1st 14er trip

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
Forum rules
Please do not use this forum to advertise, sell photos or other products or promote a commercial website. For more details, please see the Terms of Use you agreed to when joining the forum.
timisimaginary
Posts: 430
Joined: 11/19/2017
14ers:summits2 
13ers:summits1 
Trip Reports (2)

1st 14er trip

Post by timisimaginary » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:28 am

i will be in CO next week for the first time, with plans to hike a couple 14ers. we'll be staying one night in Boulder, and a couple nights in Estes Park, before driving to the Mount Elbert Lodge where we'll be staying the remainder of the week. i'm hoping that will be enough time to acclimatize to the higher altitudes, coming from MD where we're barely above sea level.

i've got a couple short hikes planned in Red Rocks and RMNP before attempting our first 14er, Quandary Peak. i realize it will be a very busy climb, but i want to start out with something that is relatively short, good trail to the top, and easy TH access from my 2WD rental car, and Quandary checks all the boxes, and we'll be starting early on a weekday so hopefully it won't be TOO crowded. i'll be doing this hike with my wife, who is not as fast a hiker as i am, but hopefully that will keep me from shooting up the mountain too fast and getting altitude sickness.

for my 2nd 14er, i'm planning to attempt Mt. Elbert SE Ridge from the Black Cloud Trail. i want to take this route because i've heard it's more scenic and less traveled, and i can walk to the TH from our cabin. if Quandary really beats me up, though, i would switch to one of the easier, shorter routes up. i'll make that decision after i see how i'm handling the altitude during the Quandary climb. i'll be doing this peak solo, but i will have multiple communication options: cell phone (most of the Elbert trail above treeline seems to receive decent cell coverage on Verizon), two-way radio (this is more for Quandary should my wife and I get separated, but will bring on Elbert too), and a ResQLink PLB, and will plan an early departure, no later than 5am, with plans to summit by 10am and be back below treeline around noon-1pm.

my main concern is avoiding afternoon thunderstorms, and with the long section of ridge hiking on Elbert's SE ridge, i want to be sure i don't get caught in anything before i can get back below treeline. i'll have a few days to choose from and will pick the one that looks best weather-wise after reviewing forecasts. i plan to return by the same route, but if things look dicey weather-wise from the summit, i would descend by the NE or E ridge routes. Which of those routes would be the best for a fast descent if it appears storms are coming? East Ridge would be more convenient (shorter drive for my wife to come pick me up from the lodge) but a longer hike overall back to the 2WD TH. ultimately, though, i'll go with whichever would get me below treeline the fastest. and are there any safe bailout routes from the SE Ridge if i did get caught out up there?

other than that, is there anything else i'm overlooking or other tips for taking this route?
social distancing since the day i was born...
User avatar
oldschoolczar
Posts: 597
Joined: 7/18/2011
14ers:summits45 ski1 winter1 
13ers:summits6 

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by oldschoolczar » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:42 am

Have fun! My only piece of advice would be to plan on not separating from your wife even with the 2-way radios! Even though it's a crowded peak you don't want to separate. And you can't count on your phone or the 2-way radios. There's been at least one instance on a CO 14er where a couple separates for just a few minutes and one gets lost never to be found again. But don't let that deter you. Stick together and enjoy the hike!
“what matters most is
how well you
walk through the
fire” -Charles Bukowski
Sean Nunn
Posts: 859
Joined: 7/29/2013
14ers:summits35 
13ers:summits2 

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by Sean Nunn » Tue Jul 24, 2018 12:33 pm

Being on a "crowded" mountain for your first 14er is a good thing, not a bad thing. If something goes wrong there is lots of potential help available.

Personally I would stick with a standard route on Elbert if I were you. Plenty of time to tackle obscure/secluded routes once you have more experience. It will also give you other people around to help you judge if/when to turn around if the weather becomes dicey. If you are still climbing and you look ahead of and behind you and don't see anyone else still going up, that will tell you to turn around.
"Thy righteousness is like the great mountains."
Psalm 36:6
User avatar
druid2112
Posts: 274
Joined: 9/7/2012
14ers:summits46 winter6 
13ers:summits32 winter5 
Trip Reports (7)

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by druid2112 » Tue Jul 24, 2018 1:47 pm

Sean Nunn wrote:
Personally I would stick with a standard route on Elbert if I were you.
+1, to stay away from that one, anyway. My experience there was in the winter/spring so maybe the trail is more clear in summer, but there was a lot of bushwhacking and willows, etc. Also, I only came down from the ridge, didn't go up (went via Bull Hill), but I remember thinking, "man, I"m glad I didn't have to climb up this crap."

Just a thought.
"You can't really dust for vomit." - Nigel Tufnel
timisimaginary
Posts: 430
Joined: 11/19/2017
14ers:summits2 
13ers:summits1 
Trip Reports (2)

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by timisimaginary » Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:19 pm

is it really that bad? the route description on this site made it sound like it was a good trail all the way to the ridge. i might scout out the portion of the trail below treeline, since i've got extra days and could go another day by the standard route if the black cloud trail looks too sketchy.

i also saw in another thread that there is CFI trail maintenance happening on this route on Aug 4, which is the last day of my trip. maybe that would be a better day to go, since there would be more traffic on the route that day.

from the trip reports i've read, it sounds like Quandary and Elbert both attract lots of people who have no problem continuing up the mountain well past noon, or with weather moving in. i don't plan on being one of those people. i tend to be more cautious than most, and would likely be turning around before most of the people going up either of those routes. but it's true, i don't have experience spotting CO thunderstorms coming in, and i suppose someone on the way down might be nice enough to tell me if i'm being an idiot by continuing up when i shouldn't be. i wasn't too worried about storms on the way up, since i was planning on starting early, and figured there'd be plenty of people on Elbert's summit to ask for advice before descending.
social distancing since the day i was born...
User avatar
glenmiz
Posts: 823
Joined: 8/30/2013
14ers:summits58 
13ers:summits97 ski1 winter4 
Trip Reports (4)

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by glenmiz » Tue Jul 24, 2018 5:12 pm

Sounds like you're thinking about the right things.

