SNOWCLINE: What it’s like climbing the Manitou Incline in the snow and freezing weather from the people who do it!
MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Ever wonder what it takes to climb the Manitou Incline in snow and ice?
11 News talked to three men who regularly make the mile journey -- in rain, sleet, snow, sun, or sub-zero temps!
Starts in Manitou Springs at about 6,500 feet
Ends at 8,550 feet
Gains more than 2,000 feet of elevation in just under a mile
Average grade: 41 percent
Steepest grade: 68 percent
Was a tourist railway in the 20th century before closing in 1990. The steps are the remnants of those rail ties, though refurbished in 2017 to be made safer.
Approximately 2,768 steps
RODOLFO BURGOS’ STORY
“I moved to Colorado about five years ago and I immediately started doing the Incline right away. I’d visited the state a couple of times, and every time I came, I did the Incline. I had some friends who posted selfies on it and I just wanted to do it, and every time I come I did the Incline.”
How often do you do it now?
“Right now, I’m doing it about three to four times a week.”
In any condition?
“All kinds of weather. I like being in the moment and I like seeing the weather changes everywhere you go, and I like it when it’s sunny, I like it when it’s foggy, I love it -- if there’s any weather change, it just makes for a different place, it makes it beautiful, and when it’s snowing it makes it best.”
What’s the coldest climb you’ve ever done?
“A few weeks ago, we had a feels-like minus 33, and I was here. It was pretty frigid. Your eyelids, your eyebrows freeze, my beard was completely frozen, it’s a little difficult to breathe, but I’ve kind of adapted to it. ... It had snowed before, but when I came it had already stopped, but it was pretty frigid. Everything was frozen.”
Why would you do it in such cold weather?
“Like I said, live in the moment, it’s just beautiful on those days.”
What’s the deepest snow you’ve climbed through on the Incline?
“I did one time I had a little bit over 14 inches. That’s pretty deep. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work, that’s for sure. I was the second person or third I believe, so somebody had already made a trench for me, but I kind of chose my own path just to see what it felt like a few times, and it’s a lot of work.
“That’s why I come here, because I know there’s usually at least another crazy person.”
What do you think is good about doing the Incline in those kind of conditions?
“There’s probably nothing good about it [laughs] but it’s just pretty, beautiful, I need to get my workout.”
So what drives you?
“Last year I made a commitment to workout every single day, and that was just part of my commitment, to do something, and I knew this was going to be just more motivating than anywhere else.”
How do you prepare for a climb in that weather?
“I do it all the time. I know what it’s going to be every step of the way. ... One of the ways I condition and prep is some days depending on the weather, I jump into the creek on the side. The water is merely 32 degrees and I try to do cold therapy conditioning for being ready for harsh conditions.”
Advice for anyone wanting to attempt a “snowcline”?
“My body is prepped for this. I wouldn’t recommend this to somebody that doesn’t know what they’re doing, that’s for sure. If it’s your first or second Incline, do not do that. I had already done it 100 times [before starting the snowclines] and I was prepared for it.”
ANDREW TIMM’S STORY
“I’ve lived here since 2009. I was in the Army -- I think we had deployed almost immediately -- and I’d been hearing people talking about the Incline, so pretty much I think when we got back from deployment, so 2011 [he started doing the Incline].”
Why do you like the Incline?
“To me, I’m not a fan of doing exercise. I see people running around the park, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with these people, it makes no sense.’ But when I come to the Incline, I feel like I’m adventuring rather than exercising. It doesn’t register to me as working out.”
How often do you do it a week?
“I commit to a minimum of once a week but typically average two to three times a week.”
And you’ll do it in any condition?
“I commit to a minimum of once a week, and if that once a week is -7 or 97, I will be here.”
What’s it like doing a “snowcline”?
“It’s an entirely different experience, especially ... at night, because in having to commit to a schedule of doing it that frequently, when you have the city lights and the snow and you get a picture of that, that to me in itself is a drive to do it, just the view of the city while it’s snowing.”
What’s the coldest you’ve ever climbed the Incline?
“The worst one I’ve ever done, it was like -8 or -10 was not even a year after I started doing it, and I then I didn’t do it again for five or six years. [Laughs] So that was enough!”
What drove you to even try it that cold?
“There were just some of the regulars I was kind of running into, and I’m like, ‘You know, at least let me try that once.’ And then also, when I was active duty, I had a platoon sergeant who was kind of hardcore crazy like that, and he was making us do PT in 6 degrees, the whole battalion had been authorized to do PT inside, and he’s like, ‘No, no, we’re going to run 5 miles in the snow!’ And so I kind of took that a little bit to the Incline.
“It was a little different because running 5 miles in the snow is really different than doing this in the snow. I was warm at least, I was pretty layered up in my waffles and long johns and warmers [in his shoes and gloves].”
