Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  05/23/2020
Modified:  05/29/2020
Date Climbed:   05/23/2020
Author:  P-MO
 Elbert - Northeast Ridge  

Mt. Elbert Spring Ascent
Saturday May 23rd, 2020

Route Info:
Trail head: North East Ridge

Overall Stats (As
per Garmin 910XT & Strava):
Car - Car round trip: 8.25 hours
Car to Summit: 4.75 hours
Summit to car: 2.75 hours
Total mileage: 8.97 miles
Total Vertical Gain: 4,590'

Equipment used:
-Hiking boots (La Sportiva)
-Hiking poles (Leki)

Started the day in the parking lot of the TH at approximately 7:45 AM. Keep in mind if you are using Apple Maps or Google Maps you will most likely be directed to the WRONG location, best to stick to the info to direct you! After making sure all of our gear was ready to go and enough water was packed we set off at 8:00 AM on the dot, a bit later than we would have liked.
The trail is fairly straight forward the first mile or so with some elevation gain that is a good warm up for what is to come. At the 1.1 mile mark the trail split into two paths, and as the sign suggests, we kept RIGHT in the hopes of summiting Mt. Elbert!

1.1 miles from parking lot. KEEP RIGHT!
Great path past the sign, here comes the elevation!

From the sign we continued on a very well worn path that started to get pretty steep at times for nearly an hour. This section of the hike was very enjoyable as we were still in heavy tree cover and there was no snow at all! Around 11,500' or so there was a bit of a clearing that offered some incredible views of the surrounding mountains and the city of Leadville. This was the last time we were inside the treeline for quite some time, luckily the forecast for the day did not involve high winds!20132_03 11'500' clearing, still within treeline

After the large clearing we experienced quite a few large patches of snow scattered throughout the remaining treeline. Most of the snow was very well packed down and we were able to spot boot prints throughout. On occasion we would sink into the snow about knee high and have to work our way out. Neither of us used micro-spikes or crampons here due to how short the snowy area was. Spikes certainly wouldn't have hurt here, but they are absolutely NOT necessary. The trail does get a bit lost in this area due to snow cover so we were careful to follow footprints as much as possible and follow the peak that can clearly be seen throughout. After about 15 minutes of hiking through this area we had reached the treeline!

11,500' - 12,000' prior to treeline. The snow minefield

As we left the treeline the hike to the top became extremely straight forward. The path is clearly worn into the Earth and no Cairns are needed. As we continued up the ridge we were pleasantly surprised to find the wind was VERY light for the day. Personally I got away with wearing a long sleeve shirt and a thick sweater with thin gloves! The sun became increasingly more intense and we re-applied sunscreen a couple times to help. Between 12 and 13,000' there were more patches of snow that we could easily avoid with a few extra steps, or pushing through the snow itself which wasn't an issue at all.

Snow detail aorund 13,000'

The views around 13,000+ feet became increasingly more beautiful, so we started taking our time around here to enjoy the scenery. Around 13,300' or so there is a large patch of snow that you can either walk straight up, or easily bypass as seen (in the second photo) below. The snow was starting to get pretty mushy with the heat of the day coming on. No risk of slipping at least!

First false summit
False summit and easily avoidable snow

Also in the photo above, we were introduced to the first of 3 false summits. We had read about these prior to the hike, but it didn't change the fact that each was more soul crushing than the last. As you crest the top of the first false summit, we were promptly greeted with another, this one looking as if it has even less snow than the first to navigate.

13,900' the second false summit

Around this point we officially had reach 14,000' and were starting to get a little sick of the false summits (only one left) and took some time to take some pictures and soak up the incredible views! The pano seen below was taken around the 14'k mark (approximately).

14,000' or so

Shortly after the 14,000' mark we came across the third and final of the false summits and we knew we were getting close. Some snow was present in this area and again it was easily avoidable, but we chose to push right through it. Neither of us wore spikes of any kind here but our hiking poles did feel somewhat necessary.

3rd false summit & snow detail

While enjoying the last time we would be fooled with the "top of the mountain" we also discovered that we were now nearing the top of Colorado....

14,150' approx.

We also had some fun playing with camera angles below the summit....poles were necessary, the axe was just to look cool.

Crux of the climb or clever phone angles?

After cresting the final false summit, we at last had a view of the top...this time the real one. From here it was a short 3-4 minutes to get to the summit up a nice snow covered ridge.

The summit within reach at last

The snow near the top was very packed down much like the rest of the climb and the exposure was very low so we practically ran up the last 100 vertical feet. Great feeling to be on top, along with about 15 others and a few dogs as well. Wind on the summit was surprisingly minimal. Clouds had started to form and a bit of snow flurries were falling. At 12:30pm we decided we shouldn't stay too long just in case a storm were to roll in.

The summit & highest point of Colorado - 14,433'

The way back down was just as straight forward as the way up, a few lose rocks past the first false summit that we were carerful on to avoid those below us getting hit, but besides that we had a fairly easy descent.

Back down the summit ridge. Incredible view of the surrounding mountains and 3 people on the summit to the far LEFT

All in all our total trip time was around 8 hours with 4:40:40 of actual climbing time. Our round trip total distance was 8.97 miles (extra half mile spent walking around taking pictures and on the summit). A straight forward climb with 4,590' of elevation gain on my watch. Can't wait to do it again!

Strava hike Map
Mt. Elbert - 14,433' from a distance

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

 Comments or Questions

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.