23 August 2016

Stardate 2016.644

Colorado's highest, Mount Elbert, is the rounded summit in the upper right.
It's magical elevation is 14,433 feet – Snowcatcher Photo.

Reconnoitering Eastern Ramparts of
Colorado's Highest Peak

Hair on fire; and taking advantage of a lull in the summer mountain monsoon season, Snowcatcher and I headed for the highest of the high – the Sawatch Range. This range runs north and south and makes up the state's central mountains. There are 15 peaks in this range that rise above fourteen thousand feet. Moreover, 4 of the 5 highest peaks in Colorado reach for the clouds here.

Colorado's highest, Mount Elbert, rises 14,433 feet in elevation. The huge second-highest is Mount Massive, the aptly named weathered massif of massive massiveness at 14,421 feet. Ivy League Mount Harvard comes in third at 14,420 feet. Lastly, La Plata Peak rises to lung-searing 14,336 feet. From a climbing standpoint, these high peaks are mellow climbs by their easiest route. However, they're big mountains with low elevation (by Colorado standards) trailheads. Spend a day hiking or biking one and you'll know you've earned a large Oreo Blizzard from DQ.

Mount Elbert from the east, Snowcatcher photo

Our goal for the day was mountain biking segment 11 of the Colorado Trail (CT). The last time I spent any time on the flanks of Mount Elbert was in 1993 when I summited the mountain via the northeast ridge route. It would be fun to revisit. Lazy and nondescript, Mount Elbert's oxygen-deprived summit can be deceiving.

For the first part of ride the CT traverses the ridgeline of a lateral moraine from the ice ages. A moraine is simply the leftover debris from a receded glacier. A perk of this area, in my opinion, is the sagebrush. When sage gets wet, you can't help but just close your eyes and breath in deep for a spectacular arousal of the senses.

The trail penetrates intermittent stands of aspen. These higher elevation aspen leaves could begin to change color in a couple of weeks. Fall is right around the corner in this literal neck of the woods.

My favorite deciduous tree is the aspen, Populus tremuloides.

The CT turned steep again. The scattered rocks are the unsorted glacial till making up the moraine.

Once on top, it was time to meadow hop over undulating terrain.

A large portion of the trail was delightful singletrack to enjoy.

Like the mountains, everything is big here, even a beaver lodge and its moat.

The leaves are hinting at change. In the center background rises Twin Peaks' summits of 13,333-foot (right) and 13,270-feet. On Twin Peaks' left is 13,933-foot Mount Hope, and on the right is 14,336-foot La Plata Peak

Back down onto the lateral moraine and associated glacial till.

I love small towns and their improvisation! Snowcatcher photo

Thanks for reading, see ya soon...


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