We climbed the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains of North America — Mount Elbert, Colorado — at 14,440 ft (4,401 m) it was a challenge.
What was meant to be a day to acclimatise to the altitude turned into a full hike to the top!
Arriving from Eastern Canada, we knew that our bodies would need to adjust to the higher altitude where the air is thinner, and there’s less oxygen. The evening before we stayed in Leadville where the town’s elevation is 10,152 ft (3,094). In the night, we both woke up with a headache but felt fine by morning.
At breakfast, we happened to chat with a military doctor whose specialty was working with soldiers adapting to altitude sickness. He suggested we take it easy, hike and see how our bodies acclimatised, drink lots of water and then drink more water.
We elected to go for a walk taking the South Elbert Trail which starts at approximately 10,000 ft. Soaking in the views as we walked up the easy trail, slowly we gained elevation.
Through aspen groves and forest we hiked.
Coming out above the tree line and seeing the Elbert summit and still not feeling troubled by the altitude we decided to carry on. Following the ridge, along the trail we passed a few hikers and others would whiz past us, Olympians no doubt!
By the time, we reached 13,000 ft we had to admit the altitude was slowing us down. Focusing on one step at a time, sipping water we dragged on.
So close yet so far away, the last 500 ft to the summit was like walking up with cement boots, stopping to catch our breath every 20 ft. The last 100 ft was the most difficult, our little inner voice called out “I can’t move anymore…get to the top…you’re almost there, you won’t be here again soon, you can do it!”
With determination we reached the summit and our first Fourteener (mountain peak that exceeds 14,000 ft (4,267m) elevation), there are 53 of them in Colorado.
The immensity of the mountains — “Rocky Mountain High” — we now understand the expression.
As we descended through the golden meadow, the warm afternoon sun invited to stretch out and enjoy the tranquillity.
What a spectacular day!!