Peak(s):  Pikes Peak  -  14,110 feet
Date Posted:  04/05/2006
Modified:  09/13/2007
Date Climbed:   04/02/2006
Author:  alanb
 Pikes Peak - Crags Campground  

My hiking partner and I had decided to attempt Pikes Peak via the Y couloir. The drive down from Parker was uneventful and the directions to Crags campground and pretty straight forward.

From the Rocky Mountain camp all the way to the trail head the road was icy and snow packed, but not impassible by any means. As you can see in photo 1 the ruts were pretty well dug down to bare ground, about 1/2 mile from the trailhead we had to stop and help a guy who had gotten stuck. He said he'd been there all night and his frozen tires proved it. A couple of quick yanks with my buddies truck and we were able to break him out.


There was about a 1/2" or so of new snow and we were the first ones up there. The trail was icy to begin with and the fresh layer of snow made for some interesting walking.

We brought our snowshoes but the trail was well packed up to tree line and we never needed to use them. As the ridge line began to reveal itself through the trees we caught a glimpse of what was to come. We could see the snow blowing high up in the air and over the ridge. Our comments "looks windy up there" were to be very much on target.


Once above tree line the well defined trail quickly disappeared due to blowing snow and post holing became the name of the game. We toyed with putting on our snowshoes at this point but the ridge looked bare so we decided to just push on.


As we topped out on the ridge the wind hit us like a freight train. I don't know how hard it was blowing but it felt pretty strong. We both needed to lean way into it just to stay up right and walking in a straight line was impossible. I look at this picture and I say to myself "that just does not do the conditions justice" but it seems photos rarely do.


We made the decision right there to not drop off into the bottomless pit and attempt the couloir but we still had faint hopes of tagging the summit via the standard route.

We hiked about another 1/2 mile on the ridge using our ice axes as balancing points. But battling the strong winds proved to be too much for my quads and they began to cramp. I have never had leg cramps before and I am not sure what caused them this time but I never want them again.

We found a small rock out cropping with a tiny bit of shelter from the wind and weighed our options. The winds showed zero signs of letting up and if I had to guess I would say they were getting stronger. My legs hurt and it had taken us so long to just traverse the 1/2 mile that we decided to turn back.

The hike back down below tree line was even worse if that was possible. Now the wind was blowing the snow right into our faces and it felt like little daggers digging into our skin. Each step was agony on my quads but eventually we got back down below tree line. The weather here was like night and day. It was warm sunny and the trees blocked nearly all the wind. It was hard to image the conditions we had just been in even existed, let alone such a short distance away.

The return trip to the trail head was uneventful and we passed numerous people, some skiing, some snowshoeing, other just out hiking, none were headed for the summit. We still had some time left in the day so we took a quick trip up to the Crags, beautiful view up there.


When we got back down to the main paved road we stopped on the road side and took a good look at Pikes Peak. We could now see snow blowing off the summit with the naked eye. We guessed the wind was blowing it a good 100-200ft up in the air. We feel pretty good about deciding to turn back, even if we somehow had managed to keep moving the winds on the summit looked like bad news.

My GPS says we did a total of 11 miles of hiking and 3130 ft of elevation gain. A respectable day even if we were not able to summit. We are definitely going back sometime soon. We still had a lot of fun and I think we gained some good experience and made good decisions.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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