Mount Elbert (14,443′) Attempt & Scouting for Elk Hunting | Colorado | 06/13/20-06/14/20

Mount Elbert (14,443′) Attempt | CO Rank: 1/53

Sawatch Range | San Isabel National Forest | Twin Lakes, CO

06/13/20 | 7.48 miles | 2,177′ gain | Class 1

For my husband Kyle’s birthday weekend, we (mostly me) decided to climb a 14er. Not just any 14er, but the tallest one in Colorado, Mount Elbert! We’d attempted Elbert last year but turned around early because I was sick (possibly altitude sickness). But this time, I would not be turned around! (If you read the title of the post, you probably already know that we turned around.)

Kyle and I left Friday after work, setting up camp at the trailhead. My friend Allie met us at 3:30am and we all set out soon after. I was feeling good, no chance of getting sick this time! In fact, I was feeling so good that we absolutely cruised up the trail, possibly the fastest I’ve ever hiked. We were above treeline for a beautiful sunrise, and were making plenty good time to beat the forecasted 12pm storms.

Red sky at morning, sailors’ take warning – wait a second, does this apply to hikers too?

As we neared the summit, clouds began to develop over the mountain. It was barely 7am and there were already clouds? We tentatively continued but soon the rain and graupel mix began to fall. We hunkered down under a stunted tree around 12,400′, hoping the storm would pass quickly. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Even though we had raincoats, our legs were wet from blowing rain and we were absolutely freezing. We checked the radar on our phones but even if we waited for the storm to pass, we’d still be wet & cold. Ultimately, I don’t feel there’s much point to hiking if you’re going to be miserable. I’d rather turn around and come back on a day I could truly enjoy myself, so that’s what we decided to do.

Disappointed, we turned around and speed-walked back to the car. Determined to not let the entire trip be wasted, we stopped at one of the beaver ponds along the way back for a relaxing break.

Here we brainstormed what we’d do with the rest of the weekend. It was mid-morning on a Saturday, we had a dog-sitter at home, and we were desperate to find something else to do.

Scouting for Elk Hunting | Mount Zirkel Wilderness

Walden, CO | 06/14/20 | 2.15 miles | 386′ gain

We ran through a number of ideas, many hampered by the rain, but then Kyle mentioned we could do some scouting for his fall elk hunt. He’d gotten a tag near the Mount Zirkel Wilderness and since he’d never been there before, he had a lot of research to do.

After a quick nap in the car, we made the long drive from Twin Lakes to Walden. Neither of us had ever been this way so we enjoyed the scenery. We picked up some dinner before we left town and drove miles of dirt roads to get back to the hunting area. Kyle had located a spot that looked good, so we navigated to that area to find a campsite. Luckily, there were a ton of dispersed campsites along the road, and ours was really cool!

Lady, Queen of Camp

The next morning, we packed up camp to head to Kyle’s hunting area. We hadn’t even gotten out of the car when we saw a cow elk. This has got to be a good sign! This section of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness was ravaged by forest fire a few years ago. Everything (and I do mean everything) was charred. We walked through the forest, careful not to touch anything or the ash would transfer to our hands, clothes, etc. We saw a ton of elk sign in the area, but no more elk after the first one.

A stream ran through the forest, creating an oasis of green. We found a way to cross and climbed to the top of a ridge. This is where Kyle wanted to hunt in the fall. Plenty of elk sign, but hopefully they’d stick around for hunting season!

Ultimately, Colorado’s incredible wildfire season put a damper on any fall hunting and Kyle was unable to go. But it was still fun to explore the burn area, and overall not a totally ruined weekend 🙂


10 thoughts on “Mount Elbert (14,443′) Attempt & Scouting for Elk Hunting | Colorado | 06/13/20-06/14/20

    1. I know, burn areas always give a sense of sadness but the land will come back, eventually.

      I did end up climbing Elbert later in the summer and I can confirm that it’s gorgeous! Well worth a few attempts to finally succeed.


  1. rich

    Thanks for the story. We are looking at climbing Mt Elbert someday soon and are always interesting in others’ experiences.

    Your pooch didn’t look too thrilled in that image with the rain coat! Great photo.


  2. Though you must have been disappointed about having to turn around, it’s always best to live to hike again. I have to say, the photo of Lady in her raincoat would be enough to make the trip worthwhile!


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