| Great day for a finisher
I think in a sea of great memories and an incredible journey that is the Colorado 14ers, there two realizations that every finisher should be able to recall:
1. The realization that finishing is possible; for me it was after completing North Maroon in September of 2009, my 35th 14er, and
2. The finisher peak. For some it may simply be the last one on the list, but I had avoided Pikes for no reason the first few years, then held it out as my finisher with the thought that others could drive/ride up to the summit if they wished. Although nobody drove or rode up to the summit, I was fortunate to have seven of my closest hiking friends join me for the trip.
Back in July, I was hiking the Crestones with Doggler and he mentioned that Pikes would be my finisher. He suggested (maybe demanded) that the only way to finish on Pikes was the Barr Trail with an overnight at Barr Camp. His reasoning was the one way length and elevation would offset the "easiness" of Pikes. Also, staying at the camp would make for better memories. He could not have been more correct.
After finishing up Capitol and Pyramid in early September, and coordinating schedules with my friends, we set up October 15th and 16th as our attempt on Pikes; hiking into camp on Friday and attempting the summit on Saturday. It is a little unsettling making plane, hotel, car, camp, and train reservations a month out for an October hike. I figured I would be attempting rain, snow or shine, but was not sure how my friends would react to the rain or snow part. Luckily, we had great weather.
Six of us agreed to meet at the trailhead Friday afternoon. After sharking a bit in the parking lot, we all found places and were ready to walk by about 1:40pm
Wow, the bottom part of the trail was hot, steep, and sunny, even after 2pm in October. We were all sweating, drinking water like crazy, and looking forward to getting under tree cover.
We took opportunities to rest whenever we had shade; everybody seemed to be in good spirits.
After the approximately 2.5 mile mark, we reached the rock arch, and again enjoyed the shadiness. Shortly after, I spotted the man of the mountain. It is a bit above the rock arch, and pretty easy to spot if you are looking down and left after each right hand switchback.
Once we got above the steep area, we picked up the pace, reaching camp just before 4:30pm. It did seem that after spotting the first sign, it was a few hundred yards up the trail for the true entrance.
Once at the camp, we settled into the upper cabin, our home for the night. Don is flashing 14er gang signs; instead of guns and a 40oz, it is a filter and 100 oz.
Like Pavlov's dogs, we began to migrate down to the main cabin shortly before six, and the spaghetti wasn't on the counter 10 seconds before I realized I was last in line. Good thing there was plenty to go around. Neal and Theresa do an incredible job at camp.
We sat around the main cabin for a while, Dave entertained us with the guitar; but we found ourselves at our cabin by about 7pm; as the thought was we may as well be warming our sleeping cabin with our body heat. After a few intense rounds of Trivial Pursuit, distribution of ear plugs, we all settled in by about 7:30 – 8:00 pm. It is amazing how much there isn't to do once the sun goes down.
However, at about 9:00pm, the other two in our group showed up. Deborah and Lou Ann hiked up mostly in the dark to join us. As they got settled into the cabin, Lou Ann recounted the hundreds of mountain lions she saw on the way up; the only thing keeping them away were her two lamps, one on the head and one taken from her bike and strapped to her shoulder.
The next morning, we woke up and gathered for breakfast at 7am. We all agreed it was an unusual start to a summit bid. Since our train reservations were for a 3:00 pm departure from the summit, we knew we neither needed to walk fast or leave early. So by about 8am, we packed up our stuff, took the standard souvenir photo, and were on our way around 9am.
From left to right, top to bottom: CarpeDM (Dave), Roo (Andrew), Bruce, Don Eberl (Don), Deborah, emcee smith (me), Ryan, and Southern Appalachian (Lou Ann)
Our two fearless night hikers
It seemed to take a while to get to the A-frame at tree line, although I guess that I could have read it was two miles. I had to take this photo, as it was unusual to find a switchback on the Barr Trail. If you look close, you can see the spotlight on Lou Ann's shoulder, reportedly very beneficial the night before.
At the A-frame; a good mid-morning break for food, necessary medical treatment, and lounging.
We took somewhat a long break here, maybe about 20 minutes and then were off for the upper hike. We took the correct right turn after the 3-mile sign. Once above tree line, the views got good, the trail got no harder, and the group spread out a bit. The summit is still a ways above us though.
I count six people above me, how many do you see?
At the two mile sign, and just above a cool crown shaped rock formation, we took another break.
The crown shaped rock formation
Pretty cool views looking out over this neat rock and seeing the plains to the east. Somebody should write a song about it.
The looooonnnnnggg switchback across the face, taking us from the north edge to the south edge. We started to see some downhill hikers at this point.
We have come a long ways, but none of us could spot or agree on where the Barr Camp is. Any help?
Good or bad things about the switchbacks, a hiker could be 20 – 30 feet above/below you, but a few hundred yards away by the trail. Here is Andrew, Bruce, and Ryan working up the trail.
Just above the 1 mile sign, we started to get into a bit of snow. Nothing serious and easily avoidable.
The summit house is coming back into view, but still a mile away.
In the sun, the snow is gone
Does anyone keep a good count on the 16 Golden Stairs? I thought I was about at 8 when the trail went quite a ways back to the north, and I couldn't tell the difference between a jog or a switchback. I think it is just a distraction for the last bit. I had to check my watch to make sure this wasn't our train. It wasn't; we made it to the summit in about 4 hours.
We waited at the top of the trail for the group, then we headed over to the pile of rocks that we claimed as the summit.
Then it was into the restaurant, with a spot to ourselves. Easy when the train is gone, impossible when it is there, and cracked the champagne. One bottle of bubbly doesn't go far when split up eight ways, but the few ounces we had seemed to hit a few of us pretty fast.
I could find "I drove to the top!" stuff but no "I walked to the top!", so I had to leave the gift shop empty handed. Our train arrived, we boarded, and began the ride down. Most of us had the trundle seats which had more legroom and offered places to stand. Everybody seems happy.
An hour plus later we were back at the bottom, and enjoyed the last uphill back to the car. We had a few choice words with the Garmin trying to find the back way to 24, met up at Chili's for burgers and beers, then went our separate ways.
The next morning, I was on a plane back to Texas. All summer long I had looked out the window of planes, trying to spot the Sangres before we drifted too far east. This trip I spent my time reliving a great way to finish up the first lap around the 14ers.
Heartfelt thanks to those on the trip with me; we missed those who couldn't make it. It was a great two days with a great group of hikers. I don't care what the plan is next year, count me in!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):