Today feels like a bigger success because I not only added two more 14er summits to my list, I also get Colorado’s highest peak. As you may remember, I am not only striding for all of Colorado’s 14ers (link here), including the unofficial peaks, but also the 50 US high Points (link here). And wow, was this worth the trek up! The views are incredible!
Summary of Mount Elbert, South Elbert, and Mt. Cosgriff:
- 14,433 feet Mount Elbert – 14,134 feet South Elbert – 13,588 feet Mount Cosgriff
- 10.5 miles
- 4,300 ft elevation gain
- Sawatch Range
- Loop from Mt Elbert TH – up old mine road and down East Ridge route
- Class 2, Exposure 1
This was my target hike during my trip to Colorado. I really want to finish the CO 14ers so I can start on the CO 13ers. But as I am in California the next three years, I also want to start looking in my own neighborhood for great places to trek about. So I need to be deliberate about the hikes I make time for.
But first, a recap of yesterday. I woke up at 3am to thunder and rain. I checked the weather forecast and it said rain until 5am. So I went back to sleep. At 5am I checked the forecast again, it said no more rain or lightening until 10am. I thought maybe I should go for it. I contemplated hiking La Plata, the shortest of the remaining three on my agenda. But then it started raining lightly again, so I stalled. I spent a solid hour looking up all the forecast websites I could think of. They all said the same thing. I felt really ready to get up and go, but I also felt really ready to fall back to sleep. So I did what any self-respecting 28 year old would do when faced with risking life or sleeping in, I called my mom. I think subconsciously I knew she would agree I shouldn’t try a summit, but I needed to know that I wasn’t only being a lazy ass. She suggested I could start up one knowing I would turn back after an hour or two. That sounded like a tease of a summit, so instead I headed into Leadville for the day.
I went to City on a Hill Coffee and Espresso. This place was bomb! I ate a Southwest Burrito with spicy salsa and a hot drink. Amazing! Especially since my tent, the least water resistant tent still in use in the modern era, soaked through to almost everything roughing the floor. This is to say my jackets nicely stowed in a duffle by my bed to prevent dew collection, resulted in lighted wetted fabrics, and the foot of my bed had completed soaked through the blanket, first 3″ thick sleeping bag, and the outer fabric on the second 3″ sleeping bag. Considering this tent probably hasn’t been used since I last went to Girl Scout camp in middle school, I can’t really complain. I also don’t know if I can justify buying my parents a new tent when it would likely be an object sitting around for the next time I am too cheap to buy a checked bag.
Anyhow, I spent a good chunk of the morning working and finishing up a few things that had immediate deadlines, and just enjoyed the relaxation. When I felt like it was time to stop fiddling around on my computer, about 3pm, I walked over to High Mountain Pies and ate a good portion of a 12″ San Juan pizza. I drank a First Cast IPA, brewed by Elevation Beer Co. out of Poncha Springs, CO. Oh how I miss the abundance of IPA beer from Colorado microbreweries!! And then my friend, Blake, drove out with his dog, Jolene, to join me for the next day. This brings me back to today.
We woke up early but got a bit of a late start, 5am, because Blake has a fancy 4runner which we drove up the trailhead road to cut off 4 miles. This was a great choice, and really fun to take on a rough road knowing we could pretty much cross anything. This included a fast-moving river that crossed the road, which would have been much trickier to cross on foot. Once we reached the trailhead, we walked down the Continental Divide Trail to connect with an old mining road that switch-backed up the front of Mount Cosgriff. We weren’t quite up the first peak when the sun first peak above the horizon, but we definitely had a phenomenal view. Once at the mine, we picked our own trail up the rest of the slope to the top of Cosgriff. I recently decided to add Colorado’s 13ers to my ambitions, so I am going to start documenting those lesser known summits.
We topped Cosgriff, then pushed on for South Elbert peak. This is one of those unofficial 14ers, but it was really important to me to reach its summit. It was great to have Blake and Jolene join this hike. Jolene, a large Bloodhound mix, kept things interesting. I absolutely love dogs, and hope my sister or brother have a pet dog some day so I can be the best aunt to it. Anyway, on the far side of South Elbert we crossed paths with a group of camp counselors on their way up. We had finally made it to the main trail, and the final slog to the top. We hadn’t really seen people or heard them until reaching that saddle. But at the top of Mount Elbert, there were huge crowds of people. I am discovering more and more that I really don’t appreciate crowds that much, I also don’t enjoy the summits as much as I enjoy the challenges of getting there. So in many ways this was a moment of deep patience for me, as I tried my hardest to ignore everyone and pretend that I might have been up there alone. It didn’t really work, but I enjoyed the views anyway. Being Colorado’s highest peak, Elbert has some stunning views. I particularly enjoyed staring across the valley at Mount Massive, my mission for tomorrow!
After a while we headed down the East Ridge back to the Mt Elbert Trailhead. The trail was so nice I was able to temporarily feel like I had my hiker legs and charged down without much effort. I realize that I really need to put regular hiking and running back into my daily life. It is hard to be a desk jockey in grad school…
Final recap: great company with Blake and Jolene, stunning scenery, perfect weather, and beautiful sunrise shots. Today was a fantastic day!