Ormes Peak – 9727’

RT Length: 1.91 miles

Elevation Gain: 606’

Last on my list of peaks for the day was Ormes Peak.  I drove 1.7 miles further than where I parked for Notch Mountain, turned right onto 303, and continued as far as I could before the snow took over the road.  There were several mud puddles here, and I had fun running my truck through them and getting mud on my tires.

This puddle was particularly satisfying, as it was covered in ice and all of it broke when I crashed through it with my truck.  Also, the windows were open and I may have accidentally got some mud inside my truck (I closed my windows on the way out)

About half a mile from the trailhead the road became impassible. I parked, and was on my way.

I followed the road for half a mile to an obvious turnoff, and turned left.

Here’s an overall view of the route:

Here’s the junction where you turn left and follow a ‘trail’

This is an area you could disperse camp for the night.

What there was of a trail was covered in snow, which made the cairns helpful.  I just kept heading east

I came across some turkey tracks

And continued heading east until I made it to the ridge.  Once at the ridge I headed north, ascended a small class 2 gully, and was at the summit!

There was a summit marker here, but no register, so I left one

And took a summit photo

There was a great view of the back side of Blodgett Peak

And also of Pikes Peak

I headed back the way I’d come, but quickly became disoriented:  in fact, I never saw a cairn.  I went too far south, but it was easy to correct my mistake:  I headed west and soon came to the dispersed camping area.

Which led me back to the road and my truck

It was still early, and there were several other peaks in t he area I could have attempted, but I also had to get to work, so I stopped my tracker and was on my way

I kept driving north, towards Woodland Park to make sure the road was clear:  I may just attempt a few more peaks out this way next week…

“Notch Mountain” – 9665’

RT Length:  .64 miles

Elevation Gain: 359’

Second up for the day was Notch Mountain.  This was a very quick hike, and I’d recommend linking all three up together (or more).  Just for reference, I hiked Tuesday Peak, Notch Mountain, and Ormes Peak today.  From where I was parked for Tuesday Peak I drove 1.15 miles further north on Rampart Range Road.  If you’re starting from Rampart Range Road in Garden of the Gods it will be 13.15 miles total to the parking area for Notch Mountain.  As I was driving, I could see “Notch Mountain” ahead of me.

I parked at the base of the ridge and started hiking.  This is a quick and easy ridge hike, starting in the burn area

The most difficult part of this hike was navigating all of the deadfall.  I just kept heading northeast along the ridge.

This brought me to a rocky area

And then, I was suddenly at the summit. The summit is relatively large and flat.

I took a photo to prove I’d summited, and left a summit register (no marker on this peak)

The views aren’t that good here, because the trees on the summit obscure them.  The good part is there are actually trees at the summit that made it through the fires

Here’s a view of Tuesday Peak from the summit of “Notch Mountain”

I turned and headed back down the ridge.

And my truck

The entire hike probably took 20 minutes.

Here’s a picture of the route from Tuesday Peak

Now, on to the next trailhead!

Tuesday Peak – 9620’

RT Length: 1.49 miles

Elevation Gain:  323’

It’s springtime, and in the spring I either travel to state highpoints, or stay local and hit county highpoints.  They traditionally open Rampart Range Road every year on April 1, and when I heard the road was open, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful (if windy) day and hit some highpoints. This is the first of 3 El Paso County highpoints I hiked this day.

I started at the southern entrance to Rampart Range Road, near balanced rock inside Garden of the Gods.

As the sun rose, I was able to see a lot of the Waldo Canyon burn scar.  It doesn’t look like much has grown back in the 9 years since the fire.

I drove along the 2WD dirt road for 12 miles, and parked at a small parking area for trail 644.  There’s a plaque here commemorating the road

I gathered my hear and continued hiking along the road to the trailhead.  It was a short distance (less than a quarter of a mile), and in the summer, you might be able to park at the actual start.

