It's all fun and games 'til someone decides to climb a mountain - Danny and Roch all ready to go at the Mt. Elbert trail head.
Multisports.com Staff Climb Mt. ElbertWhat do you do after a 5-day triathlon camp? On Monday after the multisports.com Boulder Ironman Camp, Roch Frey, Danny Abshire, and Paul Huddle drove up to Leadville to get a shot at climbing the second highest peak in the continental U.S. (14,433 ft), Mt. Elbert. Roach and Huddle wanted a high altitude experience as a prelude to coaching Team Mild Seven in Western China where they'll be working at altitude. Danny, a two time Leadville 100-mile run finisher, was preparing for a 50-mile run that stays above 10,000 feet and has a 13 mile stretch above 12,000. Since Huddle and Roach weren't acclimated (5-days in Boulder wasn't going to cut it), just sleeping in Leadville felt like a workout.
Monday morning was overcast and there was enough fog across the valley that you couldn't even see the base of Mt. Elbert. If we'd had another day or two to wait out the weather, we probably wouldn't have even attempted it but, with Danny's previous experience on the mountain as our confidence, we drove to the trail head and started around 8:45 under very overcast skies with a light drizzle and about 40 degrees (yuck). The climb was HARD (steep) but the actual distance to the top was only about 5-miles. We ran into a storm at around 13,500ft with a bit of lightning, hail. Feeling way too exposed, we ended up running back down about 500 feet to a rocky wind break / shelter. We put on more clothes and waited out the worst of it expecting to continue down after it passed. Miraculously, the storm passed relatively quickly (10 min) and we decided to press on in questionable conditions. It wasn't Everest, but for a couple of low landers like Huddle & Roach, it felt like it. We ended up getting a good break with the weather while as we reached the summit and got a great view of where we were. Up 'til then, it looked like any steep trail with no points of reference to see that we were actually on a pretty high mountain. After arriving, we added our names to the cannister, took a couple of pictures with the digital and then hightailed it down (chasing Danny "The Goat" Abshire) the whole way.
All in all, we (Roch and Huddle) were shocked that the entire journey took all of 3 ½ hours from the trail head to the top and back down again. The climb took about 2 hours and fifteen minutes and the remainder to descend. If you ever get out to Colorado in the summer, make it a point to climb at least one of the fifty two 14,000 foot peaks in the state - you won't regret it and will have some great memories (not to mention quads that will take a week to feel normal again).