Ascent of Mount Elbert on 2018-09-24
|Date:||Monday, September 24, 2018|
|Ascent Type:||Unsuccessful - Turned Back|
| Elevation:||13800 ft / 4206 m|
Ascent Trip ReportAttempt to 13,800 feet up the South Elbert Trail.
Spent the two nights before sleeping in Leadville to acclimate. Also did a practice hike the day before getting above 12,000 feet, the highest I had been to that point.
Parked at the lower trail head since my rental car did not have 4 wheel drive. Got to follow part of the Continental Divide Trail up a little past the upper trail head. One short stretch of heavy rain during this point, some sprinkles and some sunshine.
A bit beyond the upper trail head the old trail is closed for conservation work.
The new trail adds at least 3/4 of a mile to the route in this lower section. The old path is rejoined for a short section and right about when leaving the tree line there is another new section.
I didn't have much trouble with the altitude until about 13,000 feet, and by 13,500 feet I was having quite a hard time. Was taking a break every minute or so, but was still able to continue up the mountain. However it was taking a lot longer than anticipated. By 11 AM the top of the mountain was maybe a little over a mile away and seemed achievable by the noon recommendation. However it was about 1 PM when I turned around, which shows how slowly I was making progress towards the top. Left my pack behind at one point while taking just the most essential items, but even this didn't help much.
Turned around the second that I heard some thunder. In hindsight there wasn't much and none of it sounded close, so it probably would have been fine to have continued, but there was no way to have known this beforehand. I had already decided before the hike thunder was an unconditional sign to head down.
Got caught in something of a snow storm on the way down. Trail remained remarkably clear even as the snow left a dusting on the rest of the terrain. Little visibility at this point.
Once the snow stopped (before I made it back to the tree line) the weather was great the rest of the way down. Had some nausea at this point (presumably from the altitude) so made slow progress taking lots of breaks on the way down as well. Once reaching the upper trail head took the road back instead of the trail. Wasn't until reaching the road that I started to feel fine again, and by the time I made it to the car I felt completely OK.
The two biggest takeaways I had from the hike are to not underestimate how long it will take to hike at altitude, and what it actually means when you hear that weather can change rapidly on mountains.
|Summary Total Data|
| Route Conditions:||Maintained Trail|
| Route:||South Elbert Trail|
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
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Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by Craig Burkhart
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