Wilderness Expeditions had the unique experience of taking twenty experienced climbers up Mt. Elbert. It was a day trip on the Black Cloud trail that won’t soon be forgotten. The day started early at 4:30a.m. at a hotel and a quick shuttle over to the trail head. For about an hour after that, the only thing piercing the darkness was a long trail of head lamps. It looked like a scene out of Lord of the Rings.
Only about 4 people in the group spoke good English and it was interesting to learn that their main purpose of coming to Colorado was to climb Mt. Elbert. The group was comprised of members of a Japanese Climbing Club similar to the Colorado Mountain Club. All had some level of experience. Several had climbed 10 or more 14ers and one was even a mountaineering guide in the Himalayas several years ago.
The Japanese climbing group was made of 40 + year olds who up set a perfect, unchanging pace. Their focus to make the summit was staggering. They seemed to go unfazed by 50 mph winds and gusts up to 60mph that tried to blow their small stature all over the mountain. Every hour on the hour the group stopped for a 3 minute break meant only to eat and hydrate in order to prevent altitude sickness. It provided little time to catch their breath, but did keep everyone in the group from getting altitude sickness.
With hard work and determination the group summited at 12:30p.m. On summit they celebrated only briefly before getting some well-earned rest. In the group were a 77, 73, and 71 year old who all seemed to have little trouble. After soaking in the view and taking a few pictures they were back to business and ready to go back down.
In the end, learning from the Japanese culture was an experience none of the guides will soon forget. They seem to be a group of intelligent, driven, and caring people. They almost seemed to enjoy getting to know us as much as we enjoyed getting to know them, yet they also had a work ethic that most Americans can only marvel at.