The trailhead starts at a bend in the road, marked by broken barbed wire and hot pink surveyor’s tape.  On a topo map it says this is 4WD road 300Q.  It’s been a very, very long time since this was ever a road.  Now it looks like a teenage hangout/camping area, littered with broken glass and discarded remnants of campfire circles.

I headed northeast, following the ridge to the right

I came to a small dip, where I could clearly see the peak

Now I stayed to the left (north) side of the ridge. There were a lot of downed trees, but nothing that kept me from making it to the peak.  There was snow here, but not enough to need traction.  I did posthole a bit. I aimed for the small saddle

Once at the saddle there was some class 2 scrambling to do to make it to the summit. This is much easier than it looks.

Here’s a picture of the summit

I knew I was at the summit because there was a summit marker.  I left a summit register at the marker

And took a picture at the summit with Pikes Peak in the background

It was very windy, so I didn’t stay long, and quickly retraced my steps back to the saddle.  Here’s the overall route

And step by step

Back down the dip, where there are some very faint tire tracks that have now become social/game trails

And following the ridge southwest to the road

I then followed the road back to my truck.

This was a quick and simple hike.  Here’s a topo map of my route (I parked just before 644):

Now, on to the next trailhead!

Raspberry Mountain – 10,605

RT Length:  6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1579’

I arrived at the trailhead to find the roads icy but plowed all the way to the winter closure.  I was actually kind of surprised to find the gate closed, and this altered my plans just a little bit:  I’d planned to drive down the road to other peaks after this one.  With the road closed I didn’t have enough time.  I parked my truck and gathered my gear, noticing there was a light on in the vehicle next to me.  No one was inside the vehicle, and the doors were locked, so I couldn’t turn the lights off for them.  I’m guessing they were hiking Pikes Peak today, and would most likely run down their battery.  Luckily this is a popular trailhead, so they should be able to find help nearby.

It was a cold morning (once again, below 12 degrees) so I put on all my gear and set out just as it was beginning to get light.  I love hiking without a flashlight!  I walked past the gate and followed the road for .7 miles

After .7 miles I came to the Raspberry Mountain Trailhead

From here on it was a very simple hike: I just followed the bootpack.  In summer months this would be an easy to follow trail.  I had on microspikes, and didn’t need traction.  From the trailhead it was 2.5 miles of hiking north to the summit, following the Ring the Peak Trail

I passed through a small meadow

And then gained and lost some elevation as I rounded the west side of the mountain.  At the top of this small saddle there’s a trailhead of sorts.  Turn left here

As I followed the trail I could see Raspberry Mountain in the distance.  You actually summit from behind

I curved around the north side of the mountain and came to a rocky outcropping

This was class 3, but without any exposure and easy to navigate.  I just heel-toed it up this ramp

And I’d made it to the summit.  The summit had large rocks, but no exposure

There was also a nice view of the west side of Pikes Peak. This side doesn’t get much attention, I’m afraid.

There wasn’t a commit register, so I left one in an obvious place.  This is a Teller County Highpoint, so I found it odd there wasn’t a register.

My camera stopped working about now.  It froze, and I was told to replace the battery (this is what happens when it gets cold), and then when I tried to clean the lens the water instantly turned to ice.  So I started using my cell phone. Did I mention it was quite windy and cold?  Time to head back, first down the rocky area

Then re-tracing my steps back to the upper ‘trailhead’

And back to the lower trailhead

Following the dirt ‘road’ back to the gate closure

I made it back to my truck at 9:15am, with much of the day still ahead of me.  There were quite a few vehicles parked at the trailhead at this time. Today had been much easier than I’d anticipated, so I drove home and hopped on the treadmill for an hour.  Here’s a topo map of my route

AdAmAn Peak


RT Length: 15 miles

Elevation Gain: 4027’

Partner: Steffen

Steffen was interested in visiting Barr Camp, it felt like it’d been forever since I’d been,  I hadn’t been aware of and the weather was perfect, so today seemed like a great day to hike the Barr Trail.

