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Mount Elbert NE Ridge - Standard Route
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12 by photographer avatarjuliachaos
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Mount Elbert NE Ridge - Standard RouteSouth Central, CO
South Central, CO
Hiking avatar Jul 22 2011
juliachaos
Hiking9.00 Miles 4,700 AEG
Hiking9.00 Miles
4,700 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Around 15 years ago, I'd attempted this route from the south trailhead, but never even made it past treeline. I'd ended up lost, alone, dehydrated, and with no interest in ever coming back. But for some reason this year, it just seemed right to attempt it once again, with the willpower and knowledge to do it right and summit.

Unfortunately, only one of those things happened.

Ben joined me yet again for this challenging hike. The trip started out okay... the weather was predicted to be gorgeous all day. We got a late start around 9 am but decided not to rush it. I grabbed my hiking poles, so as not to stress out my hamstring on the way up or down. I've been having issues with it off and on, and was excited that all trip long it hadn't caused me any trouble. We packed up everything we needed and were soon headed up the soft path. It was basically a long, steep walk. The comparison to Humphrey's is right on, just somewhat longer and higher. The elevation really came into play, despite the fact that I'd been in Colorado for nearly a week at this point. Everything below treeline is beautiful, and the shade is perfect. We took a break right before pushing through the trees for the last time, and then stepped out and within views of a constant false summit. It was pretty exciting being up so high and knowing that Colorado's tallest was within reach. We slowly worked our ways up the slippery scree-filled path, passing through soothing green landscapes and long snow patches. There was a big black lab mix near us on the trail at times, and he was having the grandest of days wallowing through the snow, rolling through it on his back, and jumping all over it. It was impossible not to smile and laugh at his enjoyment. We took a lot of breaks, but somehow pushed ourselves up onto the summit sometime after noon. The views are wonderful, and the wind is ferocious. We talked with a couple people at the top, and met a few fellow Iowans, which was neat. Grabbed a quick lunch and perused the interesting little log box, filled with the most random of supplies. We signed our names, took some pictures, and then started our journey back down.

I was pretty tired from the lack of oxygen, as it turned out. I've never taken so many breaks coming down a mountain. We filled up on electrolytes, water, and Reese's Pieces and slowly worked our ways down again. The trail above treeline is pretty steep and scree-covered, so I was using my poles for added support. Unfortunately, my feet somehow got ahead of myself, and I slipped and fell, pulling a quad. I got up, brushed it off, stretched a little, and then started walking again, this time slower. I went a few more steps, and then put my foot on a rounded log that was built into the trail as a step. The scree on the polished log took my foot right out from under me, and I fell, taking my right knee into an awkward position. I felt two pops in my right thigh and then searing pain. I sat there, my feet splayed across the trail, unable to move through the pain, fearful of what it might mean. I knew I'd just torn my right quads, but didn't know how badly. I felt sick. Ben picked me up and moved me onto a rock to better assess the situation. He'd thought I'd just blown out my knee and was relieved to find out that wasn't the case. I took some ibuprofen and Tylenol, and then wrapped my thigh up with a roll of athletic tape from my bag. We waited for a while, making a plan of how to get out. I started feeling better, so extended my poles for better stability, and began inching my way back down the mountain. We had over three miles and 3000 feet of elevation to descend. It was going to be a long trip down.

It was painful to walk, but I eventually found a method that seemed to work pretty well. We were overjoyed when we finally hit treeline again, as the dirt there is much softer and less likely to move out from under me. Except that somehow, that's exactly what it did. I slipped yet again, and pulled my left quad. Oh Murphy.. thanks for the extra challenge! Eventually the trail evened out a bit more. It was a lot easier to walk on flat ground, so I was thankful. We made it back to the car around 5pm, then hightailed back to Dillon to get the RICE process started.

I was glad that I did finally get to the top of this one. Just a bit unfortunate that I have yet another hiking injury that's putting me out a few more weeks. But at least it was basically on the last day I was there, so it wasn't too much of a loss as far as the vacation was concerned. And it was even better having a level-headed pharmacist hiking buddy along who could take care of the situation while my brain was clouded by the sudden turn of events. One thing I know, though... I'm totally retiring these pumpkin shoes. :sweat: Next year, I will do these fourteeners right!
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