“Should I stay or should I go?” The Clash was running through my head non-stop the night before I left to climb Pikes Peak. I had made plans to climb it with a friend, but something had come up Friday evening and she was unable to go with me. I wanted to climb a 14er in 2012, but for one reason or another, was not able to do so. I had attempted to climb Castle Peak back in July, but I lost my footing in the snowfield, and strained a muscle in my right leg. I decided to go back down, rather than make a push for the summit. I figured health should take dominance over a summit attempt. Ever since then, I hadn’t had the opportunity to climb another 14er—until this past weekend.
Friday night, after thinking it over, I decided to go for it. I had done my homework – I had studied the route, the latest peak conditions reports had said that the trail was dry, and the weather forecast had said that there was a 0% chance of precipitation. The one thing that had changed from the beginning of the week to the end was that the winds were forecasted to be stronger—15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 in the morning. Aside from that, I felt that the conditions seemed overall really good—especially considering that it was December!
I left the Roaring Fork area at 2:30 and arrived at the Crags Trailhead around 6:30 in the morning on Saturday. A group of guys showed up right behind me and hit the trail running. I made sure I had all of my gear and started at 6:50. It was a cold, clear morning. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions.
A Colorado morning
I didn’t take too many pictures on the way up, because I cooled off quick when I stopped moving. I caught up to the group in front of me right around the tree line. They were hiking with a dog; I didn’t see them on my descent, so I assume they turned around at some point.
For whatever reason, the first couple of miles on the trail were probably the hardest for me, particularly going up that slope right after walking out of the forest. I definitely noticed the wind pick up as I went higher up the slope, but once the trail leveled out, it warmed up pretty quick. This was the point where I saw the sun for the first time that morning.
I walked northeast towards the Pikes Peak road. As I crossed the road, I saw a patrol car going coming down the mountain—looking at my watch, I saw it was right around 9 a.m. I figured that, because it was a beautiful day, people would be driving up to the summit. Sure enough, a little while later, cars started to creep up the mountain.
Walking around Devil's Playground
The wind was probably at its worst for the day for the 20 minutes after I went by Devil’s Playground. It was definitely not much fun walking through it, but after a while it calmed down again. After that point, it wasn’t so much constantly windy so much as it was a bit gusty.
Starting to get windy!
Another guy & his dog caught up to me & passed me – it looked like they were half-hiking half-running the trail. I was fine sticking with the hiking. The only part of the day that I felt a bit nervous was when I was walking past Point 13,363. This part of the trail had a stretch of packed snow/ice – I took my time and made it across, but this was definitely the sketchiest part of the route for me.
As I got closer to the summit, I had a song stuck in my head. My little brother’s elementary school class had to do a musical performance on Colorado History a couple of years ago. So for the remainder of the climb, I was thinking of "The Pikes Peak Song"—here’s a clip if you haven’t heard it before. It’s a winner.
The final pitch was well marked with cairns. Sometimes I had to stop & look around to see where the next one was, but they typically were not that hard to find. The guy with his dog tried to find an alternate route up; I didn’t see them on the summit, so I’m not sure if they made it or turned back. There were small patches of snow & ice here and there, but they were easy to navigate around. After a bit of work, I summited at 10:50—exactly 4 hours after starting.
Obligatory summit shot
I took my time on the summit, and warmed up a bit in the summit house. Of course I had to grab some ‘world famous’ Pikes Peak donuts. I met some very nice people up at the top—one couple told me how they had each climbed 27 & 28 14ers (which to me seems a long way off, but hopefully someday I’ll get there!) Walking around the summit, I felt awesome being on top of America’s Mountain. I had been to the top once before as an 8-year-old after taking the Cog Railway up… this time around felt much more satisfying.
View from the summit
I started back down the mountain around 11:40. I passed by one person who was working his way up the final pitch—I’m assuming he’s the only other person who summited from the Crags that day.
Headed back down the mountain
Looking east during the descent
The descent was very easy going. I went fairly slow—it started to warm up considerably once I got back to the tree line. The wind had definitely died down in comparison to what it
was like in the morning.
A beautiful day in the mountains
A look back at the trail-- so dry! Can't believe it's December!
I got back to the trailhead at 3 p.m. – The final times were 4 hours for the ascent, a 50 minute summit stay, and 3 hours 20 minutes for the descent. It definitely was a great day in the mountains (and certainly didn’t feel like December!) Purple mountain majesties indeed!
One last look before hitting tree line
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