Fall’s already here, which is hard to believe. This summer wasn’t nearly as mountain filled as I would have liked. Over fourth of July weekend, Matt and I headed about 10 miles southwest of Leadville to Mt. Elbert, the second highest peak in Colorado. From the trailhead to the peak we climbed 4,700 feet for a roundtrip distance of 9 miles. Last year while descending from Mt. Bross, I experienced some severe knee pain. Upon descending Mt. Elbert this year, I was in so much pain in both knees that for the last 1.5 miles of the trip, I literally dragged my feet behind me, hobbling back to the trailhead.
The hike was beautiful, and it felt incredible to be at the top of the second highest peak, but the damage done to both knees has been effecting me since, keeping me from joining Matt on several of his summer mountain adventures. I’m headed to the doctor in October to sort myself out before ski season, but in the meantime I wanted to share some of our photos from this trip to the top of Elbert, the one and only 14er I was able to complete this summer.
Overall, the hike was incredibly well marked, and until you get above tree line, the path is clear and well maintained. That said, the 14er website rated this hike as one of the easiest 14ers to complete. I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s rated that way because of the constitution of the trail, but climbing 4,700 feet in 4.5 miles up to 14,433 feet was difficult for both Matt and I, and we encountered several climbers along the way who were unsuccessful in making it to the top. This is a hike that you must start early (we started at 6:00 a.m.) to complete before afternoon showers roll through.
We made decent time, and motivated ourselves by trying to stay ahead of an older woman who seemed to be leisurely strolling along, eating her yogurt for breakfast and stopping every so often to take in the scenery. Although she was nearly twice our age and didn’t seem to be exerting herself whatsoever, she continued to catch up to us throughout the day, motivating us to stay ahead and push ourselves instead of taking breaks. She was definitely a certified badass and seasoned climber.
The view from the top was spectacular, and although I spent a solid 1.5 hours limping in pain toward the bottom with shredded knees, I’m glad I have this memory of being on top of the world for a moment. It’s pretty incredible the kinds of places you can come across on a weekend trip in Colorado.
And for good measure, here’s a picture of Penny enjoying our camp spot at 5 a.m. Girl loves to get back to nature.