Peak(s):  Pikes Peak  -  14,110 feet
Date Posted:  10/18/2010
Date Climbed:   10/16/2010
Author:  emcee smith
 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):

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Congrats on finishing ”The List” ! Pikes was my first 14er, many years ago. I think I hiked it 6 times before I ventured off to other 14ers. Your report brought back great memories of the Barr Trail.


Nice finish!
10/18/2010 21:28
Congratulations on finishing!


10/18/2010 22:39
What an accomplishment!

Don Eberl

Way to Go
10/18/2010 22:56
You sure had a heck of a summer. Wish I could have joined you on more of those.

I am looking forward to next summer so you can show me the ropes. Thank for inviting me to tag along for you finisher. I had a great time with you and the gang.



Such a Pleasure
10/18/2010 23:09
Congratulations goes without saying. Thanks for generously including those of us fortunate enough to have an opening in our calendars. Joining with you in celebration of finishing all 58 was just about as much fun as having you join Judge_K and me on our finisher not long ago. I will always cherish fond memories of both events. Please share my greetings with E and Soda; and know that you will always be on my CO-hiking-invite list.


Congrats, Mike!
10/18/2010 23:20
Thanks for having us along. And, folks, when he says I entertained them with the guitar, he's being kind. Notice how he quickly followed that up by saying we were in the bunkhouse by 7pm with ear-plugs.


Nice Job
06/02/2011 14:57
Emcee, what a great trip with a great group. Congratulations.


As always....
10/18/2010 23:33
a great report with great photos. I love flying from Amarillo to Denver as I always try to get a window seat on the west facing side so I can also look out and try to identify as many of the peaks as I can, usually finding the Spanish Peaks first and then using them as my reference point. I have always enjoyed your reports and I hope to see more during your second lap! 8)


man of the mountain
11/30/2010 17:28
That carving has been there for years, however I liked it better when the "red" was faded and it wasn't so easy to spot.
(Someone repainted it a few years ago.)

Anyway, congratulations on finishing.

In image 18, my guess would be spot the rock pile near the center of your photo, and I think that is probably Monte's Rock Pile, which is ~1/2mi down the trail from camp.
Once you spot Monte's, come to you and to looker's left and camp would be in there somewhere.

Doctor No

Great work, Mike!
10/18/2010 23:41
Looks like you had some great weather for it.

Jim Davies

Nicely done!
10/19/2010 00:33
Great way to finish. I did Pikes that way for my first 14er in 1994. And some of us think 8 am is an early start.


Way to get it done!
10/19/2010 02:24
On Culebra I remember you saying there was no way you would finish this year...
It's been great to read the TR's and follow the journey. Congrats!


10/19/2010 02:22
That is awesome that you got to finish with such good friends, and I'm quite impressed that you were able to do it from out of state! Way to go!


10/19/2010 03:55
Saw you on Snowmass - following you since - Great work!


20 14ers in one year!
10/19/2010 13:58
Way to go !!!


Nice TR
10/19/2010 15:08
Looks like you finished in style...and in comfort! Nice lodging, summit restaurant, ride down. That's a good way to do it! Congrats on entering the ”finisher” book.


Great Job
10/19/2010 16:40
Congrats on the accomplishment!


Just missed You!
10/19/2010 20:28
Congratulations Mike! My 11 y/o daughter and I did the same trip the very next day. We left the lot late Saturday afternoon and arrived at Barr at dinner time. We put up a tent and before we fell asleep, she said, ”Dad, this is fun; I love you!”. Sunday, we hiked to the summit and she enjoyed every bit! You and doggler are correct, Barr trail w/ an overnighter is a very pleasant experience. Alise was so happy!

Glad to have hiked one peak with you (South Maroon.) We want you to keep coming back to Colorado, so pick some other fun peaks or routes!


Southern Appalachian

Urban Legend
10/20/2010 02:56
There's a mountain lion up there with a 4'8” tail. Fact or fiction?

Thank you so much for inviting us along for the final ride. I am very proud of you for working so hard to earn these peaks. No peak is easy.

I'm looking for a personal route finder next summer (and part time sherpa) ... first name ”Chris” not required.


10/22/2010 02:41
Nice way to complete the first round. I was up there that day - great day to hike - started Crags rte before noon and probably missed you by a few hours. I would've laughed meeting Dave again by chance - I was relaxing alone on the summit of Loveland/Buckskin just a couple weeks ago when he walked up. Great guy. Looks like a good group to enjoy your finisher.


The Perfect Finish
08/20/2011 20:30
You couldn't have planned a better finisher! I was honored to be part of the group.

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