Summiting Pikes Peak 9-10-2016

This time when we made it to the parking lot at the base of the trail it was halfway full.  Apparently there were a lot of hikers this weekend!

Even though I’d asked them to go before we left the house, one of the girls needed to use the restroom before we started.  I’m not a fan of trail restrooms, and encouraged her to wait a bit because it was probably dirty, but she insisted.  So while I paid for parking she used the restroom.  When she got back she said it was pretty clean, but there was a homeless person sleeping outside.  Facepalm. 

We started the trail at 3:06am.  There was no moon to guide us, so we got a great view of Manitou and Colorado Springs as we hiked. 

The girls made pretty good time. We made it to MM2 at 3:59am, which meant they were hiking a little over 2mph. 

Around MM4 it got really, really cold.  I’m not sure why (I’m guessing it’s due to a shift in topography) but MM4-6.5 of Barr Trail are always really, really cold.  It felt like the temperature dropped at least 20 degrees. I’m guessing it was in the high 20s.  It got so cold my hands started to swell and I lost feeling in my fingers.  Luckily there was no wind, but I honestly felt colder than I had a few weeks ago when it was snowing. I put on my gloves, but that didn’t really help.  I kept encouraging the sun to rise over and over again, knowing that’s what I needed to warm up.

We made it to Barr Camp at 6:05 (still hiking about 2mph), and about 15 minutes later the sun began to rise and we began to thaw out.  The colors on the mountain in the morning are absolutely amazing!  There is so much light it’s really hard to get a clear picture, but that didn’t stop me from trying:

I was really surprised at how much red was in the light this morning

Added to the red was the changing yellow of the aspens.

We made it to A-frame at 7:35am.  The A-frame was occupied by an older man and his adult children.  They’d hiked Pikes Peak 18 years ago and were back to hike it again.  It looked like they were set up to camp all weekend. 

We also learned there was a special hike today:  The Pikes Peak Challenge. 

The Pikes Peak Challenge is the Brain Injury
Alliance of Colorado’s flagship fundraising event. 
Participants have the opportunity to raise funds by climbing Pikes Peak.  We were told there were about 400 participants, but not to worry because we were hours ahead of them.  Also, this wasn’t a race, they’d just be hiking. 

After A-frame we saw challenge volunteers at each of the three remaining mile markers.  They were all really nice and supportive, even though we weren’t participating in the event. 

I tried to take a selfie with 3 marmots…

The girls were getting pretty tired when we had about 1.5 miles left to go.  They were doing great, but lacking a bit in motivation.  We made it to the cirque and some volunteers gave them dum-dum lollipops and they were excited once again!

We took a bit of a break at the 16 Golden Stairs.  Volunteers from El Paso County Search and Rescue were there, preparing to assess Challenge hikers.  We talked for a bit, and they encouraged me to sign up to join EPCSAR.  It’s honestly something I’ve been thinking about, but not something I’ll have time for until Emily graduates High School. 

On we trekked.  This is where my “motivating” the girls kicks in the hardest.  Lots of life lessons are learned at this point in the hike.  It’s a fine line between encouraging them and  making them hate me for making them continue.  They told me later I did a great job…lol!

We made it to the summit at 9:59am!  That’s just under 7 hours, and a great time for the girls! 

They were exhausted, and opted to sit for a while before taking pictures.  I asked them if they’d ever done anything harder in their lives, to which Julianna replied (and Lakin agreed):  “The only thing harder I can think of is cookie sales”.  Spoken like a true Girl Scout!  They would know, they take cookie sales seriously!  They’ve each sold thousands for years in a row, and know what hard work it can be. 

I was proud of them, and told them they could take an extended break.  A summit spider joined us for donuts…

It’s really hard to breathe at 14,000+ feet:  Your body is working overtime just to breathe, and time can get distorted.  When I told the girls we needed to get going because it’d already been 45 minutes they didn’t believe me.  They swore it had only been 5-10 minutes. I had to show them the time to convince them! 

We took a few summit pictures and began our descent. 

Here is where the hike got really fun!  The girls were super proud of their accomplishment, and wanted to encourage the Challenge hikers on their way up the mountain.  We high-fived ever hiker we saw on the way down, and the girls would shout out words of encouragement: “You got this!"  "Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes, just think positively!"  "With a positive attitude there’s nothing you can’t do!”

Those girls are amazing!  The other hikers thanked them for their enthusiasm, which was much needed at this point in their hike. 

When we made it back to the 16 Golden Stairs we were offered more candy. This time I took a Werther’s (an indulgence I haven’t had since I was 12).  Instant memories came flooding back.  It totally made my day!

About a mile above treeline we had a hiker point and tell us:  “See that man in the red jacket?  That’s Robert Downey Jr."  I was intrigued, but didn’t much believe him.  That didn’t stop me from catching up to the man in the red jacket to find out for myself.  Unfortunately, it didn’t look much like him:  His hair was the right color, but he was a bit overweight and sported full facial hair so I couldn’t much tell if it was him or not. 

We said "hello” as we passed him and kept hiking down, enthusiastically high-fiving everyone along the way. 

Back at A-frame the man and his kids were still there.  It didn’t look like they planned on hiking at all today.  Quite a shame for other hikers hoping to snag the A-frame for themselves tonight.  There were a lot of hikers around the A-frame, filtering water and milling about before tackling the hardest part of the hike. 

We only rested there for about 15 minutes, then once again started hiking down.  The girls were practically running at this point (it is MUCH easier to hike down than up).  We saw many more hikers there to complete the challenge, all hiking up the mountain.  We never saw anyone else hiking down. 

We stopped at Barr Camp for another 15 minutes to use the restroom and for a snack.  The girls were still all smiles!

For the rest of the hike down the girls kept up a fast pace.  They still high-fived everyone they passed, but we didn’t see many more challenge hikers.  In fact, the only ones we saw were those returning down the mountain because they weren’t able to summit.

When asked we told hikers we’d hiked all the way to the summit and were on our way down.  Everyone was impressed, and one (very fit) woman remarked:  “Wow!  You all made it?  Those girls are more hardcore than I’ll ever be!"  The girls took that as quite the compliment!

We made it back down to the parking lot at 3:40pm, and once again the restroom was needed.  This time however it was flooded. 

Author: Laura M Clark

Mom, Solo Colorado 14er Finisher, Outdoor Enthusiast, Traveler, and Girl Scout Leader with an MBA in International Business and Marketing. I value adventure, growth, courage, wisdom, integrity, accountability, and family. I enjoy yoga, wine, whiskey, traveling, reading, and the outdoors. I strive to be the person who inspires and motivates myself and others to succeed.

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