Mt. Elbert
Highest Point in Colorado at 14,433 ft
near Leadville, Colorado

June 28, 2003
Dan, Brook, Mike

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Friday evening, June 27th, Mike Strasser, Brook, and Dan Shank left Denver to drive to the Mount Elbert trailhead to campout and hike for the summit Saturday morning. After a 2 1/2 hour drive, we arrived at the trailhead area and found a good site to throw our bags. The stars at 10,100 feet were unbelievable. I have never seen as many or felt so much intensity. We easily saw the international space station as it flew by. Located three other satelites as they flew by too. These were very faint and went in and out of ilumination.

It must have gotten down to the high 20's overnight. Frost on the car and our stuff in the morning. But, once the sun rose, it warmed us quickly. After breaking camp, eating breakfast, and waiting for lunches to be made, we were on the trail at 7:35AM.

It's always a great time hiking through the forest, but I especially enjoy hitting tree line and above. Colorado's tree line averages 12,000 feet. We arrived there at 9:05AM. Some especially beautiful pine cones on a tree at tree line were a deep red. Made for an excellent photo op. Above tree line we enjoyed cloudless skies, comfortable temperatures (except when the light winds would blow across the exposed northeastern slopes of Mount Elbert), and beautifull tundra with impressive small flowers everywhere. Most flowers were less than 1/2 inch in diameter. We saw almost two dozen different types and colors of tundra flowers. Colors included whites, yellows, white-lavendar, blues, violet, and lots of combinations. Saw a few black caterpillers here and black spiders about 1/2 inch long. Even saw a ladybug around 13,000 feet! Two fat marmots were hanging out in the boulders alongside the snow free trail. We named the second one Norman. Kind of camera shy though.

We finally hit the summit at 11:15AM (along with almost three dozen others at the most crowded time and 2 dogs). Lots of happy hikers, releived, and elated. Clouds started forming blocking the sun on the summit. But we had an excellent lunch on Colorado's highest mountain at 14,433 feet after four miles one way and 4,400feet elevation climb. Signed in on the register, then started down at 12:00PM.
Going down was faster. Had to watch our knees and foot blitsers, but we hit tree line again at 1:05PM and trailhead 2:15PM. That last hour was a long one. 3:40 time up and 2:15 down. Total of 8 miles in 6 hour. Only three hour's drive to get home from there.

written by Dan Shank
edited by Mike Strasser

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