I’ve done this hike several times, so today I’m just going to post some pictures. I started at 6am, and while the sun hadn’t yet risen the moon was full and bright. The moon was so full I didn’t need to use a flashlight as I hiked up the steps. I was able to make it to the top f the incline in 36 minutes, 19 seconds. That’s my second fastest time, and I’m proud to say I did it with full gear, snowshoes and all attached to my pack.
I tried out my photography sphere again, but it was really, really cold (12 degrees when I made it back to my truck) so I couldn’t position the camera right. I’ll keep practicing!
When I got to the top I wasn’t tired yet, so I decided to continue on to Rocky Mountain. The last bit is class 3, especially with snow.
There I made it just in time for the sunrise. And I got some pictures of Pikes Peak with the moon.
I got to hike down heading directly into the sun, which felt good on my face
I haven’t been to the Manitou Springs Incline since they’ve implemented the reservation system, but since there was high avalanche danger all across the state, I figured today was a good day to go. The reservations were free, and easy to obtain. There are 25 slots open every half hour for reservation, and I secured the last two. However, when we arrived we only passed/say about 8 other people all day, and no one was enforcing the permit system. Maybe they took a snow day?
We paid to park while it was still dark and headed up the trail. It was 12 degrees outside, and SkyDiverHiker had on his new gloves. We weren’t sure if we were going to hike the incline once or twice today, so we decided to take it slow. We also wanted to see the sunrise, and we knew at our normal speed we’d get there half an hour before it happened, so if we went a little slower we’d stay warm longer. Check out our view of Manitou Springs
We kept the pace slow and steady. About halfway up SkyDiverHiker’s calves started cramping up, so we decided to make this a one and done day.
It took us about 40 minutes to reach the top, so we had a bit of waiting to do.
We took a selfie at the top: notice how cold it is? My hair is frozen!
While we waited I got out my new photography sphere. I took a bunch of photos, trying to figure out how it worked. Unfortunately, it was still really cold outside, and my phone froze. The stylus didn’t work and my fingers were numb, so I didn’t get as many pictures as I’d of liked. I need some more practice.
It seemed to take forever for the sun to rise!
Jill and her husband met us at the top, and she took a few sphere photos too. Then we were off, back down the trail
Halfway down we had someone ask us if we’d seen a dog. No, we hadn’t, but a few minutes later a medium sized black mutt raced past us. We ended seeing the dog again and were able to coax it to us. We retraced our steps back up the trail to the owners, who were grateful, but I had to ask them if they had a leash? They looked confused, said “Oh yeah”, and got it out and put it on the dog. When we got back to the truck it was still 12 degrees outside! Brrrr!
The girls planned this event 8 months ago. The goal: to hike to the top of the Manitou Incline wearing onesies. Me, being their leader and knowing they weren’t referring to outfits they wore as infants, had to look up what onesies were (pajama-like costumes that are all one piece). This sounded fun to me so we worked on setting up a date. We settled on the first week in December because we thought the weather would be cooler, there’d be less people climbing, and because band and cheerleading would be over so more girls could attend. They all met at my house and we carpooled to the free shuttle lot. Side note: they all drive now, which is weird since I’ve known them all since they were 5.
I’ve never used the shuttle before but it sounded like fun to go with a group and it would save us $20 in parking fees so I was all onboard with this idea. Once the shuttle arrived we had to wait a while for it to take us to the incline (it only goes every 20 minutes) so we talked about our strategy and goals for the climb.
I’d shown them a video last week about hiking the incline and they were all excited to try it themselves.
When we finally arrived we walked up to the start of the incline (one of the harder parts of the hike, actually) and the girls put on their microspikes. I wasn’t 100% sure they were needed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and the troop owned enough pairs so everyone wore them. I took a selfie with the girls and we were off!
We started out at a moderate pace
But after the first 200 steps or so they all needed a break and two of them were having a hard time breathing. Not gonna lie, I got a little worried at this point. When I hike the Incline I don’t take breaks. Well, today we took a lot of breaks. And I mean a lot. Every 100 steps or so we stopped.
Soon the girls had tied the arms of the onesies around their waist (who’s idea was it to wear felt on this thing?) and we stopped at the Christmas Tree (the halfway point) for an extended rest.
We were glad we’d chosen to hike in December: Yes, the weather was cooler (this would not have been fun in onesies in the sun) and there were less people than normal.
And more resting…
But to be fair, their rests were short and they all kept going. One of my girls had her Tourettes start acting up and she had a hard time seeing due to the ticks but she never complained. They were all tired but no one wanted to quit. I’m proud of them for that! The microspikes ended up coming in handy after the bailout spot, when the trail got icy for a bit.
The girls stayed pretty much together, only being separated by a few feet or so for most of the hike, with Kimberly powering on ahead as we neared the summit. Finally, after an hour and a half of hiking, the girls made it to the summit!
Jules got out the Fun Dip and the girls rested for a bit while I got out the hot chocolate and apple cider. We ended up only having the apple cider though, as my fuel canister had run out and we didn’t have anything to heat the water (bummer!)
