Peak(s):  Cosgriff, Mt  -  13,588 feet
"South Elbert" - 14,134 feet
Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
(Point 13963)
Bull Hill A  -  13,761 feet
Date Posted:  06/20/2016
Date Climbed:   06/18/2016
Author:  ajlavigne
 Tour de Elbert (Take 2)  

JasonF did a similar route and report a few years ago, (, just wanted to provide a little more beta from my experience this past weekend.

Basics: (Solo) Hike from Black Cloud TH up to SE ridge, short walk E to Cosgriff, NW to S Elbert along the ridge, continue NW to saddle low-point & NE along final ridge to Elbert, return to saddle & walk up to Pt 13963 (good spot to check out the ridge to Bull Hill), follow ridge SW to Bull Hill, descend ridge to the S and then SE to intersect Black Cloud Trail where it crosses to the W of the creek (which is more like a river on most spots this time of year), back to the TH. My best estimate is a total of 11.2 miles and +5398 feet (since I didn't bring spare batteries for my eTrex...rookie mistake). My route can be seen below on the map - Black Cloud trail to SE ridge route, with additions in green.

Travel times:
TH start: 0530
Mt Cosgriff: 0750 (02:20)
S Elbert: 0840 (00:50)
Mt Elbert: 0935 (00:55) - 30min on summit
Pt 13963: 1030 (00:25)
Bull Hill: 1145 (01:15) - 15min on summit
TH finish: 1340 (01:40)


TH: The turn-off to the Black Cloud TH is a bit sudden. Look for the little wooden sign (seen in JasonF's report) - heading W, on the right hand side after passing Twin Peaks Campground; heading E, on the left side after passing Mt. Elbert lodge. If you don't slow down in time, the two spots mentioned above are good places to turn around. There are a couple of places to camp just off the TH entrance, and a few more dispersed along the first mile or two of trail, but only room to park about 10 vehicles.

Black Cloud trail ascent: The trail is very easy to follow; only point of emphasis might be when it crosses the creek to the W side due to some tree fall. Once on the ridge there is only a faint, intermittent trail, so just pick your line and you'll be fine. Be careful on the first river crossing as well - the logs are sturdy, but in the AM were nice and slick from the creek (the picture below is in the afternoon); the second crossing is much easier.

1st river crossing

NE Ridge (Elbert on right) from just below Cosgriff

Ridge to Elbert from saddle shows a few false summits

Pt 13963 to Bull Hill ridge: Descending from Pt 13963 is a mixture of small boulders, large talus, and occasional dirt that is all a bit loose. Once the snow melts, there is almost certainly an easy class 2 route to be had just below the ridge. However, with snow on the E/SE side of the ridge that was mid-thigh to waist deep and soft at 11 in the morning, staying on the ridge proper is a fun little route with a few class 3 moves up and over the rock outcroppings. Near the end you have two choices a) continue to follow the ridge to the right as it loops to the summit or b) cut left (S) and scramble up the boulders to the top; (I chose option b).

Boulder-covered slope & ridge from Pt. 13963 to Bull Hill

Closer look at one of the Class 3 spots on the ridge

Back along the ridge to Elbert

Ridge descent from Bull Hill: Again, no trail for the initial descent, just follow the ridge and you can't go wrong. There is an old trail that runs about 100 ft below the S side of the ridge and is faintly visible from up high. It can be seen on the map from the Fidelity Mine and runs by an old cabin just south of Pt 12042. I was told this trail is a bit difficult to follow and almost impossible to find if you lose it (though having never done it I can't attest to that) so I just followed the ridge until I could see the creek. Once I could use that as a hand-rail for navigating, I followed through the trees until intersecting the portion of trail on the W side of the creek.

Descent ridge from Bull Hill

As always, I like to note runnable sections - this route is steeper than most 14er approaches I've done, but everything below the 12,200' is doable - above that, the mix of rock and steeper grades would be a no-go for me - once past the rocky sections, the descent ridge from Bull Hill could also be ran, though the ground is very soft in places so trying to find the old trail might be better for that to avoid causing damage. Elbert's summit was a bit crowded even at 9:30 (about 20 people), but I only saw 6 others on my entire ascent & descent to the south including a group of 4 that I leap-frogged between summits. Cosgriff offers a great view of Twin Lakes, my favorite view of the day was of Mt. Massive off the north end of Elbert's summit, and Bull Hill offers a fun little side trip that is probably easier and faster than returning over S Elbert. I am just above average pace going up, and well above average coming down thanks to my still-young knees, so if this route was done at a quick clip without the longer summit breaks, I would plan for about 7 hours - thankfully the weather was absolutely perfect for me, so I lingered whenever there was a good view to be had. Twin Lakes is a great spot to soak your feet in too - just saying.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

 Comments or Questions

06/21/2016 09:23
That looks like a nice route. Thanks for posting this.


06/21/2016 20:44
I believe we were leading/following you all the way to Bull Hill A. Thanks for the summit photo there. Although our glissade down into the basin was good, you obviously made better time on the ridge than we did in the basin (we didn't find the Red FJ or your girl). Nice report. Thanks again.


06/23/2016 12:44
No problem! The trek to Bull Hill was a little hairier than I expected because of the snow, so it was nice knowing someone else was on the ridge. And thanks for looking - I knew the ridge off Bull Hill would be quick for me, but I wasn't expecting the route-finding to be quite so easy through the woods - once I was on the trail again I jogged down most of the way to the TH. We hung out just long enough to change and eat a quick meal, then headed to the lake to relax. It was a perfect day!

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