You do it in harsh conditions regularly now ... what prompted the change of heart?
“Then I started trying to get into a routine of doing it regularly, because one of my key drives to doing it -- because this whole once a week, two to three times a week routine I’m on right now, I’ve been doing it since 2018, 2017 -- my reasoning for it is I thought I was getting altitude sickness a lot on the 14ers ... I used to do Pikes Peak all the time, and I was not getting altitude sickness when I was doing it regularly, but then I got away from doing Pikes Peak regularly, and then I transitioned to doing a 14er sporadically once every three months or something like that, and I was running into altitude sickness. And then when I kind of correlated the two, I realized that regular cardio, intensive cardio activity helps significantly with altitude sickness, so that’s what kind of drove me to doing the Incline on a regular basis.
“... To me, my absolute best view is the Incline at night after it’s snowed. That to me is my driving factor.”
So now once a week or more, no matter the weather?
What are some of the worst conditions you’ve done the Incline in?
“Outside of that -10 in 2011, 2012, I have done it in active snow, it has rained on me, it’s been super hot, like I said, 97 degrees, but like I said, if I know I have to do it once a week and I know it’s raining, I’ll bring out my umbrella and be out here in the rain.”
Any advice for newbies?
“I’ve done it enough times that I’m conditioned to be able to do it, adjust my stride in a way to compensate for the slick conditions. Going into that, that takes time, that takes experience in knowing how to ascend the Incline. I would say when it’s harsh conditions, that’s something you need to expect, and I wouldn’t recommend a newbie doing that. ... Kind of ease yourself into the harsher conditions. Maybe do it in the cold and rain before you decide to do it in snow and ice.
”To me, it’s just a great exercise, great community, highly supportive. Never be discouraged because however good you think you’re doing or bad you’re doing, there’s always someone better and there’s always someone worse. The key is to always try to be better than your previous self.”
“CRAZY BOB” STUKA’S STORY
“Someone told me, ‘Oh, you’ve not done the Incline?’ I said, ‘What is it?’ ‘I will show you.’ After that, I really started the Incline. My first one of course, and after that, I said, ‘Man, that’s really something!’ Another week, I was back going again. And later, you know, I started my practice like most people here. So it’s not just me, we have of course the group of people who run it every morning.”
(Bob has lived in Colorado nine years and typically does the Incline every morning. In October as part of the national Max Vert Challenge, he was doing it seven to eight times a day. Bob is also a multi-time member of the “500 Club,” or those of have completed the Incline 500 times in one year. He tells me 500 “is not that much!”)
You’re known to the entire Incline community as “Crazy Bob”! How did you get that name?
“Because I do lots of crazy stuff. Many years ago, I remember the one guy with me, it was snowing and I jumped in the creek, break the ice, just swimming, going back on the Incline, and he said, ‘You must be crazy!’ And later on, he said, ‘You know what, I will call you Crazy Bob.’ So that’s the story.”
What’s it like doing the Incline in harsh weather?
“My best time is actually raining and snowy conditions and super cold conditions. That’s my best time here because I relax with those kinds of conditions. I like it. It’s not just the Incline, I like running and many stuff like that [in the cold].”
What’s the worst weather you’ve done the Incline in?
“Not here on the Incline, but I was running in January on Pikes Peak, I think two to three years ago, and it was 27 degrees below zero on the summit.”
And what drives a person to do something like that?
“It’s good for your body, of course, because you have a better immunity system, and it’s my personality.”
(I talked to Bob on a 25-degree morning. His body is so acclimated to the cold, he told me it “felt like summer!” As seen in the video above, he was dressed in shorts and a tank top.)
Tell me what it’s like doing the Incline in the snow?
“Snow is actually my very favorite time. But of course, you must be prepared. I have on the right shoes with screws to make sure I don’t slip. Snow is fun.
“Incline is definitely what made me super strong. Before I trained the Incline, I was strong but not like extremely like now. Incline, it’s good training for anything, not just for running.”
Any advice for newbies?
“You need to be prepared. It’s not just, ‘let’s try.’ It’s people who train, it’s every day.”
(He recommends doing the Incline at least two or three months before tackling a snowcline.)
What would you say to anyone unsure if they EVER want to try the Incline at all?
“Every one can do it. It’s a couple of stairs. ... If it’s not feeling right, that person can decide to do it or go back, nothing’s wrong with not finishing the first time. There’s a lot of exit points [bailout trails].
“Incline is definitely what made me super strong. Before I trained the Incline, I was strong but not like extremely like now. Incline, it’s good training for anything, not just for running.
“I like everyone who does the Incline, whether it’s their first time or many times ... I love every people on the Incline. So many good people here.”
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