I started at 8:20, went on the half moom traile (NE ridge), and just kept on trucking to the summit (12:25). I was back at my car by 3:00. While easy is not a good description of this climb, I think 'simple' covers it pretty well. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I came prepared for pretty heavy winter weather. Turned out to be a beautiful day, with absolutely no wind until I was within 500 feet of the summit (seemed really weird for such a large mountain to have no wind at all?). Well, the reason was there was a huge storm cell building up directly out of my sight. I ended up using most of the winter gear that I brought for the trip down (except crampons). It was a great hike, and I think it is especially great for beginners like me.
A few things to keep in mind: Bring a friend... hiking alone sucks. Acquire some degree of physical ability. I do a lot of swimming and some running, but the altitude still messed with me. Don't be dissapointed if what you thought was the summit really isn't, you'll get there eventually. I got more familiar with my axe as I went up. It might be easier (safer) to get someone to show you how to use it, before hand. Mountain weather is weird, expect the worst, and be prepared. Finally, bring lots and lots of food. All I carried was water, and I bonked hard on the way down (also didn't get sleep the night before, and forgot about breakfast in my rush to the trail). I paced well enough on the way up, that I didn't have to rest until the top, but I had to stop every half-mile or so on the way down because of feeling weak and shakey. Also, read "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills." It's good stuff.
The 'Golden Burro' in Leadville served up some pretty good chow. Give it a shot.
See you on the trail, Aaron
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