The view of Mount Elbert the morning of the climb from just outside of Leadville.
The sign as you enter Leadville, which is America's highest city.
Trip Report (July 18th, 2000):
I started the hike to the top of Elbert at 7:00 AM with about 20 others. To avoid the traffic, I hiked quickly for about an hour then stopped for a break and a quick snack. At that point, the hike was very pleasant, as it angled northeast through a cool and damp forest. After a bit, it emerged above the treeline to a beautiful hillside of grass and wild flower. After switchbacking through the hillside and moving along a ridge, the trail steepens and enters a rocky section below a point that appears to be Elbert's summit. As soon as you approach that summit (the steepest part of the hike), you realize that the top is still about a 1/2 mile away. From the false summit, the view of Leadville and the surrounding valley is gorgeous, as is the view of Mount Massive to the north.
From that point, the trail follows a boulder-strewn ridge (reminiscent of many I have seen in Idaho) to the top of Elbert. At 10:30 AM, I was on top of Elbert. The top was a flat area, with numerous rock shelters, a summit register in a plastic bag, and lots of people. I was particularly impressed with the view of La Plata Peak from the top, though the views in all directions were stunning. After an hour on top, I headed down and made it back to the trailhead by 1:30 PM.
Elbert was my first 14er, my first hike in Colorado, my 2nd state highpoint, and a great experience. The altitude did not seem to bother, maybe due to the fact that I spent 24 hours in Leadville before the hike and done a lot of harder climbs in Idaho earlier in the season.
I highly recommend climbing Elbert. Not only is it a high point, but a beautiful mountain as well.
I climbed via the northeast ridge, on Halfmoon Creek trail.