Total Time: 9 hrs 10 min
Total Distance: 11.3 miles
Minimum Elevation: 9,467 ft
Maximum Elevation: 14,433 ft
Elevation Gain: 4,941 ft
Difficulty: Moderate to hard mainly due to distance and gain. This will take most of a day, weather moves in and out fast from the Aspen direction hidden behind the hills.
Date of Hike: June 18, 2011
Recounting these trips years afterwards is a bit difficult. Most years I don’t start looking for big peaks until I’ve read a few reports around the Memorial Day weekend. That helps me shape the areas of deeper snowpack in my head. That year had a very warm spring and lots of trails were nearly melted out by June. Most of the hiking up to here was Front Range stuff and things up north. So a run at Elbert looked splendid based on folks’ reports from the NE slopes route.
But the popular route didn’t sound fun. That’s where the East Ridge route entered the plan. Somehow we managed to get my brother in the van with all five dogs for a camping weekend. We just didn’t know quite where at the time. As usual it was a little bit stormy on the Friday afternoon we drove up. And when we started hunting around, we began to realize the things we forgot and decided to just camp at the campground below.
Half the place was closed to reservations, but we found a swell site and setup. Then a quick dinner and some sleep before hoofing it up over the hill behind us to the road. That’s what I thought at least. As it turns out, the post next to our site number post wasn’t redundant. It was the Colorado Trail! That meant when we left in the morning, we would be directly on route.
Signs are plentiful and the trail is obvious since the lower couple miles is 4×4 road. And on that topic; the road at the time was manageable by FWD good clearance up over a mile in. Not sure how the conditions change year to year, so don’t count on getting far.
There’s a good sized parking area at the upper trailhead. But we didn’t realize at the time that was the route. Instead we went a couple hundred yards farther up the road to where the Colorado Trail sign is. It didn’t add much if anything to the total, and the bridge marking the trail start was easy to see through the trees.
Not much past the bridge is the split in the trail and the fun begins.
If there’s any doubt despite the abundant signage, it’s up. If your not getting your first big dose of gain here, then you went the wrong way.
The weather over the week leading up was scattered but with a pattern. Thick early morning cloud cover with bits of rain and then increasing sun as the storms collected. Even though the clouds looked a bit off, we pushed on.
There’s really no losing the trail. It’s well eroded, wide and without splits.
Once the trees start to fade, most of the remaining route is visible.
The trail is severely eroded along the main hike to the mountain itself. Common courtesy/sense says you should stick to the trail but this one is so far gone you can’t really pick just one out of the seven. Either way they all end up in the same spot as the main trail starts to fade into the rocks.
I suppose there isn’t really a crux on this route. Besides the rugged distance involved that is. The rock portion of the upper trail to the summit is pretty well packed down and flat. Kinda like a 14er trail. Then just a few short yards from the ridge, the two routes meet and summit.
And WAY down yonder we could see the campground…
When we hiked this route there was a smidgen of snow left on one of the steeper sections. Since then I’ve grown more used to the exposure feeling on a loose surface, but at the time it bothered me a little. Considering Box Car is the line the snow was connected to.
From there it was a simple process of going back the way we came. Cuz beer and food was definitely in order.
After a long day of hiking, you get to move off the road constantly as 4x4s move up and down with a good deal of regularity. With so much going on in the area, it does get busy.