacks up a gentle slope below the Northeast Ridge - Photo #7. Near 12,700', reach the crest of the Northeast Ridge (Photo #8) where you can see the large cirque at the head of Box Creek (to your left). The remaining route up Elbert's Northeast Ridge is on a good trail, but you can't see the summit from here. Continue southwest along the ridge as you approach the steeper terrain - Photo #9. Taken near 13,300', Photo #10 shows the area. At 13,400', the route becomes steeper as it climbs through talus to the right of the cirque. Photo #11 looks back down the ridge. Follow the trail west around to the right (Photo #12) before it regains the ridge near 13,900', at a flat area. This steep ascent from 13,450' to 13,900' is the crux of the route.

From 13,900', easy hiking remains (Photo #13), but you still can't see the summit. Hike up the easy slope (Photo #14) to a flat area near 14,300' where the summit ridge comes into view - Photo #15. Hike south over to the summit ridge and southwest up to the top - Photo #16 and Photo #17.

Notes:    This route has a trail all the way to the summit but you still have to gain 4,700 feet of elevation.

Topo map: (Not Displayed, click here to change your settings)

Route Photos: (Did you know?)
Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3 Photo #4 Photo #5 Photo #6 Photo #7 Photo #8 Photo #9 Photo #10 Photo #11 Photo #12 Photo #13 Photo #14 Photo #15 Photo #16 Photo #17

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