Matt Mahoney's 2008 Colorado Vacation
Matt Mahoney's Home Page

Mt. Elbert - June 25, 2008

I decided to test my (lack of) altitude acclimation by climbing Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest peak at 14,440 ft. On previous trips from sea level to high altitude I had altitude sickness such as headaches, nausea, tingling in my hands and seeing stars like I was about to faint. This time I didn't have any problem other than breathing harder than normal (about once every 3 steps). This morning when I woke up in Leadville my resting pulse was 64 (10 above normal) and I was taking 10 breaths per minute (about 4 above normal).

I started at the Halfmoon trailhead at 10,050 ft at 7:30 AM, reached the summit at 9:49 AM, then jogged back down (4.5 miles each way) to finish at 11:24 AM. There was some snow showers over the mountains before starting my climb but it was good weather, mostly sunny for the whole climb. The trail was practically free of snow in spite of heavier snowfall than normal this spring. Temperatures were probably in the 40's at the summit. When I left Leadville for the 12 mile drive to Elbert around 7 AM, it was 38 deg. F. and 81% humidity with no wind.

For the climb I wore a 2 bottle running pack and New Balance 790 lightweight (7.5 oz) trail running shoes. I carried an extra polypro shirt, jacket, hat, gloves, rain paints and plastic poncho in case of bad weather. I got some sunburn on my face since I'm not used to the high UV index (around 14) in the thin air. Photos:

Colorado Trail - Mt Elbert trail junction at 10,600 ft. The sign is held together with duct tape. (Note timestamps are 1 hour fast).

View of a false summit (about 13,600 ft?) below Elbert from a clearing at about 11,500 ft.

Looking back at the trail from about 12,500 ft. The lake in the valley is Turquoise Lake near Leadville. The snow showers that were over Elbert this morning have moved over Mt. Sherman.

View toward Mt. Massive from about 12,500 ft with me in the foreground. Mt. Massive is the second highest mountain in Colorado, 12 feet below Elbert.

Mt. Elbert from about 100 feet below the summit. I was the first on the summit today after passing about 7 groups of hikers.

Looking back at the trail from the summit.

View south from the summit with Mt. La Plata (5th highest in Colorado) on the right.

View SE toward Twin Lakes and across the Arkansas River valley. Note the thin coating of fresh snow from this morning over the older snowdrift.

View toward Mt. Massive from the summit of Elbert.

Elbert summit marker.