I wasn’t able to find a lot of information on this peak, but looking at the Pikes Peak Atlas it seemed to be just behind Barr Camp. I figured we’d figure it out.

We arrived at the Barr Trail parking lot around 5:30am and were surprised the parking situation has (again) changed. As of today it’s $10 to park in the upper lot.  Last time I was here it was $40, but it’s been $5, $10, and $20 in the past.  The parking app is gone, and the fee machine is back.  This is all good news.

We gathered our gear and were ready to go at 5:45am. The guy who parked next to us unfortunately left the dome light on in his truck, but fortunately (maybe?) he also left his truck unlocked so we were able to shut it off for him.  He was planning on summiting Pikes Peak and most likely had a 12 hour day; we didn’t want him to come back to a dead battery.  Also, he was getting a late start if he truly intended to summit today. We ended up passing him within 20 minutes and let him know about the situation.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time describing the trail to Barr Camp because it’s an easy class 1 hike the entire way. There are very accurate mile markers every half mile, great signage, and as long as you stay on the trail it’s difficult to get lost, even in winter.  As we ascended the first 3 miles we had great views behind us of the city lights.  Too bad it’s difficult to get pictures at night.


We passed the cutoff for the incline as the sun started to rise


And as soon as we crossed the creek (which is usually dry in summer) the trail conditions changed.


They went from a bit of ice every once in a while to a frozen river of water that would be perfect for ice skating


This lasted until just after the junction with the experimental forest (turn left/southwest here)


This is where the trenched snow started, and also where I scattered wildflower seeds two years ago in memory of my Granny (yes, the seeds were local to the area)


If it were summer you could walk three people wide without tripping on each other along this trail, but today we walked single file.


Around mile 4 we heard a noise and looked up, confused to see a rather young looking squirrel jumping around in the trees. Shouldn’t he be hibernating?  The views of Pikes Peak were (as always) amazing today


I stopped for a second because I saw something curious on the ground: it looked like some sort of pollen (which made no sense:  it’s February) but upon closer inspection discovered they were little bugs on top of the snow!  I could see them jumping and wondered how in the world they got there?


We made it to the aspen grove just before Barr Camp and I took a picture: I have a picture of this grove in every season except winter, and was excited to add this one to my collection.


From the aspen grove it’s a quick jaunt to Barr Camp



We decided to use the restrooms there and then went inside to inquire about PT 10245’



The caretaker didn’t know what PT 10245’ was, but when we looked at the Pikes Peak Atlas he said they called it “AdAmAn Peak”. (Note, this ended up being a different peak altogether).  In the summer there’s a nice trail that will get you within a few dozen yards of the peak, but since it was winter the trail was covered in snow.  He said to go up, then down, then up again, and then back down, heading northwest.  Then there would be quartz rocks on the ground in an arrow showing us where to go (but those would be covered in snow as well).  We couldn’t miss it.

Um, ok. Good thing we’re good with a map and compass!  We exited the lodge, put on our microspikes, and were on our way.  We took the Barr Trail again a little bit southwest (just to the end of the fence) and turned right (north) towards Elk Park on trail 652.


The caretaker had been correct: the trail was covered in snow, but some of the time we could make out where the trail was.  We hadn’t brought our snowshoes, so we were having a time getting snow in our shoes (and pants, etc.).  Next time remind me to bring gaiters.



We hiked on this trail for almost exactly half a mile, and we did indeed have a great view of the summit from the trail. I started to worry we wouldn’t be able to summit today:  I hadn’t brought any rope and that summit looked like it needed rope!


