Conquering the highest peak in the Rockies on Mountain Bikes | Mt. Elbert, CO

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Mt. Elbert is the 2nd highest and the 4th most prominent mountain in the lower 48. I had this ride in my bucket list for a few years and the opportunity to go for it finally appear when Ricardo and Angel agreed to take on the ride.

A relatively short drive from Breckenridge, through the town of Leadville, home to the world famous Race series of the same name, and we would make it to the South Elbert Trailhead. The ride itself would take us through fire roads, lush singletrack in Colorado's aspen forest and make its way above the treeline to the rocky terrain that gives this mountain range its name to top out at 14,439' feet after dealing with hike-a-bike, snow and signficant fitness challenge from the elevation. This is one of those very rare ocassions where summiting the peak had me more excited than the actual ride down.

Starting from the South Elbert Trailhead the start of the ride isn't particularly technically challenging, it is however quite steep of a fire road, the first mile has about 500 ft of climbing. It didn't take long to get to enjoy the beauty of the aspens in fall with their yellow folliage that tints everything in your vision, covering the trees and ground with this very unique yellow that is so hard to catch at its peak. Where the singletrack remains visibile not by the path on the ground but space between the trees.

As we gained elevation we continued to alternate between pushing the bike and pedaling. While its permitted to ride this trail, this is still focused primarly on hiking, so on the way up there's quite a few steps that are near impossible to ride and if they are doable its just worth conserving the energy.

Everyone is different, but I really start to struggle after 13k. It really does feel like breathing through a straw, as much as you gasp the air just doesnt seem to carry enough oxygen. Between the nature of the trail and the elevation, the time spent pedaling was almost none vs pushing and carrying.

After 6 hours and 27 minutes we had summited Mt Elbert at 14,439' ft. For a brief moment there was no one in the contigious 48 on solid ground standing at higher elevation than us, well, except if there happened to be someone summiting Mt. Whitney at the same time, but we'll just go for us having bikes to make it unique. Even with this video, its hard to put into words how hard this was for me, so it was enormously rewarding to make it up there with the crew and conquer this moutanin that had been in the bucket list for so long.

And so we set out to reap our second reward of the day with over 5000 ft of descending ahead of us. The top of the mountain is extremely loose with pebbles that roll instantly with any braking applied.

One thing I haven't mentioned about elevation is that your head isn't all there, with the lower oxygen, even if you feel fine, decision making and reaction times are impaired. This is something I'm quite cautios about so things that I would have ridden elsewhere without consideration here made me pause, my fear of misjudging was quite high and with the remote nature of the area risk taking had to be less. The top section is a technical riders dream playground, being completely natural with no human grooming or features, it seemed as if somehow this was mountain biking in its purest form. Looking around to see an infinite field of unridable rocks made the experience just that much more awesome, and the infinite views of the wide valley floor so far below tied everything together.

Approaching the treeline was a reminder of the variety of this trail, in one day having covered terrain with thick aspen forest, breaching the treeline into plains with small grass and flowers, and continuing above to the tundra where its only rock and moss. Having seen running streams, dry and moist dirt, all the way up to the snowy peak. This is truly a special one! And yes, it may be a hiking trail primarily, but this is one of those ocasions where I'd wager it makes it even more special, obviously as long as you're seeking this experience.

This was without a doubt one of the hardest rides of my life, but one I'd do again anytime!

Mt. Elbert on Trailforks:
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