The Best Part is the Alpine Start

Blog post by Stephen Schreader - follow Stephen on Instgram @stephenschreader

August 19, 2017 1:30 am
Lakeside Campground at Base of Mt. Elbert

“Dude, Kevin, wake up, did you hear that?”
“Yeah, what do you think it was?”
“I dunno. Maybe it’s a bear, should we check it out?”
“Yeah. I’ll shine my light and take a look.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me, Jon’s giant shelter just collapsed due to the cold. It’s not a bear, what time is it?”
“About 1:45 am. We should probably just get up, we’ve only got a little bit of time before we head out”

Summitting Mt. ElbertAnd so began our trip up to the top of Mt. Elbert. Awakened by the sound of a fake bear, which turned out to be the collapsing of our giant inflatable shelter provided by Mile High Mountaineering. In August of 2017, 7 staff from Midwest Mountaineering set out to climb the tallest peak in Colorado. Malaz, Lee, Dan, Garrett, Kelcey, and Steve, were being joined by a number of others who were already in Colorado; Kevin from Midwest Mountaineering, and Jon, Deidre, and Chelsea from Mile High Mountaineering. The goal of the climb was to raise funds for the very popular urban youth outdoor group, Big City Mountaineers. Jon had called this event the ‘Top-O-Rado Rager’, and since we are going to have a party at the top of Colorado, its sounded like a pretty good name to go with.

Ill-fated inflatable tentAt 1:30 am Kevin and I were awoken by the sound of the shelter crashing, and when Jon got up due the crash as well, we figured we may as well start the day by getting our breakfast prepped and head out. We wanted to be at the trailhead and begin the trek by 4 am. We figured that would be enough time for us to summit the peak and be back down below tree-line before the storms came in. Jon joked that the only worse than getting woken up by a real bear, is being at 13,000 ft when storms start rolling in.

Early start on Mt. EbertAfter breakfast, we all gathered in the vehicles, and drove a hour north to the northern trailhead to begin our trip. Other groups had the same idea as we did. We could already see headlamps halfway up the peak – we were amazed because we thought we might be the earliest group on the trail. The sky was gorgeous, you could see what seemed to be every star in the sky, and if you looked straight up and cupped your hands around your face, it almost felt like you were swimming in space.

sunriseThe temperature when we started was about 25 deg. F, but by the time we began moving, I realized I’d need to drop some layers due to over heating. By about 6 am we had hit the treeline and could see the sun peeking over the horizon. Every time we would stop, Dan, Kevin and I would look at each other and say the same thing, “Nothing like an Alpine Start”.

Returning to tree lineOne foot in front of the other, step by step, finally by 9 am and after 3 false summits, we all made it to the top of Mt. Elbert, 14, 439 ft.  We took a group photo with the Midwest banner, and a few more photos before making our way back down and arriving into camp around noon. Sure enough when we hit the tree line at around 11 am, the clouds began to roll in and we could see storms developing off to the west.

Once back down in camp, we kicked up our feet, cracked open a few beverages, lit a campfire and relaxed for the rest of the day. Knowing that we had all accomplished our first 14,000 ft peak, one of many to follow, because the mountains are always calling, and we must go! Questions about climbing Mt. Elbert? Stop by the store. Ask us. We’ve been there.

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