I hesitated to title this post “climbing” Pike’s Peak, as one would normally think of simply “hiking” it. However, it doesn’t seem like summer yet here in sunny Colorado, and when my sister and I went out for a summit attempt last weekend, we found ourselves in some pretty deep snow above tree line. Hiking Pike’s Peak via Barr Trail from Manitou Springs is an endurance feat more than anything else. The trail is 12.6 miles one-way, and the total elevation gain from trailhead to summit is 7,510 feet.
We started out at 5 a.m. and made it to Barr Camp—about halfway at 10,200 feet—a few hours later. All was going well at this point…we were on schedule, and we stopped for some sandwiches and a little stretch.
It wasn’t until above tree line that the going got rough. The winds picked up, and the trail became covered with snow. We were punching through the crust into knee-deep hollows, which sort of slows things down. Here’s Shawna resting against one of the many boulders we navigated around:
Above 13,000 feet, I start feeling the altitude, and by that time, we were picking our own route through the snow. Hikers refer to this area of the trail as the 16 Golden Stairs…it’s normally a series of sixteen steep switchbacks that include high-stepping on and over a bunch of large boulders. This was all snow-covered. So instead of going that way, we post-holed straight up on solid snow and then cut towards the summit across this scenic ridge:
Then there it was in front of us…the final summit push. We could hear the cog railway whistle as it came into the station, and just as we were stepping up the final steep slope, we saw the tourists unloading.
Pike’s Peak is a funny summit…since there’s a road that goes all the way to the top and a cog railway that chugs up there several times a day, the summit atmosphere has somewhat of a carnival feel. People are walking around light-headed in the gift shop, eating potato wedges and pizza slices.
Of course, we too took the requisite summit photo…still smiling at 14,110 feet! Although we had originally planned to hike all the way back down to Manitou, we opted to hop on the cog railway and avoid a deep snow descent.