I'm with the other posters regarding standard route and staying together. Coming from MD for your first and second 14ers, you're going to be amazed, regardless of the route you take, with the views. Willows are underrated for annoying even the most experienced of us, tearing skin and clothing - bailing down an established trail is much easier and quicker if weather gets bad.

In any case, I hope you have a great time in the high country.
Aim high to end high
User avatar
mtree
Posts: 1111
Joined: 6/16/2010
14ers: List not added

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by mtree » Tue Jul 24, 2018 6:08 pm

glenmiz wrote:Sounds like you're thinking about the right things.

I'm with the other posters regarding standard route and staying together. Coming from MD for your first and second 14ers, you're going to be amazed, regardless of the route you take, with the views. Willows are underrated for annoying even the most experienced of us, tearing skin and clothing - bailing down an established trail is much easier and quicker if weather gets bad.

In any case, I hope you have a great time in the high country.
Agree 100%
- I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was blaming you.
User avatar
Cygnus X1
Posts: 214
Joined: 12/19/2016
14ers:summits26 winter1 
13ers:summits11 

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by Cygnus X1 » Tue Jul 24, 2018 7:07 pm

timisimaginary wrote:is it really that bad? the route description on this site made it sound like it was a good trail all the way to the ridge.
Yes, there is a well defined trail from the Black Cloud trailhead to the ridge. I can see how it might be tough to follow in snow conditions but in summer it should be no problem.
timisimaginary
Posts: 430
Joined: 11/19/2017
14ers:summits2 
13ers:summits1 
Trip Reports (2)

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by timisimaginary » Tue Jul 24, 2018 10:22 pm

thanks for the advice so far. definitely not planning on separating on quandary peak, but felt the radios were a good backup just in case.

this is the first i've heard of willows on the black cloud trail, i know they've been mentioned on la plata (another 14er i was considering but ended up ruling out). i'm not familiar with them. i've encountered my share of poison ivy, stinging nettles, and various thorny bushes here on the east coast though.

another possibility i've considered is going up the NE ridge route, and then assessing the situation on the summit, the time, the weather, and my pace and energy level at that point, and possibly hiking the ridge to South Elbert and back from there if it seems reasonably safe and doable from that point. i was really looking forward to that ridge hike, i hiked a section of the Presidential Traverse from Mt. Washington to Mt. Jackson last fall and the ridge hiking above treeline was a real highlight. not too many places we can experience that kind of hiking over here. the only drawback is that from S. Elbert my only good return route is back to the main summit of Elbert, so i'd have to be absolutely certain of having enough time to get back to Elbert and down from there before any storms. i'd only take that option if the weather looked good and i was sure i could make it back to the main Elbert summit before noon.
social distancing since the day i was born...
User avatar
rob runkle
Posts: 802
Joined: 6/12/2006
14ers:summits58 winter2 
13ers:summits38 
Trip Reports (44)

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by rob runkle » Wed Jul 25, 2018 7:02 am

Either Elbert trail should be fine. GPS, or GPS app on your phone would help, if you are afraid of losing the trail. Pull the GPX route down from here.

As for splitting up on Quandary. Agree, not a great idea, but each adult should be knowledgeable about the route that they could be solo if needed. When people plan to stay together, sometimes that means one person knows the route, and the other people are just coming along for the ride. Having said that, the standard route on Quandary is about as benign as it gets. There will be hundreds of people on the trail with you guys. I would not fault you if you still want the summit, and you wife decides that she does not. I would not leave my younger kids to fend for themselves on Quandary, but another adult should be fine separated on Quandary. Thousands of people do that route solo.
User avatar
gspup
Posts: 220
Joined: 8/18/2014
14ers:summits8 

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by gspup » Wed Jul 25, 2018 7:35 am

timisimaginary wrote: is it really that bad?
No it's not that bad at all. Somehow people on this site will make Quandary seem hard, it's not.

I've had a friend from sea level drink all night before hiking quandary and smoke cigs on the way up and he summited, little kids in crocs carrying their Barbie's summit, kegs are carried up this peak... so chill people this is an easy one.
User avatar
LURE
Posts: 1204
Joined: 6/28/2011
14ers:summits32 
13ers:summits11 

Re: 1st 14er trip

Post by LURE » Wed Jul 25, 2018 7:53 am

gspup wrote:
timisimaginary wrote: is it really that bad?
No it's not that bad at all. Somehow people on this site will make Quandary seem hard, it's not.

I've had a friend from sea level drink all night before hiking quandary and smoke cigs on the way up and he summited, little kids in crocs carrying their Barbie's summit, kegs are carried up this peak... so chill people this is an easy one.
Who on this site makes it seem hard? They're not talking about Quandary, they're talking elbert via black cloud.

Smoking cigs up 14ers isn't that impressive - I've done it plenty of times, it's only impressive if you can still kick peoples asses to the top and light one up while waiting for them.
Post Reply