Driving through the small, backcountry town of Twin Lakes I pitched my tent in a deserted campsite on the windswept shore of a small lake ensconced in the snow-bound foothills of the mighty Sawatch Range of the Colorado Rockies.
Dawn broke with clear blue skies and the dark waters of the now quiescent lake reflecting perfectly the shining masses of the enclosing peaks.
A short drive up the scenic road winding through dense pine forests gained the unsignposted trailhead for Mount Elbert at a cluster of cabins at the mouth of Echo Canyon. From the top of an old tramway the banks of a partially frozen stream led onwards to snow-drifted pathways zig-zagging up the steep, forested hillside. The firm snow enabled easy progress while its pure white contrasted picturesquely with the dark, bottle-green of the conifers and the azure blue of the sky.
the ascent of
Above the tree-line open, stony slopes were littered with abandoned pieces of machinery from the derelict Last Chance and Champion gold mines. Higher it was arduous going in deep soft snow before reaching the top of Bull Hill for a splendid view to the South of the rugged ridges of the nearby La Plata - another of Colorado's "fourteeners".
on ascent of
Skirting round the rim of a huge snow bowl I diverted out to claim the subsidiary summit of South Elbert ( 14,134ft ) and command a fine outlook over the forested foothills to the distant Arkansas River Valley.
Back-tracking to the main ridge I continued along to the principal summit - at 14,433ft the second highest in the contiguous states of the USA after California's 14,495ft Mount Whitney. From the top unfolded a vast panoply of ice-bound peaks - the Continental Divide - akin to the spines on the backbone of some gigantic dinosaur.
Surprisingly, on this fine spring day, I had had the mountain all to myself.
Location Map for Mount Elbert
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