Mount Elbert in July
|Elevation||14,440 ft (4,401 m) NAVD 88|
|Prominence||9,073 ft (2,765 m)|
U.S. state high point
|Location||Lake County, Colorado, U.S.|
|Topo map||USGS Mount Elbert|
|First ascent||1874 by H. W. Stuckle|
|Easiest route||Hike (class 2)|
Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains of North America, at 14,440 feet (4,401 m), the second-highest mountain in the contiguous United States (after Mount Whitney in California), the highest of the fourteeners in Colorado, the fourteenth-highest mountain in the United States, and the highest point of the Sawatch Range. It is located in Lake County, approximately 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Leadville. It lies within the San Isabel National Forest near Twin Lakes.
The mountain was named after Colorado statesman Samuel Hitt Elbert, who was active in the formative period of the State and was territorial governor of Colorado in 1873. H. W. Stuckle of the Hayden Survey was the first to record an ascent of the peak in 1874. The mountain terrain has a varying level of difficulties (Categorised as Class 2 Level or A+ under mountaineering parlance) and permits any enthusiast fit enough to attempt to reach the peak. Mount Elbert is fondly referred to as the “gentle giant” that tops all others in the Rocky Mountains. The northeast ridge is reported as the gentlest and the most classic.
Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, the highest of the fourteeners in Colorado, and the high point of the Sawatch Range. It is located in Lake County, approximately 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Leadville, visible as an often-snowcapped mountain to the south from the town. Twin Lakes is close by, Denver is about 130 miles away on its east, 50 miles south of Vail is 59 miles away, and Aspen is at 40 miles distance. Leadville, about 16 miles northeast, is the nearest large town. It lies within the San Isabel National Forest. Nearby fourteeners include Mount Massive to the north and La Plata Peak to the south. Its parent peak is Mount Whitney in California.
Originally measured as 14,433 feet (4,399 m) high, the height of Mount Elbert was altered to 14,440 feet (4,400 m), a decision that sparked protests. This revison resulted from a re-evaluation of mapped elevations, which necessitated revision in levels of all peaks in the world. Mount Elbert is the fourteenth-highest mountain in the United States.[a] There was an effort by a few local partisans to make adjacent Mount Massive the highest in Colorado by placing stone cairns at the top of the peak. However, the effort was unsuccessful and Mount Elbert has remained the highest peak in the state.
Climatic conditions are changeable, and afternoon thunderstorms are frequent; lightning, as well as hailstorms and snow, are possible even in the summer. An electrical storm on the mountain's summit was reported in the July 1894 issue of Science.
Geological evolution 
The geological formations of the Rocky Mountains, of which Mount Elbert is an integral part, are the creation of three primary forces: plate tectonics, volcanic eruptions, and glacial polishing. At the lowest stratum of the mountains are the Precambrian formations (600 million years old), which are of igneous and metamorphic rocks. The next phase of geological disturbance was about 300 million years ago when sandstones were formed from the collisions of continental plates, resulting in the rise of mountains. In the next stage, about 250 million years ago, erosion resulted in the formation of saline lakes and swamps. In the period between 250 to 100 million years ago, as a result of climatic changes, the forests were formed (probably when dinosaurs inhabited the area), but this period did not last long on account of rising temperatures. In the period between 100 to 65 million years ago, marshy lakes dominated the area and swamps almost disappeared, and Colorado was under water in an “inland salty sea”. The mountains reappeared between 60 to 38 million years ago. About 37 million years ago the geological plates moved, with volcanoes and peaks emerging. About one million years ago a cooling started, and the mountains and plateau of Colorado took shape, with their geological complexity of faults and rifts. When the most recent ice age arrived about 16,000 years ago, glacial rivers created deep valleys and gorges, and only cold-adapted mammals such as bison could survive; the hunting of mammals started in the 1800s with human habitation. Glaciers continue to exercise a dominant role to this day.
Grateful miners named Mount Elbert after Samuel Hitt Elbert, the governor of the then Territory of Colorado, because he brokered a treaty with the Ute tribe that opened up more than 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of Indian reservation to mining and railroad activity. The peak was first climbed in 1874, by H. W. Stuckle, who was surveying the mountain as part of the Hayden Survey.
A matter of some contention after the Great Depression arose over the heights of Elbert and its neighbor, Mount Massive, which have a height difference of only 12 feet (3.7 m). This led to an ongoing dispute that came to a head with the Mount Massive supporters building large piles of stones on the summit to boost its height, only to have the Mount Elbert proponents demolish them. The first motorized ascent of Elbert occurred in 1949, when a Jeep was driven to the summit, apparently to judge suitability for ski development.
