| A Whole Night on Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak (14,115)
A Whole Night on Pikes Peak
Crew: globreal-solo (sort of)
Climb date: April 16-17, 2011
Start Time: 12:15pm (Saturday)
End Time: 7:00am (Sunday)
Total Time: 19 hours (total hiking/non-hiking time)
Trip Length: 26 miles
Total Elevation: 7,500 feet (from 14ers.com)
I woke up Saturday morning with the day free. I had offered to help some friends move, but they never got back with me. So, now I knew what I wanted to do.
First, I went to the 9 Health Fair since I haven’t had a physical in probably 10 years, and I’m now over 50…better take advantage of these low cost medical screenings for the sake of my family. I was done with that by 11:30am. I then called my family to tell them where I was going next…to climb Pikes Peak…solo, which I rarely do on the big peaks. When I went to bed Friday night, I wasn’t actually sure I’d go through with this idea. But by 11:30 I had decided, “I’m going for it.”
I was at the Barr Trail trailhead at noon. Of course, no parking spots. Argh! It took 15 minutes to finally find a free parking space on Ruxton Ave. And when I say “free” that not only means an “open” parking space but also a “no-cost” parking space. However, it looks like it won’t be long until the city of Manitou Springs will be charging.
By 12:30pm I was hiking up the Manitou Incline (the bottom is at 6,500 feet) with my winter pack. This drew several comments from lighter and faster climbers.
For those that aren’t familiar with, “the incline,” as we locals call it, it’s a highly popular exercise spot for Colorado Springs hiking enthusiasts who want a strenuous workout, as it covers 2,000 vertical feet in less than a mile. From www.manitouincline.net: “Completed in 1907 the Manitou Incline was a 1 mile cable tram built to support the construction of a hydroelectric plant and it’s waterline.”
"Quote and photo courtesy of www.manitouincline.net"
It was later purchased and turned into a tourist attraction. “In 1990 the Manitou Incline closed after a rockslide damaged the tracks again and the Cog Railway decided to cease the failing operation and focus on the profitable Cog Railway.”
Quote and photo courtesy of www.manitouincline.net
I made it to the top of the incline in less than an hour and then followed an old trail to the west which took me to a dead end. There’s a water pipe with walking planks on top, crossing a ravine. However, it’s now fenced up so you can’t cross the “bridge.” I have to apologize now, as I wasn’t thinking to much about doing a trip report on this climb. So, I was quite lax in taking photos. I think there is another trail which is more to the north which by-passes this fenced obstruction. Today, I just dropped down in the steep gulley and up the other side. It requires a little scrambling and some bush whacking, but it was easily doable. Back on the trail on the west side of the water pipe detour, and it was just a short couple of minutes and I got my first view of my goal. So close…but oh so far!
Two hours later at 3:30pm I was at Barr Camp. I love Barr Camp….what a great place. They’ve got running water year round (not treated,) a real bathroom, snacks for purchase, even a bed if you want it. I got some hot water from Neil (the caretaker) for my Top Ramen, and had a nice 45 minute break there. (Sorry, no photos but they have their own website: http://www.barrcamp.com)
Halfway on up to the A-Frame (11,800) I ran into two guys coming down who are training for Denali. That’s how I got this picture. Thanks guys. And good luck next month!
As you can see in the background, there is still snow/ice on the trail. Microspikes were a definite blessing coming back down later.
And there are numerous spots between Barr Camp and the A-Frame where it looks like this on the trail. The good news it there is a packed trail all the way to the A-Frame and so there’s no post-holing!
Starting to near treeline, I got a view out east and an appreciation for the elevation already gained…approximately 5,000 feet.
Looking south-west there was a military helicopter hovering over by Almagre Mountain for several hours. Don’t know what they were up to.
Now, I get an opening in the trees and get a view of the summit. Still 2,600 verts to go. The trail takes you to the far left around all that cliffy rock.
Here is a trail sign just shy of the A-Frame and showing 3 miles…that is if you stick to the trail that switch backs all across the east face there.
I didn’t think to take a picture but here is the A-Frame (11,800) for those of you that haven’t been there or seen it. It’s surprisingly large inside and has two mattresses to lay on that are really comfortable! Inside it has some “L” shaped sheet metal up against the left wall to cook on. This shelter can be (and has been) a real life saver to get out of the wind and weather.
Photo courtesy of Josh Handrich
It’s now 6:15pm and I’m back on the trail for the summit. After a short while I’m above treeline and the views open up. The sun is getting lower and casting long shadows across the Rampart Range in this view to the north.
At one point, if you are hiking the actual trail, it takes you way left (south) to what is called “The Cirque” which is just about 13,000. Here, there is a serious cliff that descends into a deep bowl. There is a sign here stating it’s 1,500 feet deep!
Looking south over “The Cirque” I caught the last remaining rays of sunlight at about 7:20 or so.
