Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
"South Elbert"  -  14,134 feet
Date Posted:  09/08/2020
Date Climbed:   09/03/2020
Author:  coopereitel
 A Night on Elbert   

The idea to sleep on Mt. Elbert first came to me this summer. I realize many have done it before, but I just felt like sharing my first overnight experience on a summit. A quick shout out to the people who responded to my post in the forum for "Sleeping on Elbert." Thanks for the info!

I got off of my last online class on Thursday at noon before hitting the road at 1:00pm to the Black Cloud Trail. This was ironically my first time driving into Buena Vista in the morning, I normally am driving in the dark. I arrived at the TH at 3:30pm after a quick detour caused by google which put me past the TH. Don't forget the turn is before the red roofs of the Elbert Inn at a little sign that I'm pretty sure says "Black Cloud Trail." I parked then started up the trail with my 63 liter backpack which was way overkill, but well worth it.

A cool spot on the trail

La Plata

The views of La Plata on the way out of the woods is very cool.

Some avalanche toppled aspens

As I approached the saddle after the switchbacks I realized that I needed to hustle to reach the summit before sunset at 7:30. I summited South Elbert around 6:30 then bolted to the top of the tall Elbert.

My race with the sun

I summited at 7:00 so had 30 mins to watch the sun set and eat.


Sun setting over the Elks

After I ate my dinner, I set up my sleeping arrangement. It was interesting. I had three pairs of socks, three pairs of pants, five long sleeve shirts, a monster coat, gloves, and the standard face and head gear. I brought two sleeping bags and two sleeping bag liners. I for sure missed out on the cold weather genes, thanks Mom and Dad.

My world class sleeping set up


Sun checking out

I got to sleep before the moon came out at 8:45ish. As soon as it got up the stars were washed out and it was like someone was shining a flashlight in my eyes every time I looked up. This was not a huge problem because it enabled me to have better visibility to the west to look for any funny-business developing in the clouds. The 1% chance of precip was spot on, very nice. The wind was also not a problem which I thought might keep me up. I got probably nine hours of sleep which rocked (get it). With all of my layers the hard surface was not super uncomfortable, not a sleep number though. If you need a pillow just use a rock. You know you are using enough layers when you can sleep on rocks comfortably. That is the new official test.

Sun checking back in

Snowmass-Satan's Ridge-Capitol

Shadow of Elbert

South Elbert

South Elbert is included with the Black Cloud Trail.

I left the summit around 7:20 after saying good bye to my new friends who came up to watch the sunrise. I got to the Jeep at 9:40. The trip was a major success in my book. I would highly recommend sleeping on a summit as long as you have killer weather. My pack was for sure overweight but I don't regret for a second anything I brought. You could probably pack much lighter, but I felt very prepared so its up to you. I feel like this was a great way to do the state high point and stay up top for over twelve hours. I was thinking that unless some schmuck was on the top of Whitney in CA I was the highest (in elevation, haha) person in the lower 48. Overall, a sick night on Elbert.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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