Flora and fauna 
The summit of Mount Elbert is an alpine environment, with plants such as Phacelia sericea (sky-pilot), Hymenoxys grandiflora (Old-Man-of-the-Mountain), and Geum rossii (alpine avens). Also noted are var. pullata, Salix desertorum, Platanthera hyperborea, Thalictrum fendleri, Aquilegia canadensis, Chenopodium album, Gentiana detonsa, var. hallii, and Bigelovia parryi; Some of the fauna reported on the climb to the mountain peak are grizzly bears (brown bears), marmots, mule deer, pikas, pocket gophers; there are also many species of avifauna.
There are three main routes up the mountain, all of which gain over 4,100 feet (1,200 m) of elevation. The standard route ascends the peak from the east, starting from the Colorado Trail. The most popular route approaches from the north, the North (Main) Elbert Trail, which is 4.6 miles (7.4 km) long, and has a total ascent of around 4,500 feet (1,400 m), starting from close to the Elbert Creek Campground. An easier, but longer route, the South Elbert Trail, is 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long, climbing 4,600 feet (1,400 m) at a less punishing gradient than the North Elbert Trail, approaching from the south and then climbing the eastern ridge. The most difficult is the Black Cloud Trail, a Class 2 climb which takes ten to fourteen hours depending on the pace, gaining 5,300 feet (1,600 m) in elevation, and also involves an ascent of the sub-peak, South Elbert, at 14,134 feet (4,308 m). There are also routes approaching from the western face, and southwestern ridge, from South Halfmoon Creek Trailhead and Echo Canyon Trailhead respectively.
Although strenuous and requiring physical fitness, none of the conventional routes require specialist mountaineering skills or technical rock climbing. The main dangers of the mountain are those of conditions–altitude sickness can affect anyone, even those who are acclimatised, and in serious cases can lead to high altitude pulmonary edema and cerebral edema, which can lead to difficulties with breathing, paralysis, and death. Climbers are recommended to set off at or before 6 a.m. Although the most conventional form of ascent is by hiking, the orator Anna Elizabeth Dickinson ascended the mountain on a mule borrowed from the U.S. government.
In popular culture 
Spoof magazine Weekly World News used a geological survey at the bottom of Mount Elbert as the premise for a news story, reporting that wreckage of "teacup ships" with a weapon like a "butter knife" had been uncovered at the base of Mount Elbert.
See also 
- One source erroneously reports Mount Elbert as the third-highest in the United States.
- "Mount Elbert". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- "Mount Elbert, Colorado". Peakbagger.com. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- Dziezynski 2012, p. 151.
- Enright, Kelly (2009). America's Natural Places: Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. ABC-CLIO. p. 12. ISBN 9780313353154.
- Cate Starmer (ed.). Colorado (9 ed.). Fodor's. p. 132. ISBN 9781400004157.
- "Mount Elbert". Summitpost Organization. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
- Pettem, Sylvia (1991). Colorado Mountains & Passes: Day Trips in the Rockies (2 ed.). American Traveler Press. p. 46. ISBN 9781558381179.
- Vetter, Jeremy (2011). Knowing Global Environments: New Historical Perspectives on the Field Sciences. Rutgers University Press. pp. 111–. ISBN 978-0-8135-4875-3. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Dziezynski 2012, pp. 1-3.
- Dziezynski, James. Best Summit Hikes in Colorado. Wilderness Press. p. 157.
- Porter, Thomas Conrad; Coulter, John Merle (1874). Synopsis of the Flora of Colorado (Public domain ed.). U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 2, 4, 64, 83, 111, 116, 128, 132–. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Dziezynski 2012, p. 49.
- Holmes, Don W. (1990). Highpoints of the United States. Cordillera Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-917895-33-3. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Mount Elbert Trails (Fourteener)". US Dept. Agriculture. Retrieved 13/05/2013.
- Roach, Gerry. Colorado's Fourteeners (2 ed.). Fulcrum guides.
- Gallman, J. Matthew (15 March 2006). America's Joan of Arc : The Life of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson: The Life of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson. Oxford University Press. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-0-19-803654-8.
- Rovin, Michael. "Flying teacup". Weekly World News. p. 26.
- James Dziezynski (7 August 2012). Best Summit Hikes in Colorado: An Opinionated Guide to 50+ Ascents of Classic and Little-Known Peaks from 8,144 to 14,433 Feet. Wilderness Press. pp. 152–. ISBN 978-0-89997-713-3. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mount Elbert|
- "Mount Elbert". Bivouac.com. http://www.bivouac.com/MtnPg.asp?MtnId=9145. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- "Trip report from Mount Elbert". HikinginTheRockies.com. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- "Mount Elbert (Photo Essay)". hikingincolorado.org. Retrieved 2009-07-17.
- "Mount Elbert". Peakery.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01.