Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
"South Elbert" - 14,134 feet
Point 13963
Bull Hill A  -  13,761 feet
Cosgriff, Mt  -  13,588 feet
Date Posted:  09/23/2012
Modified:  09/25/2012
Date Climbed:   09/22/2012
Author:  JasonF
 Tour de Elbert  

Party: Me, myself and I

Trailhead: Black Cloud

Leave TH: 6:45 AM
Mt. Cosgriff summit: 9:15 AM
South Elbert summit: 10:00 AM
Point 13963 summit: 10:20 AM (to scope out route to Bull Hill)
Leave Point 13963 summit: 10:30 AM
Mt. Elbert summit: 11:15 AM
Leave summit: 11:30 AM
Point 13963 summit (again): 12:00 PM
Bull Hill summit: 1:00 PM (2 minute stay on summit)
Back to the car: 2:45 PM

Stats: 6350 vertical feet and 12 miles

After a hectic past few weeks going blind staring at a computer screen at work it was time to recharge with some quality solo time in the high country. There is no other better way to feel alive than some sore muscles. As I had not been past the 14,000 foot mark this year I figured what better peak than the tallest in Colorado. It also gave me the opportunity for a multiple peak day, which makes me feel like it's worth the trip. After reading Roach's guidebook and some trip reports I settled on the Black Cloud trailhead approach. Given the time of year and the difficulty in finding the trailhead I opted for a sunrise start. Even with decent visibility I overshot the trailhead turnoff and spent a few minutes trying to figure out the situation.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful, which was what I wanted. The trail up to the SE ridge (13,540') was in great shape and does gain some serious elevation in a short stretch. I definitely agree with Roach's assessment that "you may feel like you have already climbed a mountain". My legs were screaming at this point, although it didn't help that I had not eaten or hydrated much to that point (of course the 1800 vertical gain in one hour to the tree line could have something to do with it as well). I did not see a single soul on the trail until reaching the summit, which I shared with 8-10 other summit seekers. I did run into rajz06 before heading over to Bull Hill - nice trip report!! The last time I stood on top of Colorado was 7 years ago, at the beginning of my 14er quest. It was good to return with more confidence and be able to enjoy the experience more fully.

The addition of Cosgriff and Bull Hill were fun little side trips. Coming down Bull Hill is a little less steep than returning down the slopes of the approach route. I did manage to get stuck crossing 2-3 boulder strewn stretches, which wasn't exactly what I was wanting at the tail end of a long day however the weather was still good and the golden aspen was even better.

If you want some solitude and a nice easy trail this route is the way to go. I'd suggest doing this on a banner day - very long day with a fair amount of ridge walking.

Trailhead sign (turnoff is a few hundred yards east of the Mt. Elbert Lodge)

Turnoff placement - lodge is down the road on the left

View at treeline, looking at the ridge line to South Elbert

View way (maybe more) up the steep slope to the South Elbert-Cosgriff saddle


Traverse to Bull Hill, on the far left


Another shot of the traverse from just above the drop-in point


View of the day's peak bagging extravaganza taken from Bull Hill summit - Mt. Elbert on left and South Elbert on right.

Northern view of La Plata and the Ellingwood Ridge taken from Bull Hill summit. The smoke from the fires is taking a toll on long range photos.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

09/24/2012 03:48
I thought mine was a toughie but it pales in comparison to your Toue de Elbert. Kudos!


Route-finding question
07/25/2017 12:27
This TR inspired me to take this route last summer, so thanks for the write-up. Since then, I've done it a total of 4 times and each time I see more and more cars at the TH. Descending via Bull Hill is still the way to go if you want solitude, though...
My question for you is, how do you return to Black Cloud trail from Bull Hill? Every time I descend Bull Hill I stay close to the ridge but end up bushwhacking back to the second creek crossing of Black Cloud Trail. I see a trail which I assume is Echo Canyon, so I don't follow it. I see the cabin right at treeline, which I assume is part of the Fidelity Mine, but I've never found the supposed Fidelity Mine Road that takes you back to Black Cloud Trail. Nonetheless, I think ascending/descending Bull Hill and bushwhacking is easier and faster than descending via Black Cloud from S. Elbert saddle - it's steep!

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