Several years ago, I read about the Highpointers Club, which specializes in only the recognized high points in the 50 states. Rationalizing that since I already had one (Boundary Peak in Nevada), why not climb some more as the opportunity arose? This year, while vacationing in the Rocky Mountains, I decided to attempt Mt Elbert again, having had to turn back due to bad weather in 1989.
In mid-August, my youngest brother (not a peakbagger) and I camped at Black Cloud trailhead to get an early start, which is critical due to the unpredictable late summer weather you find in the high mountains. We were on the trail shortly after 0600, starting at around 9,600'. The first two miles or so follow the Black Cloud creek and is a beautiful, pleasant climb. At about 11,800', there is an old abandoned miner's cabin and several mines. From there, it is a short steep climb up to a ridge at some 13,500'.
Once on the ridge, we followed it about 1.3 miles, going up and over a 14,124' "bump," then down to a saddle and back up a ridge to the summit. Not having done any high peaks for a while and having a cold made the last part tougher than expected. The summit was windy, cool, and crowded. During our stay of 45 minutes, there were another 16 people on top, with others still approaching.
As the late morning clouds began to form, it became clear that it was time to leave. We took a different way back, traversing towards a peak called Bull Hill (that's no bull) and than dropping down into the valley that leads back to the miner's cabin and the trail. There was some rain and hail as we descended but most of it missed us. We could see where it was coming down the heaviest on some of the surrounding peaks as we hiked out. It was an interesting and challenging trip and I was glad to make it this time as it is a long drive from Long Beach. It was also my brother's first 14'er. At 11 miles and 5,300', it was a worthy state high point, my 12th. Next step, Denali?