After taking it easy for a few days in Aspen and Leadville (Part III of our trip), Chester and Gretel had adjusted the altitude. However, I was still feeling a bit ill.
I was doing all of the right things – resting and drinking water like a fish – and even tried getting some oxygen in a can like a friend suggested. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to attempt hiking Mt. Elbert with the way I was feeling. I really, really wanted to though so, as one last-ditch efforts, I took to Google to see if I could find a remedy that hadn’t been suggested to me yet. It turns out that regular ol’ ibuprofen can sometimes help altitude sickness so I tried that.
I woke up on our last day in Leadville and actually felt pretty good. We decided that we would give Mt. Elbert a try. The worst case was that we were going to have to turn back like we did on Mt. Sherman.
We decided on the Northeast Ridge trail (there are at least two trails that lead to the summit) which was 4.5 miles one way with an elevation gain of 4,700 feet.
The first part of the trail was through forest and it wasn’t that steep. That was a pleasant surprise. BUT that meant that most of the 4,700 feet of climbing would be left for the highest elevations. I think I was in denial about what that meant as we wandered through the trees and came out above tree line.
The trail started to climb more steeply but the trail surface was still pretty smooth. Then it got really rocky. And then it got really, really steep!
At this point, we decided to put Chester in the backpack again. I am pretty sure he could have made it on his own but his old bones would have been super sore for the next couple of days and we didn’t want to do that to him (or rather, let him do that to himself).
So up we went. And then up some more.
We had gotten a little later start than we hoped, and the trail took a bit longer than we thought, so we were in danger of encountering an afternoon thunder storm. We kept a really keen eye on the weather but the clouds were moving in and looking more ominous than we would have liked. Many people were still heading to the top but one group that had been hiking behind us decided to turn back. A pair of seasoned hikers passed us on the way down and warned that we might want to reconsider pushing for the top. The weather wasn’t at a point that I felt uncomfortable with so we kept a vigilant eye on the sky and pushed on. It started to get darker and windier though.
Then I started feeling exhausted, a bit delirious, and started to get a headache again. Hubby and Gretel were feeling ok but I definitely wasn’t. I literally stopped, took a couple of deep breaths, and swore I couldn’t go on. I did this every two or three steps. And the steps I did take were SLOW.
About a 1/2 mile from the top, I finally convinced Hubby to take Gretel and go to the top without me. He didn’t want to but I kept insisting because I wanted him to check this high point off of his list and I wanted Gretel to make it to the top.
The feeling of accomplishment, and the view, was amazing. Hubby was so proud that I didn’t quit. I was super proud of me too because, with my back issues, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to do something this steep and hard again.
I was a beyond proud dog Ma too. OMG, Gretel, at 10 lbs, made it to the top of the highest 14er in Colorado all by herself! And even though we had to carry him for the steepest part. Chester hiked about 4 miles (8 by the time we were done) at 13 years old and at an elevation of over 11,000 feet! I swear these two are amazing.
We still paused here and there to smell the flowers but our goal was to make it back below tree line before the weather got too much worse. It did start to sprinkle on us before we ducked into the trees but the clouds and wind were calmer at the lower elevation.
I would like to hike another 14er or two. We also might like to go back to Leadville during the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Hubby is dreaming of completing the Colorado Trail Mountain Bike Race from Durango to Denver. I would love to go back and spend time in Glenwood Springs because the Glenwood Canyon is Ah-mazing and I would love to visit the steam caves again.
Until next time Colorado….