January 7, 2006

I’m back from Christmas vacation  I just returned from Colorado where my son Dave and I tried to make a winter ascent attempt on Mt. Elbert, the second highest peak in the continental US (just 61 feet shorter than Mt. Whitney in California which I bagged already, but not in winter).  We didn’t make it to the top but we had a great time mountaineering together. Here is a quick report and some pix of that trip:


We flew to Denver Monday and bought some final supplies at the Denver REI (Starbucks in store!).  We spent the rest of the first day at 10,000 Leadville acclimating to elevation.


The next day we parked car at Twin lakes at the base of Elbert and toted 60 pound  packs up to the Timberline @ 11,000’ where we established our camp.  This was “merely” a four mile climb—but it was often through chest-deep powder snow which we sunk into 3’ even with snowshoes on. Breaking a trail through the snow was hard labor and the “mere” four mile trip took a full six hours. We collapsed into bed by dark (5PM) and  slept until dawn (7AM) the next morning.


The weather report predicted Wednesday as the only clear day.  We got up before sunrise with only our emergency equipment,  leaving our tent at the tree line to return to later.  Once we were out of the timber the snow was crispy and we made better time no longer having to break trail in the deep snow.  However the elevation slowed us down considerably—sometimes taking 4-5 steps then leaning over to gasp for breath to take the next half-dozen steps. But the weather channel had missed their clear day prediction.   The clouds settled in and turned the mountain into soup. Then came the wind.  Every few minutes the wind whipped the powder snow into white-out conditions so that we’d have to crouch down until it passed.  When we finally obtained the open ridge we calculated the time remaining in the day and realized that we couldn’t make the full 12 mile round trip to the summit and back to our tent.  Snapping a few pictures we saluted the mountain and turned back down.

It was a great father-son trip with my son Dave and I plan to do another like it some day.  I love winter camping and I also love mountaineering. So does Dave.  So I suspect we’ll try another mountain another winter.   I do like to obtain the summit in this sort of thing, but at least I was out there guts-ing it up those slopes.  I tried.


For me, at my age,  trying is succeeding” when it come to things like  mountaineering.  (Maybe other things too?)