| Happy New Year...What a way to start!!!
Hiking Partners – Mindy (msc118 ), Steve, Daniel, Becky, Emily, and Kelly
Distance – ~ 12 miles
Trailhead – Crags Campground
Class – 2
Why not start the year with a 14er summit? After we were done, we were able to say we had summitted every day this year!!!
Mindy and I planned to do this on December 26th, but 85MPH winds and -35 wind chill did not sound fun. In fact, I sat in my house on the 26th watching waves of snow blowing off Pikes Peak's summit. Very happy we did not go. December 30th, Mindy asked again after inviting some of her friends, plans fell into place for a New Year's day adventure.
We met at the normal Colorado Springs gathering site to carpool up to the TH. All went well and after gearing up we stopped to take a couple action shots. The most rested person had about 3.5 hours of sleep. We were pretty goofy at the start.
L – R: Steve, Me, Emily, Mindy, Kelly, Daniel, and Becky
We used snowshoes for the first 2.25 miles, although the path was pretty packed down. The snow wasn't too deep but the shoes gave us good traction. As we climbed, the Sangre de Cristo, Sawatch, Mosquito, and other Front Range 14ers began to appear.
Taking a little Break
We need to go up there
When we got to treeline, we found a good spot to stow our snowshoes and continued up to Devil's Playground. At this stage, the trail disappeared leaving us to guess the proper route. Unfortunately, we went a little too far to the north popping up looking down at Glenn Cove. Oops!!! Also, this is where the wind began beating us up. The first measurements I took showed sustained winds around 23MPH, highest gust 30MPH with a wind chill of 0F (-17.7C).
Looking down on Glenn Cove
Emily, Mindy, and Becky fighting the "lighter" winds
We made our way towards the road or Pikes Peak Highway (PPH), stopping at different rock formations for a brief wind reprieve. This is where we first saw the summit.
Mindy taking a wind break
As we climbed, the wind intensified. At one point, I watched Mindy and Kelly get blown down from a sudden gust. We walked along as much of the marked trail as we could find.
Pikes Peak's North Slope
We were proceeding slower than planned so at 12:00pm we had a quick talk about our status and what we were going to do. The summit was still roughly an hour away. Should we continue? Were we too cold? Were we comfortable walking out in the dark? Under normal circumstances we probably would have turned around, but there were quite a few cars on the Pikes Peak Highway and we discovered the Summit House was open. Shelter was in reach.
On this route, you are normally supposed to stay off the road and Cog tracks (please no scolding here). However, we felt the safer option was to stay on the road and when we reached a point where the road met the tracks, we took the more direct approach by following the tracks. While on the road, we were passed by a PPH ranger three times and never confronted. The first of our group reached the summit at 1:20pm. Once in the Summit House we relaxed, warmed up and ate some food. Everyone congratulated each other with warm smiles while the "other" visitors thought we were nuts.
Kelly, Becky, Mindy and Emily
Daniel and Steve
After about 45 minutes, we left heading back down the Cog tracks. At this point, I took another weather reading and we were getting hit with 45MPH sustained winds (gust to 50MPH) and a wind chill of -17.6F (-27.6C).
Our group on the tracks
Photo by Mindy
Now, I debated adding this, but since it was part of the trip and for integrity sake, I must. We cheated a little. With the coming darkness, brutal wind, and cold, Steve flagged down a passing truck that took us down the road about 1.5 miles to Devil's Playground. It was nice to have this ride to avoid so much of the weather exposure.
Steve filming the ride
Mindy (or the bug ) enjoying the view
After dropping off the ridge and back towards the trees, our mood became a little more jovial. Becky even stopped to play in the snow.
Making a snow Angel
Image by Mindy
Thanks to the ride, we made it down as it was getting pretty dark. We talked for a little then decided it was time to replenish some calories. All of us met up at a pizza place in Woodland Park where we devoured two 18 inch pizzas.
We started off the year right. A successful climb shared with a good group. Thanks Mindy for setting this one up.