Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2021
Modified:  08/10/2021
Date Climbed:   08/06/2021
Author:  pruzicka67
 Beautiful day for climbing a tough Class 1!   

While I’m not questioning it, I am curious about the criteria to call Elbert a Class 1, because it’s waaayyy harder than the other Class 1’s I’ve done. And it starts up immediately once you hit the trail head. This climb was me and my two teenage sons, and we all agreed this one was a doozy for a Class 1. Took us almost 2 hours to get out of the trees (including the extra mile added by road construction keeping us from the main parking lot). First light came along right in time (4/5 of the way to treeline) because we’d stopped for a rest, and I felt an overwhelming feeling that I’d gotten us North Carolina flatlanders in over our heads, and was just about the pull the rip cord. But, looked through the trees to see the very first light starting to glow which gave us a little boost, and we determined we’d at least get above tree line.

Luckily, what I’ll call “phase 1,” which is everything below the treeline is much harder, IMHO, than what I’ll call the 2nd phase (treeline to 13,400’, where things get really interesting). May be the psychology of hiking in pitch black in the woods and the fact that I hate hiking in the dark, mainly due to the lack of reference points and scenery which I find motivational. But, below the treeline is not an easy hike for folks used to Quandary’s and Grays’ more gentle initial stages.

From treeline to 13,400’ is a great hike, challenging but not excessively. If you can, try to be above treeline for sunrise. We got lucky and timed it where we were about 200 yards up the trail above treeline and got to watch a brilliant sunrise.

Sunrise above treeline...really gave us a boost to keep going!

Once you hit the 13,400’-ish steeper slopes, the work gets fun with lots of scrambling up and over rocks. I’d highly recommend hiking poles for anyone with any kind of knee issues (or just anyone at all) because the joints take a lot on going up, and a real pounding coming back down on those steepest parts of the trail.

Thank goodness for and warnings of false summits…there’s a few. The last one is when you can see the rock cairn. That’s the last false summit, I mean…NOT the real summit! And reviews are right, once you climb out of the steeps, the last 500 or so vertical feet are less intense, and you’re just about done when you can see that rock cairn.

Saw lots of pikas, what I think were ptarmigan and one marmot (had never seen one of those before). And, at the top, while we were enjoying our PB&J breakfasts, a couple got engaged! Really great moment with everyone clapping and cheering…loved seeing the camaraderie among a bunch of strangers, especially in these seemingly divided times. Was great to see a community of climbers from all over coming together to cheer on a young couple’s big moment. Made the climb that much better! And if you're trying to find the marker, it's toward the southeast part of the summit.

The marker is toward the southeast part of the summit

For all my warnings about how hard this is, it’s doable for flatlanders who are in at least a little bit of shape. Ran into a nice family from Missouri, a dad and son from Oklahoma, and some college age kids from Nebraska, so sea level was well represented. We’d flown in from North Carolina on Wednesday morning, and went right to Breckenridge and took the ski lift up to 11,000’ and hiked up there for about 1.5hrs to jump start our acclimatization. Then straight to Leadville and some activities during the day Thursday, and that seemed to get us acclimated fairly well. May add another day if we do it again in the future.

iPhone Health showed almost 13 miles round trip including the extra 2.4 put on by the road construction blocking the road to the parking lot and trailhead. No idea how accurate that is, but, based on other comments I’ve seen here, I think round trip from the trail head is probably a little more than 9.5 miles. I don’t want to put a number out there based on unscientific info such as my iPhone app, but would feel safe saying round trip may be more like 10.5.

Great day climbing with my boys, and so grateful for to help with planning as well as the trail maintenance that was underway in a few spots.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Class 1
08/11/2021 12:02
It‘s class 1 because there is a well beaten trail all the way.

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