Ascending Pike’s Peak (part 2)

September 17, 2009

Adventures, Family, Travel


Sara, Titus and I drove in on September 14th. Between late nights and early mornings, we arrived to Colorado Springs pretty tired. As Sara crawled into bed at 10:00 PM, she wasn’t feeling very good at all. I finally got into bed by 11:00 PM, not quite early enough for getting up at 4:00 AM.

At 5:00 AM we were all packed and ready to head out. Although it would be in the 50’s to 60’s at various points on the mountain, the high on the summit was only to be in the low 40’s. We packed snacks, lots of water, rain coats and many layers of clothes for the different temperatures we might encounter. By 6:00 AM, we were eating breakfast at McDonalds in Woodland Park and by 7:20 we were on the trail.

The first mile was a less than strenuous hike through the woods with occasional peeks of rocky outcrops above and the ridge we would eventually have to climb. Our pace was just a little slower than we had planned. At one of our breaks I was was able to get a phone signal and I called Shayla asking her to come to the summit an hour later than planned.

Pikes Peak Trailhead

Sara, Dad and Walt

To Devil's Playground (a long way form here)

Dad on the trail

At about two miles we left the treeline to see the ridge we would have to overcome. It was on this ascent that Sara and I hit a wall. Our spirits were high, but we realized that the altitude was affecting us more than we thought it would. Literally, I was taking fifty steps before stopping to rest and catch my breath. The ascent wasn’t easy, but it was the thin air that was making this part so difficult. Later I would read that overcoming this first ridge was the hardest part of the climb other than the final 500 feet.

A view of the rocks


Above the treeline

Sara ahead of me

Once we overtook the ridge, the terrain flattened out substantially. For the first time we could see the peak which was still about 3 miles away. At this point, clouds were building at the peak which meant we needed to pick up the pace. Because the terrain was a little easier we began hiking a little bit faster. After another mile of hiking, we crossed the road that went to the summit, which is the location of Devil’s Playground. Devil’s Playground got it’s name from the way lightning jumps from rock to rock during storms. This is not a place you want to be if weather begins deteriorating.

Sara takes the ridge

Our group enjoys the gentle terrain

Looking back at the gate

Finally at Devil's Playground

Just past Devil’s Playground was the first spectacular view of Colorado Springs on the east side of the mountain. We had been climbing the western side of the mountain all morning and now we had crossed to the other side of the ridge, ready for the final push to the top. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t looking very good for us. We had originally planned to be on the summit by 11:00 AM before we called Shayla to delay our arrival by an hour. Now it was 12:30 PM and we still had over a mile ago to travel at about 13,100 feet. Fortunately, we had a 2-way radio that we could use to contact Shayla who was waiting at the summit. We let her know that the weather was looking bad, but we were going to push through. The summit was no longer visible and we were heading right into it.

Clouds over the city

Eastern View

Weather degrading as we go higher

Entering the clouds

This is when things got a little scary.



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