I took a selfie because hey, how many people hike the incline in costumes? Caroline did as well, I’m guessing for SnapChat
I tried to get them to continue on to Rocky Mountain but Emily had winterguard practice and everyone was hungry so it was time to gather our stuff and head back down. The Barr Trail down was much icier than the Incline route up and I was glad we had spikes. The girls realized just how important they were when one of Emily’s broke and she took it off. In less than a minute she slipped and fell on the ice, landing on her back. Hard. Ouch! But bless her, she took some ibuprofen and kept hiking. We made it back down to the shuttle at 1:45pm, making this a 4.5 mile hike with 1962’ of elevation gain in 3 hours.
We rode the bus back to our cars and drove to Fargo’s Pizza, where Breanna met up with us and we all chatted for a bit. It’s so cool watching these girls grow up! We discussed boys, school dances, cookie sales, homework, teachers, and a little about our upcoming trip to California.
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!
I didn’t want to embarrass Thomas, but I really wanted to hike the incline with him and Troop 2, so we came up with a plan: I’d drive us both there, and while the group was getting ready to hike I’d take off first and meet everyone at the top. This way I didn’t embarrass the boys (who were slower hikers). It’s never fun to be shown up by a mom!
We got there at 7:55am for an 8am hike. It was CROWDED! I’ve never seen so many people there! It was a nice day, and 8am on a weekend, so I’m sure that added to the popularity. I usually hike the incline when it’s cold or very early in the morning on a Friday, so it isn’t very busy. I can only imagine the insanity in the summer!
It seemed like it took forever for Troop 2 to get ready: Everyone had to assemble, use the restroom, make sure paperwork was done, apply sunscreen, use the restroom again, etc. It was driving me mad, and eventually I said goodbye to Thomas and just started hiking.
My goal for today was not to stop: I could hike slow, but no stopping, just to see if I could make it to the top without stopping. About ¼ of the way up I heard trekking poles hitting the ground behind me. Those poles eventually started making me crazy, so I let the guy with the poles pass. He was from Norway, and thanked me for setting a great pace. His intended goal was Barr Camp, and maybe Pikes Peak today. He passed me for about 40 steps, and then I passed him again. I hate to play leapfrog with other hikers, but luckily he never passed me again and I stayed in the lead.
I was able to hike to the top of the incline without stopping! I made excellent time, and just a few minutes after I summited I was surprised to see Thomas making his way up as well!
He summited in 38 minutes! That’s a great time for his first time up the incline!
The hard part came next: waiting for the rest of the troop to make it. There was a lot of waiting! About 10 minutes after Thomas made it Max summited, and about 20 minutes after that two of the younger boys made it to the top. We waited almost 2 hours for the rest of the troop to summit. That’s long enough I could have hiked the 3 miles down and hiked back up the incline before they made it to the top! Oh well, I met a lot of fun people at the summit who were thrilled with their success (and tons of dogs too! For a “no dogs allowed” hike I counted over 10 of them).
After the entire troop made it to the top I took a Troop 2 picture of the excited boys.
Thomas and Max had been waiting over an hour and a half, so as soon as the picture was done they sprinted down the Barr Trail. I followed after them (a few minutes after, so they wouldn’t be bothered with me) and ran the entire way down as well. So that’s three firsts for me today: Hiking the incline without stopping, hiking the incline with Thomas, and running the entire length of the Barr Trail back down to the parking lot.
I was invited to ‘do the incline’ on Christmas day, and
since the invite was for 10am I figured sure! I tend to be an over-planner, so I left my house early and my pack
included microspikes (not necessary). The invite said we’d all meet at Manitou Park and carpool there.I knew 3 people who’d RSVP’d, so I figured I’d
Well, when I got there the group chat started lighting up
with everyone’s whereabouts.There were
a few people at the park, but everyone I knew was already at the incline.Hmmm. I talked with the group in the parking lot, realized they were the ‘4
hour crew’ and thought it’d be better if I just drove up to the Incline parking
lot by myself.
As I was leaving the park I saw someone I recognized from Villa
heading down.He said there was plenty
of parking in the incline lot.I met Tim
about halfway up Ruxton Ave and gave him a ride to the top.Parking was only $5 (Woot!I’d thought it’d be $10).We met Jill at the bottom. She was super
excited her son gave her a Navy running set for Christmas. She’s so proud of
Tim and I knew we’d have different speeds, so we hiked for about
30 seconds together before splitting off. The trail actually looks great since they re-did it (for the third time…).
About halfway up there was a decorated Christmas Tree
Even though it was brisk when I started, pretty soon it got
warm due to the exercise.I was
sweating!I knew from past experience
most people time their hike, which means it’s a personal competition to do
better each time than you did the last time. I was exhausted about half way in, but kept trudging on.The most difficult part was breathing, which
I found curious?My body wasn’t tired,
but I had to stop to catch my breath. This was maddening!Hey, I’m used
to doing hikes above treeline, why was this so difficult?In any event, my time was 35 minutes 35
seconds to summit, which is a great time! I’m proud to say no one passed me on the way up!
At the top there was a decorated Christmas Tree.
I admired it (and the view) until Tim summited, and then we
hiked down the Barr Trail together.I
drove home, and woke the kids up to celebrate Christmas!
This is the third time I’ve hiked the incline.I usually avoid it on principle, but was
seriously glad I’d hiked today!Being
social is difficult for me:this was a
nice segway into socialization… lol!