The trick to this summit is to summit from the west. After half a mile we came to a small saddle and decided to turn right and head for the summit (this is how the caretaker should have described the route to us:  follow the trail until you come to the saddle, turn right, and then scramble to the summit).  Coincidentally, there were blue dots spray painted on the trees here, a good indication that’s where you should turn


There was no visible trail here, so we just aimed for the summit block (east)


Here’s how we summited:




It was a class 3 scramble and tons of fun! My advice is to initially go left up the rocks, but you summit more near the middle of the rocks.  The summit was flatter and larger than I’d anticipated



There were some great views!




I’ve never seen Pikes Peak from this angle before…


There wasn’t a summit register (we looked longer than we should for one)

Time to head down. It’s not as scary as it looks…



We followed our tracks back to Barr Camp, and noticed our tracks were filled with thousands of those little bugs already! Yuck!  I went home and researched them and apparently they live under the snow until it’s a nice day out, and then they hang out on top of the snow.  They were very, very small.  So small I’m thinking we were probably breathing them in and not noticing it.  Yes, those little black dots are the bugs.


We made it back to Barr Camp and decided to buy a protein bar and leave a donation (hey, we used their bathrooms). I noticed the stream where I usually filter water was just a trickle


The hike back down was uneventful except for the flight for life helicopter we saw making a beeline for Pikes Peak (it never landed). Actually, the hike was beautiful!  I’ve hiked this trail dozens of times and I never get tired of it!  We kept our microspikes on the entire way, even though they weren’t necessary most of the time.  The trail cleared and opened up around the incline junction


We made it back to my truck a little before 12:45pm, making this a 15 mile hike with 4027’ of elevation gain in 7 hours.


This was a really nice trail with decent elevation gain you don’t notice much because it’s so gradual.

Incline X 2 and Rocky Mountain – 9250


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

Heizer Trail to Barr Trail


UPDATED for 2021

RT Length: 15 miles

Elevation Gain: 4300’

I hiked part of the Heizer trail earlier this year when I was a bit rushed for time, so today I decided to hike it all the way to the Barr Trail.

I parked just outside of Cascade Park (the ONLY place you’re allowed to park to hike this trail).


And began by walking down the street and up the hill to the left. Once at the top of the driveway, the trail starts to the left.


I began at 7am.  The trail conditions varied from completely clear, to covered in snow, to covered in ice.  I never needed microspikes, but they would have come in handy crossing a couple of small streams (I had them but didn’t want to take the time to put them on:  I just looked for a safer route and slipped a lot but never fell).

4 Trail Conditions

The trail had awesome signs indicating which trails were which.  I LOVE these kinds of signs!  There was no ambiguity:  I could have hiked this route without a topo map.


I hiked up the Heizer Trail, over Cascade Mountain (9387’) and down to the Manitou Reservoir and Trail 638.  This is where I lost about 2000’ in elevation (to be gained again on the way back).  There were tons of signs letting me know I was in a watershed area and to hike off trail.  From here I crossed French Creek and saw a rock painted like a fish.  I’m assuming this part of the creek usually has more water…


Shortly after crossing French Creek I came to some amazing views of Pikes Peak!  It’s wonderful how many different views this mountain offers!


The view never gets old!


From here signs indicated it was another 2.5 miles to Barr Trail, but it seemed much, much longer than that.  I got in a lot of good thinking.  After what seemed like forever I was deposited onto the Barr Trail.  Here:


Immediately I thought: NO WAY!!!  This CANNOT be where I’m supposed to end up?  I thought I was supposed to connect close to Barr Camp, and I knew just by looking at where I was it was still miles away!  I decided to hike up Barr Trail to the nearest mile marker sign.  They’re placed every half mile, so the most I’d need to hike to get an accurate accounting of where I was was only half a mile.  I hiked almost half a mile and saw this sign:  MM5!!!


I didn’t really mentally calculate the distance I’d be hiking today, and it wasn’t until I hit this part of the Barr trail it hit me just how long this hike actually was.   Hiking in from Heizer Trail added on 3 miles each way to Barr Camp… that meant this was an 18 mile round trip hike!  Hmmm…  Barr Camp was still almost 2 miles ahead of me.  I looked at the time:  I still had an hour before I had to turn back, so I had plenty of time, but when I looked up and saw those clouds moving in I knew I had to turn back:  those were snow clouds, and forming rapidly.

