Peak(s):  Pikes Peak  -  14,110 feet
Date Posted:  06/14/2013
Date Climbed:   06/14/2013
Author:  aint_this_great
 Pikes Peak Divide/Crags Route  

Pikes Peak via the Divide/Crags route. 6/14/13, 6am-2pm, 4.5hrs up, 3 back. Just to go over the basics just in case: 24 to Divide from Colorado Springs, left at 67, ~4mi, left at 62 shortly after Mueller state park sign on right, 3.5mi on dirt, parking lot on right. Follow signs to Crags trail first, then look for 3 pipes and trail 664a across wooden bridge (clear markings). Make sure you pay attention to learn the route down! There are lots of false trails just below treeline, from people trying to avoid downed trees and such. Also, bring at least one more layer than you thought you'd need, possibly two. The wind is very bitter!

Trailhead above 10k ft = first step out of the car starved for oxygen! This route starts out as a lovely wide trail through a tall forest, and just about the moment I started thinking "yay, this doesn't have slippery pebbles like the Barr trail!", guess what? : ) Image
Once you reach smaller trees, and from there on until the final rockfall, it can be very treacherous, especially heading downhill. I only had one fall, on the way down of course. Surprisingly I didn't get blown over by the wind either direction, though I had a couple close calls! Image
Smoke-filled sky
I came across some unexpected beauty just below treeline. Image
Unexpected beauty
Flowers in stone
More flowers
And then this little fella, who knew exactly what humans are good for and kept flirting closer and closer, though he was disappointed by me - I wanted all my food for myself! Image
Gray jay
And then there were these guys - they must've been asleep on the ascent, but they were everywhere coming back! Image
Baby marmot!
Baby marmot(s)!
Momma marmot!

The first rockfall you see /= "the" rockfall! Image
First rockfall
This stretch is very lonely with the rocks and the tundra and the constant wind. Image
I found myself contemplating two things: gratitude that the wind was at my back but thinking how cold I would be on the descent; also whether there are earthworms in the ground at this altitude. As you top out this section, you will get your first view of the summit. Image
First summit view
The real rockfall is amazing. I wish more of the climb was like that! Ankle twisting scary, but gorgeous and a quick way to gain elevation. Cairns in the rockfall are well laid out, tougher to follow on way down, but basically if you can't see 2 ahead there's a switchback, pause and look around if you don't see the next cairn - you're just looking the wrong direction. Image
Real rockfall
For the second half of the climb you can see the road, but it isn't terribly bothersome. In some ways it's comforting, and it made me happier to do this climb on my own. Plus on the descent, someone who had been quite a long ways behind me caught up and told me he had hitched a ride back down to the crosswalk - don't think I didn't have the same idea when I was freezing my bum off!

Donuts at the top = so-so, but worth the $.99 for the calories. Image
Made it!
And thank heaven for a warm drink after that wind...I even decided to spring for a touristy sweatshirt to make the descent bearable. Not sure if shakiness at the top was cold, or altitude, or lack of calories. I ate a lot, so probably a combination of the first two. I started getting what I assume was altitude sick waiting in line 'cause a stupid cog train showed up and filled the shop, and I nearly told the inane babbler behind me to go jump off the edge. However it was worth the wait and the sweatshirt was worth every penny in the wind once I stepped back outside! Also you could see the Black Forest fire from the summit. Image
Black Forest fire.
And then, there were crazier people than me on the descent. Image
Crazier than me!
And then there was this poor fellow, passing one of the setup signs for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb next weekend - oh the irony! Image
PP Hill Climb

Icy snow = scary! There were 2 spots I decided to use the road on the way down to avoid icy/mushy snow that I nearly slipped off of on the ascent. Image
Take the road!
Take the road!
I hear they get angry if you're on the road, but it'll be worth it not to die! Speaking of other scary stuff, in the first couple miles there is a stream crossing. This is where the trail is supposed to go. Image
Theoretical stream crossing
This is where it goes currently. Image
Current stream crossing
Bad enough going up worrying about wet shoes. On the way back with shaky legs? Darn near impossible!

Thin air = painful sinuses. I was surprised that was the only part of me that hurt. My legs didn't get all that tired, in fact I jogged on the descent wherever possible, there was just no air! Oh, and encroaching thunder storms were also incentive to get down quick! Devil's Playground for the storm would've been neat, but frickin scary! Image
Devils playground
Got back to the car just in time...not really. I got soaked, it was one of those "just in time"s you say when you mean, "it could have been a lot worse"! Image
Maybe it's an illusion but the air felt thicker at the trailhead than it did this morning.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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