Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  08/12/2019
Date Climbed:   08/07/2019
Author:  The Pathfinder
 Mt. Elbert Southeast Ridge by 2 MN Flatlanders  

After climbing Grays & Torreys Peaks the previous day, we (my buddy Q, a 16 year old active in baseball and basketball and myself, a 42 year old with a love for climbing) decided that leaving the Black Cloud trailhead at 4AM would be a good enough to get us to the summit by 9AM or so. Despite being in decent shape, our flatlander lungs were just not up to the task of hiking this trail at a reasonable pace. We've been training legs by climbing stairs, but there is just no good way to train our lungs. 5300 feet of vertical gain in 5.5 miles was TOUGH. We camped with Q's dad at the Twin Peaks Campground (highly recommended!!!) and hit the trail right at 4AM.

We did well for the first 2 miles, reaching the treeline around 6AM. We really slowed down once we hit the switchbacks and then the (practically) straight up part of the trail. It took nearly 2 hours to get through this section, as we reached the ridge crest a little before 8AM. The views of La Plata being bathed in the sunshine while we were shaded by the ridge made the climb much more comfortable. I thought we'd still make the summit by 9:30AM, but we were totally gassed and it took until 10:30AM to get there. I kept an eye on the clouds, and I kept checking with the wife back home to get weather updates, so we were not concerned about being up there so late. We shared the summit with about 20 others, and it was nice to see everyone reasonably prepared for the climb, which was not the case yesterday on Grays & Torreys.

I am usually able hike downhill at a decent clip, but once we got below the ridge crest we were going pretty slow...not because we were tired and sore (which we were) but because we just couldn't go very fast on this steep portion of trail. Once we made it below the tree line, we were able to go much faster, and completed the final 2+ miles in under 90 minutes.

Overall, the trail is in excellent shape from the trailhead all the way to the start of the switchbacks. From there to the ridge line, it gets a little rough in spots, but it's nothing that can't be overcome. We did not encounter any snow, and the river crossings were solid. This was the 2nd toughest thing I've ever done in life, the 1st being climbing Mount Whitney in a single day back in 2016 when I was a young 39 years old. I wish I had taken more photos, but I was so focused on trying to hike that I barely took any. That said, I'm glad we persevered and were rewarded with a pleasant day on the mountain.

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