I sighed inwardly:  Oh well, I’ve been to Barr Camp over a dozen times.  My main goal today was to find out where the Heizer trail connected with the Barr Trail, and I figured it out:  at about MM4.5  I still had a minimum of 3 hours of hiking ahead of me, and needed to get a move on to stay ahead of that snow.

The hike back seemed shorter than the hike in, but it still went on forever, through the woods and over several mountains.  Here’s a view of Pikes Peak on the way back:


The 2000’ in elevation gain on the way back didn’t hurt as much as I’d anticipated, and when I got to Cascade Mountain I saw something I hadn’t on the way in: A small piece of paper under a rock on a boulder.  It was a Chinese Drawing.  I left it there for whomever it was intended and began my hike down the Heizer Trail.  That part of the hike seriously took forever!  Those switchbacks never end!


About halfway down the mountain I saw a couple with a dog, headed to Hurricane Canyon.  I’ll probably head there next, as it looks interesting!  They were the only people I saw all day (besides a runner along the Barr Trail heading to Barr Camp).

I made it back to my truck at 1pm, just as the first snowflakes were beginning to fall.  I’d made the right choice to turn back when I did!  Soon it was a whiteout, but I was in my truck, so all was well.

So today I hiked 15 miles in 6 hours with 4300+ feet of elevation gain.  Here’s a map of my route:


My First Winter 14er – Pikes Peak 14,115, Devils Playground 13,070, Little Pikes Peak 13,363

1 - 13

I know this trip report won’t sound like a big deal to most serious 14er hikers, but I have Raynaud’s, which means my body completely shuts down in the cold.  My fingers and toes turn white, they lose function, and I can’t walk, talk or use my hands or feet.  No, foot/hand warmers don’t work.  Neither does layering.  The fact I was able to complete a winter 14er, even an easy one in an easy year, was a huge accomplishment for me.  Here’s the trip report:

Devil’s Playground – 13,070

Little Pikes Peak 13,363

Pikes Peak 14,115

Elevation Gain 4300’

RT 14 miles, 7.5 hours

Starting from Crags Campground

Brought microspikes but didn’t use them (I probably should have though).  They will be useful in the next few days.

I’ve been trying to do this hike for months, but the weather forecast is always terrible in the winter at the top of Pikes Peak (today said 55mph wind gusts and -10* wind chill).  However, last weekend I used a new jacket my mom got me, and while I was hiking I was actually hot and had to take it off, so I figured even though the weather was terrible it was a great chance to see what this jacket could do!

Also, I’d just picked up a pair of men’s work gloves (fleece) at Walmart for $6 that indicated they worked even in the worst of weather.  I was seriously skeptical but willing to try anything:  my fingers are always the first to lose function, and I can never get them warmed up again until I go back down in altitude (kind of like altitude sickness for my extremities).

My goal was to hike to Devil’s Playground, and possibly hike up Little Pikes Peak.  I was thinking I’d check a couple of 13ers off my list (I know they aren’t ranked, etc.)  I had no intention of hiking Pikes Peak today.  I’ve hiked it 12 times (from Barr Trail) and had no need to do it again.  I just wanted to see what this jacket and pair of gloves could do.

I used the Crags Trailhead.  The gates were open but the 3 mile dirt road was covered in a layer of packed down snow.


I arrived at 6:45am and was the only one in the parking lot.  The bathrooms were locked (presumably for winter) so I got my gear together and started at 7am. It was 21*.


The trail was very well marked (I love that!).  It was also easy to follow, even with the snow.  It looked like someone had tried to cross country ski in the area.  I’m pretty sure it didn’t end well.


