|Peak:||Pikes Peak (14er)|
|Date of Info:||03/10/2012|
I‘ll preface this conditions report by saying that it did snow overnight on the Peak, and there was a good dusting mainly above the 11,000 foot level. Based on the most recent view from the Summit House webcam, I don‘t think that conditions have "dramatically" changed from what I experienced yesterday hiking/climbing up and down the mountain via Barr Trail with my brother.
From the parking lot to three miles up, the trail is bone dry. Immediately past that, however, there is a lengthy section of thick ice on the trail - see picture #1 and there continues to be sporadic sections of ice/hard packed snow all the way to Barr Camp. Traction devices definitely helpful. From Barr Camp to timberline, there continues to be a lot of snow on the trail & in the trees, but the trail itself is nicely boot-packed and no snowshoes were needed - see picture #2. Traction devices were helpful, particularly during the descent. Neal (caretaker of Barr Camp) told me that climbers are losing the standard trail (Barr Trail) at timberline, and basically meandering all over the East Face. I can tell you that Barr Trail is "in" and not difficult to follow. Climbers intuitively exit treeline and head over to the A-Frame emergency shelter and look for the trail up from there, ultimately ending up having to do route-finding up the East Face via boulder hopping and other methods. There can be, of course, a route up the prominent snow filled gully for those familiar with the mountain. Most climbers are looking for/wanting to stay on Barr Trail and can do so by simply heading to the right (North) from the metal sign indicating the Timberline Shelter/Pike National Forest. From there, one or two very short, boot packed switchbacks brings you to another metal sign indicating elevation (11,500 ft) and distance to the summit (3 miles). Just past this sign (about 5 yards), the trail turns sharply to the right (North) and is also indicated by bright orange arrows and the word "TRAIL" painted on a boulder to point the way! The trail to the summit is mostly wind blown and the sections that are snow covered have nice boot pack through them - see picture #3. Although these sections are boot packed, the snow is very hard, consolidated, and wind-crusted and (IMO), requires a more aggressive traction device like microspikes as opposed to just yaktrax. Ran into d_baker (Darin) and tmathews (Terry) on the summit which was pretty cool! They had climbed up via the Crags Trail. We (my brother and I), were pleasantly surprised to find the Summit House open yesterday. They have only been open 12 times (due to weather) since December 17th 2011. Be aware that if it IS open, you won‘t be able to get anything hot like coffee or the "high altitude donuts" because the cafeteria section is being renovated and isn‘t expected to re-open until the beginning of April at the earliest. See picture #4.
Photos (click for slideshow):