Peak(s):  Pikes Peak  -  14,110 feet
Date Posted:  05/16/2011
Date Climbed:   07/06/2010
Author:  Craig Cook
 PIkes Peak via Barr Trail - my first 14er  

Yes, this is definitely late, but I just recently found this wonderful site, and to get myself ready for another ascent up Pikes Peak next month, I thought I would write out a TR from last year. Hope you enjoy!

My wife and I first vacationed in Colorado in 2009, and instantly fell in love with it. We stayed in Manitou Springs, and amongst other things, rode the cog railway up to the top of Pikes Peak. The views were breathtaking.

Fast forward to 2010. We knew we had to vacation in Colorado again - there was so much we had missed the year before, just in the Colorado Springs area! While planning our vacation, my wife Kellie says, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could hike up Pikes Peak?" I told her she was crazy, but inside my curiosity was peaked. I did some research and found out about Barr Trail, and together we decided to do it. Just a couple of Missourians who had never hiked a mountain in our life going to do a 14er!

We planned. We trained. We prepared for every possible scenario we could think of. We were driving out Monday, hike the Garden of the Gods trail Tuesday just to exercise in a little altitude (for us), and hike Barr Trail Wednesday. Our goal was to hike to the summit and take the last cog train down.

If only it were that easy. We arrived in Manitou Springs Monday night about 4 p.m. I checked the weather, which said high of 86 and sunny Tuesday, but high of 68 and severe storms on Wednesday. So we called an audible. We would have to hike Tuesday morning at 4 a.m. just 12 hours after we arrived. Talk about not getting acclimated!

Tuesday arrives. We're up at 3 a.m., tired but excited to get going. After a nice breakfast of Wheaties Fuel and a banana, we arrived at the trailhead at 3:45 a.m., and started hiking right about 4.

A soon-to-be beautiful Colorado Springs sunrise

Going up the endless switchbacks during the first portion of the trail, I felt strong, envigorated. But I noticed Kellie was breathing hard fairly quick, and needed multiple breaks. Not being used to this altitude was doing a number on her already. But she's an amazing person, and she kept pushing herself to go her own pace, while I would move on a little ways ahead, then stop to wait for her.

Our first view of Pikes Peak was at 5:27 a.m.

After the initial series of switchbacks, Kellie got her second wind and we made excellent time all the way to Barr Trail. We arrived at about 8 a.m., where we stopped for a snack and rest our feet.

Looking back at the city

The summit still looked so far away!

Kellie and I at Barr Camp

After a 30 minute break, we pushed on past Barr Camp. Oddly enough, I continued to feel better and better as I hiked, probably setting a quicker pace than was necessary. Kellie was affected by the altitude once again, and told me to go on ahead. There were other people on the trail, and despite my protests, she insisted she would be fine. So I pushed ahead.

Looking up the trail above Barr Camp

A beautiful view as I near timberline

Looking down at the timberline shelter

I had made it to the sign marking only two miles left to go when Kellie called me. She was one mile behind, near the timberline A-frame. She said she was going to rest there and wait for me, rather than risk getting sick by pushing herself too hard. My quest had just got a bit more difficult. Not wanting to leaver her there any longer than was absolutely necessary, I continued on at a good pace once again.

Taking a break with only two miles to go

The spectacular view two miles from the summit

I had to stop and check out the Cirque - yikes!

Quite a drop!

Above the Cirque

Looking back at the never-ending switchbacks

I took one last short break under a patch of melting snow as I prepared myself for the infamous 16 Golden Stairs. I had no idea what these were, only that everything I read said they were terrible. While definitely the toughest part of the hike, I didn't find them to be all that bad - possibly because a very nice lady who was practicing for a run (I can't recall the name) talked to me the whole way and kept my mind off the endless "stairs". I reached the summit at 11:30 a.m., 7 and hours after we started. The weather was absolutely perfect the whole trip up - a BEAUTIFUL day on Pikes Peak. As I reached the summit, some people who had driven up asked if I hiked the whole way. I said yes. The guy asked how many times I'd done it, and I said this was my first time. Did I live in Colorado? Nope, I said - Missouri. Wow, when did you get in town, he asked? Yesterday evening, I replied. And that was the first (and only) time a guy has ever called me a "stud". Ha!

But my trip was now only half over. I had to get back to the A-frame, so Kellie and I could hike back down. I refilled all my water bottle in the summit house, because I would need enough for both Kellie and myself. With a ridiculously heavy pack on my shoulders, I half walked, half jogged back down the trail.

Snow in July!

The end of Barr Trail!

The obligatory summit photo

Thanks for the beautiful trail, Fred

Kellie had had a nice 3-hour rest while I was gone, taking in the scenery from the A-frame. When I got back, we had some lunch, and then set back out again. At this point, I could feel my entire lower body start to protest. If I only knew how painful it would be by the time we left Barr Camp.

Kellie was happy to see me back

The last few miles of the trail, I could hardly stand

So what about that nasty weather report for Wednesday that changed all our plans? Well, we still had cog railway tickets, so the next day we summited again - this time in a much less painful fashion. The odd looks we received as we grunted and groaned our way on and off the train was priceless. As for the weather, it was indeed nasty. Rain down below, and sleet at the summit, along with fog so dense it brought to mind Stephen King's The Mist.

Heading above the storm

A view from the summit

The summit house parking lot is out there somewhere

A much less scenic obligatory summit photo

 Comments or Questions
Craig Cook

Thank you!
05/18/2011 01:29
And I highly recommend trying it some time, it's a beautiful trail - I heard a few complaints while we were out there about how long it is, but we loved it.

And I agree - Kellie should not, and isn't ashamed. Regardless of not reaching the summit, she still hiked 20 miles round-trip in one day. Amazing!


05/17/2011 02:47
from a fellow flatlander! Good job to you both! Yes, the altitude can take it out of you, and Kellie has nothing to be ashamed about. Someday I hope to do this beautiful trail too! Thanks for the post!


08/11/2011 15:37
It took my friend and I two days to hike the 26 miles...staying at Barr Camp the first night. And our bodies were so sore the next day! Im impressed you could hike the entire thing in one day, with little experience hiking 14ers. Oh and my friend and I are flatlanders too!

Craig Cook

Thank you
09/02/2011 05:27
for the kind words! I don't plsn on hiking the entire thing in one day again any time soon, though. I hiked up again this year, and took the cog down.

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