Adventure in Colorado - Pikes Peak Hike
By Vic Hanson
About 30 years ago, on a trip to Colorado, we had driven up Pikes Peak. At that time I preferred doing my exploring in a car. Now however, hiking is one of my favorite activities, so on a trip from Minnesota to California, I was trying to get as much hiking in as possible. I had stopped in Colorado Springs to see friends who had moved there recently, so decided to check out Pikes Peak. I didn't arrive at the Barr Trail parking lot until after 1:00 pm, so knew that I couldn't get to the top, but decided to see how far I could get. The main thing I was looking for was to get some higher altitude up-hill hiking, after spending a month in Minnesota.
I took a picture of the warning sign at 1:14 pm, which said to start early, and then started up the trail, with a goal of reaching Barr Camp. I reached the Camp with no problem, but it was too late to go any farther, so headed back down. There were quite a few trail runners on the trail as well, as it is a popular training run for them. I was also trying out my new GPS but there were too many trees, so didn't get to map the whole trail with it. I was back down at the parking lot at 6:35, and had already decided to come back again the next day and try to start earlier.
It was a beautiful day here in Colorado Springs and we arrived at the Pikes Peak trailhead at 7:10 am full of excitement, as we could see Pikes Peak rising above us. My friend John went with me, but he hasn't been exercising lately due to family and work responsibilities, so he wasn't sure how far up he would be able to go. We made it up to Barr Camp (elev. 10,200 feet) in just over three hours and stopped there to eat and rest a bit and put on our gaiters. There were a few inches of fresh snow on the ground since I was up there yesterday. John was feeling OK and wanted to go farther so we decided to keep on going. Yesterday I had talked to a young man who tried to go up then, and he said the snow was deep and tiring and he didn't get to the Treeline shelter, which is three miles above the camp.
We set that as our goal and continued on up, following Neil's (him and his wife run the camp) fresh tracks, as he had gone up a ways just ahead of us. Unfortunately, he had been running so we couldn't match his stride and use his footsteps. We continued on past where he had turned around and could see the faint tracks of the young man from the day before. At a point where we were hoping we were near the shelter, we saw his tracks go off trail at a switchback, which explained why he missed the shelter. The snow was fresh powder so wasn't hard to walk in, but there were icy patches under the snow, which made for some slipping and sliding.
By this time the snow was 8-10 inches deep and it became increasingly hard to follow the trail, especially where there were drifts. At one point I would have gone to the right but John said he thought we should go left. I wasn't sure, so we went to the left and in just a couple of minutes could see a trail sign. Sure enough, it was the shelter. We stopped there for a few minutes to get out of the wind and fresh snow that was falling and ate a little food. By now we were in about 12" of snow, and it was also snowing quite heavily. My water hose was frozen so I tried to drink some Mtn. Dew from my pack, but it was so cold I could only drink a little. We were both quite tired and John's legs were really hurting him, as well as it was only 15 minutes until our 2:00 pm turn around time, so we headed back down.
We made a quick trip down to the camp, complete with a few falls each on the icy trail. We checked in to let them know we were safely down, and to eat some more. After getting warmed up we continued down the seven miles to the car, tired but rejoicing in a great hike. The total time was about 10 1/2 hours for 20 miles, including stops. We were three miles and 2,110 feet short of the summit. Hopefully I will be able to stop here again in October, after hiking the PCT, and we will make another summit attempt, Lord willing, without the snow.
Tomorrow I will continue on toward California, I think stopping at the Grand Canyon. I am considering trying a rim-to-rim hike. I am not sure if I will take the freeway or Highway 160 through Durango, but if the weather cooperates, I'm leaning towards Durango. (Post summer note, didn't have time to stop back there after the PCT hike).
Vic Hanson is the founder of Adventure Cotahuasi Tours, which offers pre-planned and custom adventure travel tours in Cotahuasi Canyon and other areas of Peru.
If you are interested in your own adventure in Peru, check us out!
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