| Pikes Peak - Crags TH
Date: Friday, October 13, 2006 (we're not superstitious)
Team: USAKeller and TalusMonkey
Route: Crags Campground TH
We had attempted Pikes Peak last weekend with two other party members. However, the wind was brutal that day and we turned back just past the Devil's Playground for the sake of party members for whom the wind was more than that for which they had bargained. (never end a sentence with a preposition)
Our failure to summit last week only served to double USAKeller's determination to knock off this 14er right away. She patiently waited during the week and then picked me up in Lakewood on Thursday afternoon at 1830. We arrived at the Crags Campground TH shortly after 2100. We quickly converted the back of the Durango into an RV and crashed for the night. The overnight low was only mid-20s.
Although we wanted to start early, we decided to sleep in a little since we were both tired. We woke at 0515 and got on trail about 0600. The trail to Pikes is fairly easy to follow using directions from this site or Dawson's book. For first time Crags TH users, just make sure to take the trail junction to the right at the three pipes coming out of the ground not far from the parking area. The coordinates of the TH are: N38deg 52m16.8s, W105deg 07m12.0s.
Although there were only traces of snow at the TH, snow on the forest floor increased after gaining the first 500 feet of elevation. Snow increased as we approached timberline, but there was still no need for boots or gaitors.
Photo of the full moon during LAST WEEK'S attempt:
Here is a photo of USAKeller climbing just above timberline with a good view of snow conditions as of Oct 13:
The trail became more difficult to follow in the shallow snow above timberline, so we deviated in a few places.
A look back down from near the ridge, with USAKeller ascending in the snow:
Once you make the ridge near 12,700, the terrain levels off and its an easy stroll for the next mile or so to the Devil's Playground area where you rejoin the Pikes Peak Highway. We did run into a few areas along here where it would have been helpful to have gaitors.
USAKeller and TalusMonkey in a notch through which the trial passes between the ridge and the Devil's Playground:
Once on the other side of the Pikes Peak Highway we followed the trail parallelling the road until we had to leave the road to traverse north of Pt. 13,363. The snow was a little deeper in places here. Traversing Pt. 13363 was easy in snow soft enough in which to edge and make steps. But this traverse is steep if you stay low and an ice axe would be a good safety precaution during the winter when the snow hardens...
USAKeller on the traverse around Pt. 13,363:
As we made the final push to the summit we enjoyed boulder and talus hopping with deep snow between the rocks. I remember this area well from my ascent last January. At the bottom of this area I installed my gaitors. USAKeller had chosen to leave her gaitors in the truck, so she ascended in low hikers - and got some snow in her shoes. We found many areas knee deep and even crotch deep with snow. But we slogged to the top to summit in 4.5 hours.
As we expected, the summit was crowded. Not only quite a few drive up vehicles, but the train had not been there long. The gift shop was packed. It was fun to walk around the gift shop and notice the stares of tourists wondering what the packs, gaitors and snow covered boots were all about! We took some summit photos and headed back down.
USAKeller and TalusMonkey on the summit:
Although the wind was only a mild breeze, once we got below timberline it was a very pleasant hike back to the TH. Walking through the forest with sunlight filtering down to the patches of snow was beautiful. We returned to the parking area and TH at 1400.
USAKeller and TalusMonkey on the trail approximately 1 mile from the TH:
It was a great fall weather day in the mountains and our ascent of Pikes served as a good ‘pre-season‘ warm up for winter climbing!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):