Mt. Elbert – East Ridge

by CMC Trip Leader Bill Blazek

This was a Colorado Mountain Club trip with 10 members. This exursion was training for the CMC’s 2015 Year of the Mountaineer expedition to Cerro de Aconcaqua, 22,841. Eight of the 10 are on the Aconcagua expedition, and the other two came along just for the “fun!”

Everything went like clockwork and all 10 of us made the summit. The weather was clear and sunny the whole weekend with only a few scattered clouds but a lot of wind!

We met in Golden at 6 a.m. and carpooled out to the trailhead by 10 a.m. We were on I-70 before 6:30 a.m. and the traffic was already very heavy with lots of stop and go all the way to Georgetown. We organized gear and packed up and were hiking before 11 a.m..

The trail was well tracked and hard packed almost all the way to the camp area at ~11,700′. The last of us were there by 2:30 p.m. We didn’t need our snowshoes until getting to or near camp where we needed them to pack down the snow for tent sites. We had camp set up easily. Temps were very mild during the day and very little wind.

As soon as the sun went behind the hills the temps dropped very quickly but it never got lower than ~20 degrees overnight. The condensation in our tent never even froze. There was only some very mild wind overnight.

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Sunday we were up ~6 a.m. and gone from camp shortly after 7 a.m. Once above timberline the wind started picking up and generally got harder the higher we went. I had to stop and brace myself against the wind to keep from getting blown over ~2 dozen times, both on the way up and down.

We started out from camp with snowshoes but cached them shortly above timberline. Several people switched to microspikes for the hardpacked areas. The snow was typical patchy windblown January snow with some soft areas mixed with bullet-proof hardpack.

The last of us made the summit shortly after 11 a.m., four hours from camp. The wind on the summit was relatively mild but still significant with only a few scattered clouds. The views were the classic spectacular Colorado winter wonderland. All the way up and down for that matter.

There were several other parties on the mountain this weekend, especially Sunday. At least three parties packed in on Saturday and climbed on Sunday. Numerous others climbed from the TH on Sunday. More than two dozen people total, including our party, made the summit on Sunday. So Elbert continues to be a favorite winter climb!

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The last of us were back down to camp by 1:15 a.m,  packed up and hiking out by 2:30 p.m. and back to the cars by 4:30 p.m.

To avoid I-70 traffic we took US285 back home, stopping to eat, and were back in Golden before 9:30 p.m.

Another great couple days in the mountains!

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