I took trail #664A for what seemed like forever before making it to treeline.  I mean forever!  The entire trail was covered in about 3-6 inches of packed snow (more in the drifts) and while I could hear the wind the trees blocked it from reaching me.  It was slow going because the snow was a bit slippery and I had to watch each foot placement in the rocky areas.  I had microspikes but didn’t use them because I didn’t think they’d make me any faster/more secure.


Here’s a photo of the trail as soon as you get above treeline: It’s straight up a mild, well maintained, snow covered drainage/gulley.  This is where the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  It didn’t stop until I reached this point again on my way back down.


I continued hiking around some large rock formations and then areas of heavy snow.


The snow was beautiful, and had a sound.  I’d say it sounded like glitter, but since that’s not possible I’ll instead say it sounded like very small chards of glass bouncing off the floor.  But to me it had the sound of glitter.


I wasn’t cold yet, but I wasn’t at a high elevation either.  I was at 11,500 feet.  Eventually I got to the Pikes Peak Highway.  I crossed the road and this is where the wind really picked up.  I could see it blowing from the west, up and over the ridge.


It was phenomenal to watch!  I could see the wind as it ascended the basin, and follow it as it blew up and over the ridge.  I knew when to brace myself for impact, which was important because it knocked me over a few times.

A scarf was necessary. The only place I was cold was where my skin was exposed (woot!  High five for the jacket and gloves!).  I had to tuck my scarf into my jacket because the wind kept causing it to unravel.  Wind was probably 25mph here.


Devil’s Playground was dry of snow except for when the wind blew… It was about 15* here (without wind).


The trail following the Pikes Peak Highway was easy to follow because of the snow drifts.  I either avoided them or sank into them and trudged on.  I was miserable due to the wind, but I was doing this!!!  Still not cold!


The highway was completely devoid of snow, and curiously there was someone with a plow going up and down the road.  They stopped twice to watch me, presumably because I was CRAZY to be out hiking in this WIND.  I figured they weren’t taking any chances with icy roads either in all this wind.  This also told me they were opening up the summit house today.  Woot!

The pictures just don’t do this wind justice.  It was intense and insane (and mostly invisible).

Here’s where the wind became intense for the first time.  Gusts were about 55mph and sustained.  I’d stand there for 30 seconds waiting for the ice intensity to pass.  The wind made it cold, but not so cold I needed to stop.

1 - 13

Here’s a view of Pikes Peak (center) and Little Pikes Peak (right).  Little Pikes Peak was the reason I was taking this hike.  There’s no path to the summit, so I’d have to just find a route and follow it.  Here’s where I made my first mistake.


I was coming from the North, and could only see one side of the mountain.  I picked a route that looked hikeable and followed it.  I stopped to breathe for a bit and take in my surroundings and realized I’d almost hiked to a place I couldn’t hike down from!  The snow was heavy, and I’d have to say if there’s any avalanche danger (yes, I know it’s small) it’d be here.  This snow was loose and I was in a precarious position, jumping from rock to rock:   If I missed one I’d be sliding for quite a ways!  I quickly hiked back the way I’d come and decided to scout out a better route up.


I found a much drier route to the south and made it to the summit of Little Pikes Peak after falling through and hitting just a few small boulders hidden in the snow (no big deal, I kind of expected this to happen).  Here’s a summit selfie of me trying to smile (my lips were frozen).  Moral of this story… summit Little Pikes Peak from the South!  That side had snow, but no where near as much as the north side (I know, common sense…)


I sat on the summit and looked at Pikes Peak.  It was much closer than I’d assumed.  It couldn’t be much more than a mile or a mile and a half away.  I was intrigued.  For some reason I really wanted to summit from this route.  I’ve summited 35 peaks solo, but Pikes was my first summit and I did it with a group and on another route.  I kind of wanted to be able to say I’d summited this peak solo as well.  And I’d never done a winter 14er (several winter 13ers, but no 14er in winter).  The only problem was I could tell the toughest weather was ahead of me.  I knew the temperature would drop as I ascended, and that wind blowing snow looked insane!  I was already cold (but not as cold as I’d anticipated).  I hate regrets, so I decided to go for it:  I could always turn back if it got too difficult, right?


