While we were in the US, I made for myself the opportunity to climb Mt. Elbert, the tallest point in CO. Climbing the highpoints in the lower 48 is a life goal of mine, though I only count highpoints that one has to hike to – not the ones that are beauty schools (Ohio) or a trailer park (DE) or a place along the road (RI). So far I’ve hiked MD, VA, WV, PA, CT, NH, ME, MA, MO, and NJ, and failed to summit NM!
During our stay in CO, Annie, Ross (CC’s brother), Alan (CC’s father), and I tackled Elbert. According to my research, Elbert was said to be climbable with anyone of modest fitness. Either I am deceived about myself, or CO has a different understanding of fitness than the East Coast . . .
We left late in the day Sunday and stayed at a small hotel in Leadville, CO. The drive through the Rockies was beautiful. Due in part to time spent looking for a place to buy proper hiking socks for me, we got in late and left the hotel around 5 am, well before the complimentary breakfast. Ross did a great job of finding the trailhead and his truck was able to handle the dirt roads so we were able to start two miles further up the mountain at the upper trailhead.
Breakfast munchies at the trailhead.
The first part of the hike was a pleasant forest walk, but the attitude was soon kicking the butt of Alan and I myself. We had to stop every 100 yards or so and catch our breath. Ross, being secretly a CO native since before time began, was fine.
The second part of the hike was through beautiful alpine meadow, with the views growing steadily more spectacular!
For Alan, the spirit was willing, but not the flesh. It soon became apparent that if we all stuck together, then we would not make it up and down the mountain before nightfall. Ross very kindly agreed to stay with Alan near the transition between the grasslands and the rock fields. Annie and I trudged on.
I felt like Samwise Gamgee going up Mt. Doom, though my vista was much more beautiful. The third part of the mountain was rock fields with small pockets of snow. I start meeting people who had started with us near the trailhead, summited, and were now heading down. There was a long steep section going almost straight up, and then we cleared a false peak and came to switchbacks up to the top. Ironically, I met a men coming down who had been all around Papua New Guinea nearly 25 years ago. It was so strange to be chatting about snorkeling in Madang while standing by pockets of snow.
I tried to keep Annie cheerful by promising her that she could play in the snow once we reached the top. She dozed off a bit as I ever so slowly slugged myself up the final ascent. Getting to the top was probably the hardest physical challenge I’ve had in a long, long time. In the end, it was sheer willpower. But we made it, and Annie got to play in the snow!
Refreshed by victory, Annie and I made our way down the mountain, stopping briefly to play in more snow. We met up with Alan and Ross and made the long walk down. Annie probably walked about 75% of the way down.
We went out for dinner at a funny restaurant in Leadville – Quincy’s Steak and Spirits. It was decorated like an old Saloon and it only served steak wrapped in bacon (four different sizes) or macaroni and cheese. We all heartily enjoyed our food, even if Annie’s was just Kraft mac and cheese.
Ross drove us all back to Denver safely.
I am very thankful for:
My brother-in-law Ross for making the trip possible and allowing me to accomplish my mountain dream.
the weather being clear all day.
Our friends Matt and Betsy Whitt, who let us stay in their house part of the time we were in Denver.
Our friends Anna and Damian Lenshek for hosting us for a few days.