What is the Tallest Mountain in Colorado?
The tallest mountain in the State of Colorado in United States of America is Mount Elbert. It is the highest peak of the Rocky mountain range of North America and has an elevation of 4,401.2 meters which is approximately 14,440 foot above the sea level. Mount Elbert was named after Samuel Hitt Elbert, who was the Governor of the State of Colorado from the years 1873 – 1874.
The first ascent made on this peak was by Hayden Survey in 1874. There are several climbing routes that can be taken to climb atop this mountain and they are classified as Class 1-2 or A+ in mountaineering parlance.
Geography of Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert can be seen from the south western part of Leadville and is very often covered in snow even in the summers. Mount Elbert is surrounded by many other high peaks all around that have elevations over 14,000 feet. These mountains are also known as fourteeners. The Collegiate Peaks of Colorado are very near this mountain. Mount Massive, which is a neighboring mountain located to the north is the second highest mountain in the Rocky Mountain Ranges. There are many lakes surrounding this mountain, Lake Turquoise and Twin Lakes are to the north and south of the mountain respectively.
The city of Denver is located around 130 miles towards the east of the mountain. At the base of Mount Elbert lies the community of Twin Lakes. Leadville is the nearest major town and is located 16 miles northeast of the mountain. Mount Whitney in California is the parent peak of Mount Elbert. When the states of Alaska and Hawaii are included, Elbert is the 14th tallest peak in the US.
The weather conditions on this mountain can change very rapidly. Thunderstorms in the afternoon are a common occurrence in the summertime. Snow and hailstorms can occur at anytime throughout the year. In July of 1894 this mountain experienced an electrical storm.
Flora and Fauna on Mount Elbert
Mount Elbert’s summit is characterized by alpine environment and plants such as Alpine avens and Sky pilots are found on it. Below the treeline, Mount Elbert is heavily forested and plants like lodgepole pine, fir, spruce, aspen are the most commonly found trees.
Thanks to the densely forested lower slopes, wildlife thrives on this mountain. Some of the frequently spotted species of animals here are black bears, mule deer, pikas, marmots and pocket gophers. During the summertime, the lower slopes experience an influx of elk, grouse, bighorn sheep, and turkey. Definitely a wonderful place to visit during the summertime if you are a wildlife lover.
Climbing Mount Elbert
There are 3 primary routes which one to take to ascend up this mountain. The standard route is through the east and starts from the Colorado Trail which is to the north of Twin Lakes. The Main Trail (North Trail) of climbing the mountain is a 4.6 mile long trail which begins near Elbert Creek Campground and gains an altitude of around 4500 feet. This trail
can be used by hunters, mountain bikers and equestrians during the season. The
South Elbert trail is an easier trail to climb this mountain but is a longer one being 5.5 miles long. This route has a less punishing gradient that the main route and amateur climbers often prefer this one. This route approaches from the South and approaches the Eastern Ridge.
The most difficult route of all the standard routes is the Black Cloud Trail. It takes 10-14 hours to reach summit and is categorized as a Class 2 trail. This route also involves an ascent to a sub peak known as South Elbert which is 14,134 feet tall. Experienced and healthy climbers often face several difficulties on this route and there are several places which are dangerously steep and unstable despite the fact that it is an actual route. A few of these hikers bring trekking poles to help the climb. This route is 5.5 miles long.
Despite the routes being quite difficult and requiring a decent level of physical fitness, none of the routes require special mountaineering skills or rock climbing skills. The main danger to watch out for while on these trails is altitude sickness and can affect any person despite being acclimatized. Other dangers include exposure to harmful UV rays and Thunder storms that may strike any time. So, hikers are advised to start their journey early and finish early.