Pikes Peak is an INTENSE hike, made even more so by backpacking. We are all tired and extremely sore, but proud of our accomplishment!
I grow as a person every time we Girl Scouts get together!
Thank you Girl Scout Troop 931 for teaching me about teamwork, patience, FUN, goals, perseverance, and awesomeness!!! Oh, and for those interested, YES they did help rescue someone on this trip too: a hiker with a broken ankle about a quarter mile from the summit. Troop 931 ROCKS!!!
This wasn’t our first rodeo (we did the same hike last summer and saved some hikers. You can read that story here: http://lauramclark.tumblr.com/post/95826650834/girl-scout-troop-931-backpacking-pikes-peak-and ) so we started before the sunrise to get an early start on the hike. The weather changes frequently on the mountain, and we knew it would start out cold, get really hot, then back to cold again as we made it past the tree line. Here are the girls, all ready to go in their “warm” clothes. We just layer for hikes like these. Also notice how happy and fresh they look.
Along the way we saw different flowers than last time (since we were hiking two months earlier in the season). I love seeing columbines growing in nature!
This is a really tough hike. About 6 miles in there’s a place called Barr Camp where a lot of hikers stay the night. Our overnight spot was still another 3 miles up the trail. Here’s Kayla passed out as we took a lunch break. Poor girl! This was a much harder hike than she’d anticipated. She was doing great though!
Notice this sign posted as you leave Barr Camp. Unfortunately, too many hikers either don’t see this sign, or don’t take it seriously.
About half a mile past Barr Camp we split into two teams. Jordan, Ruth Ann, and Tristina were hiking fast, so they went on up ahead and were to meet Kayla and I at the “A-frame”. Kayla was exhausted by this point, but kept on going. We all knew it would be easier if we separated, and we wanted to make sure we had a spot to sleep tonight since it’s first come (so getting there first was our best option).
Kayla and I made it to the A-Frame about 2 hours after the other girls. They had already set up camp and rested by the time we got there.
Kayla immediately unpacked her sleeping bag, and fell asleep.
The other girls had already rested, so by this point they were ready to talk. I walked around the campsite to get some pictures.
The A-Frame isn’t very big, and we didn’t want to put our things on the ground because there were a lot of critters around, so we weren’t as “tidy” as we could have been.
Jordan and Tristina got to work sanitizing water and making dinner. The site has a running creek year long, so this time we decided not to hike with as much water (conserving weight), and we planned to filter water at the top. The girls boiled the water, then placed the container of water in the stream to cool down before drinking it. I just have to say, as I was talking this picture I kept thinking to myself what awesome ladies these girls are! They were totally able to do everything themselves on this trip, and they did so without complaining. They have skills and they were having fun!
I mentioned earlier we weren’t very tidy in the A-Frame. However, we are Girl Scouts, so we do leave places cleaner than we find them. We brought trash bags to haul trash down the mountain (yes, even stuff that wasn’t ours), but we realized there was so much trash we couldn’t bring it all down. This was odd/not cool because we’d camped in the same spot less than a year before and totally cleared it of all trash. We decided to make the best of the situation and just burned as much as possible. Since there isn’t any wood to burn at the site (you have to haul it up from down the mountain) this had the added benefit of keeping us warm.
Have I mentioned the view at night from tree line is absolutely amazing! If winter didn’t exist on the peak I could live there. Enough said.
The sunrise is equally beautiful. We set our alarm just so we could watch the morning glow.
After a breakfast of Mountain House eggs and bacon (gross by the way, we’re never doing that again), we were off to climb the peak!
About half a mile in we decided we’d split up again. Kayla was having a lot of difficulty with this hike, and we were at the part where you have to keep going or you’ll never get started again. This is a very mental hike, and you have to know how to psych yourself up to continue.
Even though it’s July there is still a lot of snow on the peak. These drifts are much larger in person than they look from Colorado Springs. They are about the size of a football field, and they are very slippery! We saw many people fall because they were over confident. Kayla fell on each one (there were 7 or 8), hard, but she kept going!
The 16 Golden Stairs are anything but. This is the hardest part of the hike, and it took us about 1.5 hours to do (even though it’s only about ¼ of a mile). We kept stopping every 2 or 3 feet because Kayla really didn’t want to continue. However, I wasn’t going to let her give up. She told me at the beginning of this hike she was doing it for her dad (who passed away the week before), and I wanted to help her reach her goal.
There were a lot of tears and frustrated words said (never towards another person), but Kayla kept going.
I’m very, very, very proud to say she made it!!! Many (ok, most) grown men cannot complete this hike. It was hard, it hurt, and she was tired, but she kept putting one foot in front of the other and made it to the top.
She was exhausted when we got there (we both were). As soon as she crossed the cog tracks she stopped, raised her hands, looked up, and started talking to her dad in heaven. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry.
All of the work to get to the top was totally worth it! When she was done she turned to me, gave me a big hug, and said “Thank you Ms. Laura for helping me get to the top. I’m sorry I yelled at you!”. I cried some more.
Then we walked the 20 or so feet to the Summit House and Kayla fell asleep for the next 45 minutes.
We met the other girls there, got some donuts, drinks, and fudge, and told about our separate climbs.
Jordan, Ruth Ann, and Tristina told me they had helped rescue a man who had broken his ankle about a quarter mile from the top. He wasn’t a hiker, so he wasn’t prepared. He had driven to the peak and was hiking down to take selfies when he tripped (yes, he had a selfie stick).
They tried to give him an ice pack, but it exploded so they did the next best thing: They used their ace bandage to wrap his ankle, then got a ziplock bag and filled it with ice.
Then the girls helped him up and he hopped on one foot (his good one) to the top with one of his arms around each of the girls shoulders. He thanked them profusely when they arrived, and promised to get in touch when he made it home.
I woke Kayla up after 45 minutes because her body needed a rest: You burn just as many calories sitting at 14,000+ feet as you do running at sea level, so she needed to move down the mountain so her body could rest properly. We also needed to finish our hike: it was only half over!
As Alison Levine says: “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory”.
We posed for a few pictures (we were too tired when we got there at first to take any), and were on our way down.
This is where the real teamwork began. Kayla was very tired from this hike. We all were. I run 5-10 miles a day, Jordan is captain of the Ice Hockey team, Tristina runs cross country, and Ruth Ann runs as well, so we were more conditioned for this hike (don’t get me wrong, we were still aching).
Kayla however wasn’t conditioned, and was exhausted. She wanted to stop and rest every 15 feet or so, and that just wasn’t possible if we wanted to make it down the mountain.
So the girls helped to keep her motivated. They held her hand as she navigated tough rocky areas and the slippery slopes of snow. They let her hold onto their backpacks for support, and held her hand to help keep up her momentum.
They also kept praising her progress and success!
When we got just about to the tree line we started seeing marmots. 3 or 4 were chirping to each other, and some stayed still long enough for us to get pictures!
I love this one: you can see the Garden of the Gods below!
At tree line Kayla remembered we forgot to take a picture of her celebrating at the peak, so we took one now:
She did it! Great job Kayla! She looks filthy but proud of her accomplishments! She probably lost 5-10 pounds as well from the beginning (did I mention this is an intense 26+ mile hike? We did a mountain marathon in less than 36 hours)