RT Length: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 4500’
The weather forecast for this weekend was terrible. So terrible in fact they cancelled the 14er Winter Welcomer (where they teach newbies how to hike in winter-like conditions). I watched the weather very closely and narrowed the best weather down to the Sawatch range, right along the 82. Unfortunately, they usually close the 82 the first week of November, and today’s the 2nd. Oh, and the weather forecast wasn’t that great, it was just better than anywhere else in the state (40% chance of snow, 15-29*, winds 20-45mph… yes, that was the BEST forecast).
I’m still learning about alpine hiking in late fall/winter (considered early winter season conditions), so I made a promise to myself until I learn more about correlating forecasts to actual conditions to drive out to the trailheads and not make a decision on whether or not I’d hike until I was actually there. So this morning I drove past Buena Vista and a sign indicating the 82/Independence Pass was open. Woohoo! Now my only worry was they’d close it while I was parked at a trailhead and I wouldn’t be able to drive out (do they have plans for that?).
Well, that was my only worry, until I started driving on the 82. Almost immediately it was sketchy. It wasn’t snowing, but snow was blowing all over the roads. I could tell no one had been on the road in quite some time (an hour or more?). No one was passing me coming the other way, and I had to drive much slower than normal to avoid ice. I made it to the trailhead, but when I arrived it was whiteout conditions, and actually snowing at that time. The forecast indicated the snow would stop but the winds would pick up. I knew it wasn’t safe to hike in the dark in these conditions (and most likely not in the light of day either). I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise because I wouldn’t have enough time to complete the hike. Drat. I was going to have to turn around. This stunk, but I knew it was the right decision. Those winds were insane, and the snow was just going to keep blowing as long as the wind did. If these were the conditions below treeline it would be a miserable hike, even more so above treeline, and I most likely wouldn’t summit.
When you show up to the 13er trailhead with the best weather forecast in the state and life gives you whiteout conditions but you NEED TO HIKE you change tactics.
On the drive home I frantically thought of which local mountains (below treeline) I’d yet to summit. I had none in mind… In fact, I haven’t even started planning my local winter summits because I figured if I never planned them I’d never have to use them. Ouch, that was coming back to haunt me now. I didn’t have any of my local maps with me, or any routes planned (I did have 8 different 13er routes though, but the weather wasn’t going to let any of them happen today). I guess I’d just hike the Incline a few times so at least I’d still get in some elevation gain. That’s when it hit me: Mt Manitou! I’d heard that was a nice alternative to the incline that no one used. I googled it. No luck. I couldn’t find a route, but I could find one for Rocky Mountain (a 9K summit directly behind the Incline). I was going to go for it.
I made it to the Manitou Incline Trailhead and began at 8am (after taking off my snow clothes: it wouldn’t get that cold below 10K today).
The Incline was much icier than I’d anticipated.
I had my microspikes, but didn’t put them on. Most experienced incliners had theirs on. As usual with the incline, I kept a steady pace but didn’t stop. It took me 41 minutes 39 seconds to make it to the top, after taking time to help someone with their yack tracks and careful foot placement due to ice.
I was overdressed in my knit hat and snow jacket, but the top of the incline wasn’t my intended destination. I took a few pictures and continued uphill, past the old foundations.
There’s actually a 4WD road here.
I took it for 1.5 miles and then left the road on a trail that heads towards the summit. The cutoff is at this post.
The trail was covered in snow, and I backtracked a few times due to game trails (and fresh prints from said game) but was always able to find my way back to the actual trail.
The snow was about 6” deep. Luckily I had on winter boots that went to my shins. These had looked ridiculous on the incline, but were coming in handy now.
I turned right at an area with some large boulders (after initially heading straight/north, which I soon figured wasn’t a trail that led to the summit)
I rounded several corners and finally came to the summit block of Rocky Mountain. This is what I saw.
What?!?!? This didn’t look too difficult, but I didn’t bring my helmet, as I didn’t think I’d need to do any rock climbing. It was also icy due to snow and, well, ice. Before climbing I decided to walk further around the side to see if there was another route up, and sure enough, there was.
It was an easy climb to the summit, which still had remnants of some sort of past structure.
I summited at 9:15am
It was WINDY! Seriously windy! And COLD!!! And I wasn’t even above treeline! It was a good call to alter my hiking plans for today and to overdress for the Incline. After retrieving a glove that had been caught in the wind and flown about 10 yards away I hiked back to below the summit block and got a few pictures of Pikes Peak.
And then I was on my way down. I just followed my tracks. When I got to the boulder area I decided to actually take that trail I’d seen earlier, but I wasn’t entirely sure it was a trail. I stopped for a bit, turned on my data, and tried to see if there was a trail to Mt Manitou from here? No luck. The trail I was on went north (and lower in elevation). I could see Mt Manitou,
and debated just hiking the half mile over there, but the snow was getting deeper and I didn’t have snow pants/snow shoes and the snow I’d been trekking in was turning to water on my clothes. This wouldn’t end well with the wind, so I backtracked and found the Barr trail. Here’s a view of Cameron Cone
taking it back down to the base of the Incline. The Barr trail was much icier than I’d anticipated. Spikes would have been helpful (but I was too stubborn to put them on and instead put up with the occasional sliding: Thank you Yoga for the balance).
I made it back to where I’d started, but I wasn’t tired yet!!! It was exactly 11am, so I decided to hike the Incline again. The second go up the incline was more difficult than the first because there were a lot more people, it was warmer out (I still had on my winter coat and hat) and I was tired. This time it took me 49 minutes to summit. That’s the longest it’s ever taken me, and I was quite tired when I reached the top.
I immediately headed back down the trail, which was muddy now since most of the snow/ice had melted.
I made it to my truck at 12:40pm. I checked Strava, and this was a 10 mile hike with 4500’ in elevation gain, completed in under 5 hours. I felt great!
Here’s my relive video: https://www.relive.cc/view/1941775243