A Long day, A Long Climb, And Worth Every Step - It's a great feeling to get to the top of Pikes Peak
We hit the trail at 6:35 am and hit the top at 1:35 pm. Seven hours flat was an ok time, we all know we can do better next time.
The first few miles of this hike are a real eye opener. The switchbacks are steep, and you can tell you're climbing fast as you see the parking lot down below, then way down below, then way, way down below. You break a pretty good sweat almost right away, and you know this won't be easy. It's important in the early stage to rest once in a while and drink water twice in a while.
After the switchbacks it does level out a little and you feel a little more confident that you can handle the hike. That doesn't last too long. The trail gets steep again at about the 6 mile mark, all the way to Barr Camp at 7 miles. We stopped a little too long here..the line for the bathroom took a while, still not sure why.
Getting started again is tough and the trail is steep right after Barr. Three more miles of that and you're at tree line. This is where it really gets hard. One of the guys wasn't feeling too well here, so we took it slow, at his pace, for the final three miles. We were doing this as a group so there was no leaving anyone behind.
The final couple of miles feel like they'll never end! It's a battle between lungs and legs for which is holding you back the most. Our slow and steady pace worked, we did rest, but not too often. The air is thin and breathing can be a little difficult. The frustrating part is that you keep thinking,"we're almost there", then you see the sign for one more mile! The sight of the summit teases you into thinking you're closer than you are. The guy who wasn't feeling well gutted it out and made it, and the rest of us were proud of him for finishing and staying upright! One other guy didn't feel well once we stopped at the top, but he recovered after a few minutes of rest.
The best part of this was spending several hours with some good friends doing something challenging and rewarding. It's a great feeling to start, and an even better feeling to finish. It's just those seven hours in between that aren't always so pleasant! Two years ago I thoght it was the hardest thing I'd ever done physically. This time I just tought it was hard. The mountain must be eroding away and getting easier to climb. ( just kidding, maybe that'll be the case in about a million years.)
There are some pictures of the hike below, you can also see a few more at our facebook page on kktv.com.
Here's some info on the pictures.
1) The first one is the whole group before we started. The parking lot at the trail head is small, and it's always full. The operators of Iron Springs Chateau now charge 5 dollars to park in the area near their business, just down the road from the cog railway depot. It's worth it just to be in a spot and on the move. You still have to walk about a quarter of a mile up a pretty steep hill just to get to the trail head. You're a little tired before you even start! That's me in the center, and Brian on the far right. The others from left to right are Joe, James and Jeff.
2) This is my good friend James at the 2-miles-to-go spot. He lives in Texas, and came to Colorado a few days early to get used to the altitude. I've known James since about 1980. We met at Doherty High School in the Springs. We were fraternity brothers at CU in Boulder. James is a Desert Storm Vet (Air Force), then he got out and went to law school at DU. He practices law and lives in a small town in the Texas panhandle with his wife and three kids. He's part of the annual hike tradition ( three years in a row now). We don't often get see much of each other so it's great to have him here. The views from this spot are amazing, and you're generally tired enough to want to stop and take them in for a minute or two!
3) This is my buddy Joe at a spot called the cirque. It's about a mile from the summit, and it's another place with spectacular views. I've known Joe since about 1979 in our time at Sabin Middle School (it was Jr. High back then). Joe is another CU Buff. His oldest son went with us last year and finished so easily that he didn't want to bother to do it again. Joe lives in Erie and works in marketing. He's the other one with whom I started the yearly trek. The guy taking Joe's picture is Jeff. He and I worked together at krdo TV in the Springs in the early to mid-90's. Jeff was a news photographer when I was a reporter/anchor. We did a lot of great work together back then, including a documentary on the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Jeff got out of the TV business to spend more time with his family. He lives in Niwot and works as an accountant, and gets off work at the same time every day..something that never happens in TV! It's always good to get a chance to spend time with Jeff.
4) This is Brian posing at about tree-line. This is three miles from the top, as I mentioned, about the time it really gets to be tough going. Brian made it look (sort of) easy. You know how I know Brian!
5) Me and Joe resting on a rock. This is also about 2 miles from the top and we certainly needed the rest.
6) James and Brian on the trail somewhere about mid-hike. They both look a little tired here, we all were. One of the hard parts about this is that you really have to start early to beat any possible severe storms in the afternoon. The mountainside is a very dangerous place to be in a thunderstorm, even if you have a meteorologist with you! Ideally you want to finish before two in the afternoon. That means getting up far earlier than I'm used to! We all left my house at about 5:50 am.
7) The whole group at tree-line. This is about three miles from the summit. We ran accross a lone hiker who wanted someone to take his picture with his camera, so we got him to get one of all of us. Everyone on the trail is generally pretty friendly and helpful. We're all on the same mission and suffering the same problems! Just about anyone will snap a photo if you ask. I remember a couple of people near the summit who were on the way down. They said things like,"You're almost there guys" and "Congratulations". It seems simple but it actually helps.
8) Brian and me at the summit. It's funny how you hike all that way, to the top of a 14,110 foot mountain and everyone (including the hundreds from the train)clamors to get pictures in front of a sign! Turn around 180 degrees and the views are breathtaking, but we all want the "summit sign shot". We did take some with better views too.
9) The whole group at the sign. I really like this picture. Everyone is actually smiling. Usually in a group of 5, at least one person will look goofy. (for some of us, this is as un-goofy as it gets) We are all pretty tired though.
We all had a great time, even when it was difficult. I recommend this as a great experience/accomplishment. Do some training first, and do it with some good friends. As I mentioned in the previous blog (Pikes Peak Hike Speak) you look at that mountain a little differently after you hike to the top. Give it a try!
We'll talk again soon.
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