Mt. Elbert

About two years ago, someone thought we should sign up for Leadville Heavy Half.

I want to say that someone was Rogue. It’s the kind of dumbass idea she would come up with.

I just know it wasn’t me.

I also know that I had no idea what the Leadville Heavy Half was. When I said, sure. I’m in.

So, two years and an entire pandemic later. We finally made our way out to Leadville, CO.

If you’re not aware. 10,152 feet above sea level. Coming from a city that is, at most, 1,700 feet above sea level. You can’t breath.

You can’t get actual oxygen into your actual lungs.

And you need oxygen to live.

I wish I’d known…

Our initial plan was to do a 14er. The highest 14er. The highest peak in Colorado. And maybe the Rockies. Or some shit. I don’t really know. Because, again, this was not my idea. I was just along for the fun. But our initial plan was to do Mt. Elbert on Thursday. Giving us all of Friday to recover. Before our Leadville Heavy Half on Saturday.

But things happened. I’ll refer you back to my Airport Adventures for a gimped. So, we moved our Mt. Elbert climb to Friday. Giving us all of one night’s sleep to recover. Before our Leadville Heavy Half. On Saturday.

We spent Thursday instead exploring a nice, easy trail. And consulting with locals. About our best options for climbing Elbert.

And…I mean, I don’t want to stereotype. And suggest that everyone in Colorado is high. Just all of the time.

But dammit, y’all. The conflicting information we got. From every single source we asked. And googled. Including the Leadville resident that didn’t even realize the Leadville Race Series was even a thing. That happens. Every fucking year. Two blocks down. From where he works.

Dude. How high are you?

We did finally find what seemed to be a relatively lucid, reliable man that gave us some solid tips.

The problem was. We already had several different sets of directions in our oxygen-deprived brains.

And we’d read through people’s reviews. And how long it took them to do the mountain.

Eight hours?? To climb 4.5 miles??? They probably had poles, too. Pansies.

But also, who are the dumbasses naming these trails? North. Northeast. East. South. Except East is the same as Northeast. But North is not.

So, that’s why we thought what we were doing was a 9 mile hike. Eleven with the extra mile we’d have to walk from the parking lot and back again because the road was closed.

Just 5.5 miles to the summit.


Which is how it started off.

Climbing up through the trees. As the sun was coming up. Giving us all the reasons to stop every few feet. To take pictures.

And try to breath.

It was beautiful. And deceptive.

We got through the first two miles in an hour.

The fuck was wrong with those eight hour people? We’re gonna knock this climb out in under three.

We’re gonna set a course record on this bitch.

FKT, baby.

The rest of the world just some pussies.

And then…we emerged from the treeline…

And slowed to an hour and half per mile pace.

And we were already five miles in.

And nowhere near what looked like the summit.

Shit. This bitch is 6 1/2 miles up, isn’t it.

I maybe owe eight hour people an apology…

But the rocks. And the sun. We were definitely way too close to the sun up there. Sunscreen is powerless at that height. And the fucking lack of oxygen. How do you people live like this? How have your lungs. And brains. Adapted to it??

And also. Someone told us to limit our caffeine intake. To help avoid altitude sickness.

But you know what’s worse than altitude sickness?

Caffeine deprivation.

So, the headaches started setting in well before the summit.

And let’s talk about the summit. About the false summits.

That we knew about. And should have been prepared for. We knew that there were three. Or four. False summits. But even so…

The heartbreak.

Because that should be it, right? That should be the peak.

It’s not.

You’ve still got more loose rock and unidentifiable trail to climb.

But also. You’re surrounded by this.

So there are a lot of conflicting emotions. That you might be feeling. If you had the oxygen in your brain to process them.

And maybe one. Or a few of us. Were preparing to say fuck it. And call the next false summit our summit. And turn our asses right on around.

But then Travel Goddess said, “No. We are going to the top of this dumbass mountain. We’ve come too far.”

And finally. Four and a half oxygen-deprived hours later. We made it.

Dear sweet mother.

Just take all the pictures. Because I don’t ever want to do this shit again.

And ok. So, the hard part should be done. Right?

It’s all downhill from here.

And there might even be some oxygen at the bottom.

Except those rocks. Those dumbass slippery ass steep ass rocks.

We had to maneuver back down those. Without poles. Or oxygen. And ideally without sliding right on off the side of the highest peak in Colorado.

And as we’re slowly. So slowly. Bitchily. Picking our way back down. Here comes an entire family. Of six and seven year olds. Led by a five year old girl. Happily eating her snack. As she’s blithely skipping her way up Colorado’s highest mountain…

I would like to be her when I grow up, please…

Meanwhile, our old asses had all turned on each other hours ago. And every step down was rattling our caffeine. And oxygen. Deprived brains. Around in our heads.

But I just kept thinking. If we can just get back down to the treeline. Safely. It will feel so much better. Because at least we’ll have some shade from the sun.

That was incoorect.

There was no shade from the sun.

There was only more sun.

And more dry ass air. With zero oxygen.

It should have been so pretty. The trails really are beautiful.

But beauty is hard to appreciate when you’re just trying to get one fucking lung full of oxygen in. Just once. Please.

But we did it.

We climbed dumbass Mt. Elbert.

13 miles.

14,400 feet of elevation.

4,700 feet of elevation gain.

Although, apparently the elevation can vary. Day to day. Because…

These fucking mountains move.

They just sink. And shift.

I just.

How are we all just ok with that? With just hanging out on sinking mountains?

The earth below us is sinking further down into the earth. And we’re just acting like that shit’s ok.

But I got my 14er shirt. And magnet. And sticker.

So I don’t ever have to do that bullshit again.

At one point during the climb, a dude commented on my Mountain Junkies “Run Mountains” tank top.

Nah, bruh. I’m editing this shit as soon as I get home.

It’s gonna say “Run EAST COAST Mountains.”

I really just want my oxygen back now, please.

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