In talking with the two guys I ran into on the trail earlier, they mentioned that two more guys would be coming off of the summit heading for the A-Frame. Sure enough, around 7:30pm I met up with them around 13,300 feet. Lo and behold, (or should I say, “High and behold”?) it was someone I knew…Doug Hatfield. He was with his hiking buddy Uwe Sartori. Uwe is a well respected CMC leader whom I’ve heard of numerous times around this climbing community. It was great to finally meet him in person. They were heading down to rest in the A-Frame for a few hours. I told them I would check in with them once I get back down there. Hiking solo, it was nice to know someone else knew of my where-abouts…or I guess, last known where-abouts.
Now, I’ve got so say….this last 1,500 feet was tough in spots. Yes, there is snow up there!
Dang! Why didn’t I think to bring my pack mule to haul my heavy pack? This could bring a whole new meaning to the GO LITE brand!
An 1890 winter climb (near Windy Point) up Pikes Peak. Yes, it’s an actual archive photo on Pikes.
I didn’t realize we were going to have a full moon tonight. Wow…what a blessing. It was really nice…I could see across the whole east face and hardly used my headlamp going up or coming down. Nice!
At 8:58pm, I’m on the summit. Made it!
Just before reaching the top, I heard voices. But I thought I was just hearing things. It turned out, there were two other guys who climbed up from the west side via the Crags route. I would have never thought I would actually run in to other climbers at 9 o’clock at night! But I did….David and John. That’s how I got the summit photo.
Now, I feel it’s time to regress a bit here and explain why I chose to do this climb in the first place, and to do it solo. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling the recession. I am self-employed and don’t get a paycheck every two weeks. In a few days I’ll be finishing up my last contract and don’t have any work on the horizon. About a week and a half ago I found out from my CPA what my tax bill was going to be. This magnified the fear. When I heard the bad news I literally had butterflies in my stomach like I felt prior to climbing Little Bear or Capitol Peak. So, the thought of not being able to support my family has been tough at times, equal to the pre-climb fear of climbing some of the harder 14ers.
For those of you who know me, you know I have a faith-component to my life. I recently came across this scripture verse in the Bible and it jumped out at me….
And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
Wow…that’s an interesting idea…I need to do just that! I need to go away, pray through the night for my family and for new work and income. When I first read that verse, the thought intrigued me….and it wouldn’t leave my mind. But I thought, there’s no way I could do that. Pulling all-nighters at my age isn’t easy anymore. Add to it the difficulty of praying through the night. Not possible! Plus, I thought about the story in Matthew 26 where Jesus asked some of his disciples to stay awake with him through the night and they fell asleep…three times! I figured that would be me.
Well, here I am, on the mountain to pray through the whole night.
Back to the trip report…
Instead of taking the risk of down climbing alone, I chose to join David and John. It was pretty windy on the summit so we didn’t stay long. Somewhere between 9:20 and 9:30pm we are heading down. BTW, this was their first 14er. Congrats guys!
We pretty much took a straight line down the center of the east face, heel-kicking steps into the snow instead of following the switchbacks. This made the descent pretty quick even though we stopped to sit and rest periodically. We were all feeling the effects of altitude sickness…something I’ve not had in a really long time.
David, John and I get down to the A-Frame at 11:15pm. I go over to check in with Doug & Uwe. Sure enough they are there tucked away in their sleeping bags. They offered for us to join them in the shelter, but also part of this trip for me was to practice a night out with what I would normally carry in my standard winter pack. David and John had sleeping bags and ground pads, I on the other hand just typically carry a bivy sack and a very small ground pad.
We had very high Chinook winds kick up that night however,the Gore-tex bivy blocked them sufficiently. And with my down jacket on I stayed warm enough. Just my feet got a bit cold. So, test successful…if only for a couple hours. And a side note…with the high winds…I didn’t even feel sleepy and was able to stay awake, pray and read scripture that whole time in the bivy.
Doug and Uwe had to meet up with some other people back at the trailhead to lead a CMC hike at 7:30. So, their plan was to get up at 2am to head down. I decided to hike with them since my plan was to stay up the whole night anyway. Might as well, right? I did think to get a photo of my two, "hike through-the-night" hiking buddies.
They took one of me…
Getting back to a place where we could see the city lights of Colorado Springs was pretty nice. The picture is shaky since I am hand bracing a time-exposure on a tree stump. A tripod would have worked better.
Seeing the sunrise was really one of the best parts of the trip for me as it signified that I pretty much did what I set out to do. And that was to pray “through the whole night” as stated in Luke 6:12.
Of course I didn’t pray continuously, but I least I did stay with it through “the whole night.”
I believe God hears and answers our prayers. Sometimes He answers… and sometimes He chooses not to give us what we ask for. And sometimes, He even gives us what we haven’t even thought to ask for.
During my ascent when I reached the top of the incline, I read this text from my wife:
“I love u! Thanks for fighting for our family! Jesus will meet u & be with u as u pray on the mountainside.”
Wow…I didn’t’ even think to pray for my wife to be supportive of this all-night adventure. She isn't usually in favor of me climbing solo. Here God answered a prayer I hadn't even thought to ask for. All the more reason for me to trust Him.
Faith. It's not really faith until you have to exercise it...like I am now.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):