Mount Elbert / Sawatch Range / 14,440 Ft / 9,093 Ft / 671 Miles / 39.1178°N / 106.4454°W
Mt Elbert is the highest of Colorado’s 14ers (in other words, the highest point in Colorado) at 14,440 feet (4401 meters) and the second-highest peak in the lower 48 states after Mt Whitney in California. Mt Elbert lies 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Leadville, Colorado. The first recorded ascent of the peak was in 1874 and Mt Elbert was named after the Governor of the Colorado Territory at that time, Samuel H. Elbert.
The easiest and most popular climbing routes are categorized as Class 1 or 2 (hiking with simple scrambling and occasional use of hands). Elbert is therefore often referred to as the “gentle giant” topping all others in the Rockies.
There are three main climbing routes up Elbert. The most popular route ascends the peak from the east, starting from the Colorado Trail just north of Twin Lakes. The 4.6 miles (7.4 km) long North (Main) Elbert Trail begins close to the Elbert Creek Campground and gains about 4,500 feet (1,400 m) in elevation. That trail is open to hunters (during hunting season), equestrians and mountain bikers. An easier, albeit longer, route, the South Elbert Trail, is 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long and climbs 4,600 feet (1,400 m), approaching from the south and then climbing the eastern ridge.
The most difficult of the main routes is the Black Cloud Trail, a Class 2 climb which takes 10 to 14 hours, gains 5,300 feet (1,600 m) in elevation, and involves an ascent of the sub-peak, South Elbert, at 14,134 feet (4,308 m). This route is extremely steep, unstable, and rocky in places, with an elevation gain that isn’t evenly distributed.
There are also routes approaching from the western face (from South Halfmoon Creek Trailhead) and the southwestern ridge (from Echo Canyon Trailhead).