Mount Elbert was not the first choice. Originally we were going to film Wheeler Peak in New Mexico, but in the weeks prior to our departure for that highpoint, Carson National Forest was closed due to fire. Ten days before flying out I made the decision to change venues and go for Mt. Elbert instead.
Despite this change it was not very difficult to pull together a script for this mountain. This part of Colorado was home to several mining rushes and it has the scars to prove it. It also has a rugged, Wild West vibe that we managed to capture on film. It is a beautiful area with Mount Elbert and its fellow peaks dominating the skyline; I could have easily spent a few more days there just filming b-roll.
I planned to hike up the south trail, overall it seemed like it would be the way to maximize our chances for a successful summit, provided and provided good scenic views. To gain these benefits we would need to get up a rugged forest service road to the upper south trailhead. Fortunately Jess had her Jeep. We all piled in like sardines and endured a dark, bumpy ride to the trailhead. Elbert did have a surprise for us though, the old trail was closed and we had to take the new improved trail. The good news was the trail was in excellent condition, the bad news was it added another couple of miles to our hike. The other advantage of the south trail was it was less trafficked making filming a lot easier.
We stepped off at 3:45 AM and trudged upwards. The group for this was a few veterans of previous Rooftops episodes, Brett, Eric, and Jess, and a newcomer, my cousin Susan. One of the big physical challenges for me was trying to do this with little acclimatization. I had only arrived in Colorado the day before. Jess paced me and required regular stops to monitor heart rate and breathing. It took a bit longer but the entire party had reached the top around 10:00 AM in good cheer with no effects of altitude sickness.
It was a party at the summit. You can see a bit of this in some of the sections on the final part of the ascent and hear it in the background with the closing summit shot. There had to be close to over a hundred people up there when we arrived with more arriving all the time.When you looked over at the north trail from the south it looked like a line of ants marching to the top.
In production for this episode the filming duties for this were twofold. Jess brought her photographer’s eye and filmed the scenes at Mt. Massive and Turquoise Lake. Brett Evenstad filmed the remaining parts. (Jess also was the “stunt driver” with the driving section on the forest road.) The weather cooperated with us pretty much the whole time with just a few drops of rain on the third day.
Music for this episode came from several sources with each chosen to give that western feel. Kevin MacLeod, (incompetech.com), Nat Keefe & The Bow Ties, and Brian Boyko all created tracks that support the various scenes.
I will confess that when editing this episode I padded a bit of footage on the climb itself. If it seems like it drags on a bit during that section keep in mind that was intentional. The climb itself is a grind that feels like it just keeps going on and on. Surprisingly this feeling is even worse on the North Trail with its many false summits.
Mount Elbert was a big boost of confidence both in producing Rooftops of America and getting in the mindset to start tackling bigger peaks. I was able to apply the lessons learned from Humphreys Peak and Guadalupe Peak and turn out a better and bigger episode that manages to capture a bit of the grandeur and history of a cool part of Colorado.
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