Colorado Trail Segment 11A + Mt. Elbert: The Water

Section hiking the Colorado Trail while working full-time requires some creativity. It isn’t always possible to hike an entire segment in a weekend, so I broke Segment 11 into two portions by splitting it at the Interlaken Trailhead. Alex and I added Mt. Elbert to what we called “Part A” as well, since Elbert’s trail directly intersects the CT. 

So far, I’d hiked all the segments SOBO, but with all-day rain and possible storms on Saturday, we decided to go NOBO to attempt Elbert on Sunday. I’ve been thinking lately about how section hikes “add up” to a thru-hike. Originally, I wanted to hike each segment in SOBO-numerical order. That goal quickly dissolved into hiking all segments SOBO, but not in numerical order. I realized that I would need to fit varying hiking and driving distances into varying amounts of free time. And now, that further dissolved into just hiking all the segments. In whatever order and direction makes the most sense. At the end of the day, walking the trail is the goal. Enhancing my own flexibility and problem-solving to achieve that goal will be a positive side effect.

The Stats

Segment: 11 Part A
Endpoints: Interlaken Trailhead to Mt. Massive Trailhead
Miles: 12.2 + 7.9 for Mt. Elbert
Type: overnight trip

The Journey

On a Friday night, my trusty car-shuttling-compatriot Alex and I dropped one car at the Mt. Elbert Trailhead on Halfmoon Road and took the other back to the Interlaken Trailhead. Car shuttling is always a pain, but this time, my windshield wiper snapped off a few minutes into the drive. Finding and getting a replacement did not speed up our exit from Denver on a summer Friday evening, as I’m sure all Denverites can relate. We slept in the car after finishing the Last Dance documentary, which is as good as Zach says.

Twin Lakes

 

 

 

Saturday morning, we packed up and set off. The trail NOBO from Interlaken begins by crossing the dam and smoothly following the lakeshore for a few miles. After crossing the highway and starting the uphill, it started raining and didn’t stop until we made camp that afternoon. I’d (stupidly) worn a cotton shirt and had not ever re-waterproofed my rain jacket, so my sleeves soaked through instantly. I was damp and freezing until we made camp that afternoon. 

Campsite

 

We decided to reduce the next day’s miles by dry camping at the Elbert trail intersection, where the sun thankfully came out to dry our gear and clothes. That is, the sun came out for a couple hours before bedtime when it rained yet again. All-day rain (or even many-hours-straight-rain) isn’t really typical for Colorado, but it was definitely better to hike the CT miles in the rain so we could hike the 14er in the sun.

Mt. Elbert

After a brief 3am disturbance from 14er hikers blasting loud music (rude!), we started our Elbert attempt around 5am. Dang, 14ers are always harder than I remember or expect them to be. It was so steep. We took a long breakfast break at treeline and from then on walked like snails to the top. Elbert had multiple rather discouraging false summits and some areas with intense freezing winds. I kept hearing the trail description in my head as I wheezed for breath: “One of Colorado’s easiest 14ers.” But, we made it!

Mt. Elbert summit

Do we look cold? We’re cold!

We didn’t linger at the top, anxious to kill our knees on the descent back to camp. Despite the joint pain, I still prefer the downhill to the uphill. After packing up camp, we finished the last mile or so down to the trailhead. We then spent the rest of the afternoon shuttling cars yet again for my next trail section, which you can read about here. Having attempted and failed to summit Elbert a few years earlier, I was excited to check it off in combination with part of a CT segment!

The Gear

Sleep System

Marmot Tungsten 2p: The not lightweight backpacking tent that Alex and I usually split when we backpack together. It’s on the heavy side for sure, but it has plenty of room for two people. 

Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL: Slips and slides all around the tent if it’s not flat, which I’m sure most pads do.

Klymit KSB 20 Down Sleeping Bag: Been thinking lately about how nice it would be to have arm sleeves on a sleeping bag. Stomach-sleepers of the world, let us unite.

Packs & Poles

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L: This feels especially light on trips when I can share gear-carrying duties with others. I covered it with a giant Osprey Duck’s Back cover during the downpour on Saturday. The Duck’s Back fits around both me and Alex’s packs, which was reassuring during overnight rain when our packs were sitting in the tent vestibule.

Hiking Poles: For the first time ever, the rubber handles of the poles seemed to rough up the skin on my fingers. I’m pretty sure this was only because it was downpouring rain and I didn’t have gloves though.

Clothes

Marmot PreCip: This jacket soaked through pretty disappointingly fast during this trip. Turns out, I should be regularly re-coating it with waterproofing spray. Don’t make my mistake.

Cotton T-Shirt: As I’m sure you knew, this was a bad choice.

REI Sahara Roll-Up Pants: Awesomely quick-drying, unlike my shirt.

La Sportiva Ultra-Raptor Trail Runners: These did not get soaked through like I thought they might in the rain, it was great!

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