I stashed my trekking pole and began the final push to the summit.  I was right, this was the most difficult part of the hike:  The temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  Here’s what it looks like just as the wind and snow hits you at -10* and 55mph…


Unfortunately, the wind didn’t come in gusts:  it just kept coming.  I’d brace myself, look for a cairn, note its position, put my head down and trudge towards it with the wind blasting me from the front.  It was miserable and slow going but I had a plan.  And while I should have been a popsicle in this weather I wasn’t!  This was doable!


The cairns were extremely helpful since the route was covered in snow.  I knew others must have hiked this trail in the past few days, but as I looked back at my tracks they were quickly covered by snow blown by wind just seconds after I’d passed.  This meant I had to watch every step forward because I was kind of ‘breaking trail’ and didn’t know the best route.  The rocks were slippery and again there were times I’d misjudge and my shin would get bruised from falling through snow and hitting rock.  I thought about but didn’t use my microspikes yet again.


The wind didn’t stop, but as I gained the final pitch the ice and snow was taken out of the mix.  This was a nice surprise!  I summited at 11am.  I still couldn’t feel my lips but was able to force an awkward smile for a summit selfie!


The summit was disappointingly dry for winter, but I’m pretty sure that’s normal for a summit (due to wind).  Almost no one was there (3 cars in the parking lot?) so I walked across the parking lot and into the summit house.  I briefly thought to myself it was cheating to go inside and get warm, but my water had frozen on the hike and I wanted a drink from the water fountain.  The pipes had frozen in the summit house as well so I bought a Gatorade and immediately started feeling overheated.  This was not good.  It was way too hot in there and I was getting a headache.  I had to get back down that mountain.  I remarked to the cashier how I was shocked they were open today. Her reply told me she’s obviously had other plans besides work today and was surprised as well.

I met a group of three guys from Texas who’d driven to the top.  They were impressed to hear I’d hiked up in this weather, and confused when I told them I was heading back down: “That’s the only way to get back to my truck”…

I bundled back up and headed outside.  My path back down looked amazing.


The wind was constant during the hike back down, but the jacket and gloves had done their job:  I still had full function of my fingers!  Success!

The hike back down seemed much longer than the hike up.  I kept thinking to myself it was crazy I’d hiked all this way straight up!  I like elevation gain and tend to forget how much uphill I do on the way up until I’m on the way back down…

I marveled at the south side of Pikes Peak, and totally understand why they want to make this area into a ski area:  It would totally work (if we forget about destroying tundra and wildlife).


Just before making it back to the trailhead I noticed prints that looked like bear tracks.  They were obviously not fresh, but I was pretty sure that’s what I was seeing and they’d been created within the past few weeks or so.  Hmmm… it seems someone woke up early and hopefully went back to bed.  This doesn’t surprise me, due to our unseasonably warm winter and the fact I was hiking near a campground.


The last 3 miles of the hike I was roasting.  I wanted to take off my jacket but was too stubborn to stop, so instead I took off my hat, gloves, and scarf while I was hiking and just carried the items.  I was curiously pleased I was so warm in 30* weather I was taking off accessories.  I made it back down at 2:30pm, making this a 7.5 hour hike.  Slow for me, but I blame the wind…

All in all today’s adventure was a total success!  The weather was brutal but having the right gear made all the difference.  I wasn’t nearly as miserable as I’d anticipated I’d be.  I learned a lot about my abilities, did a reality check on things I already knew but ‘forgot’, and can now say I’ve hiked a winter 14er!  Woot!

Pikes Peak Summit Sticker can be bought here

Cameron Cone – 10,707′


RT Length – 9 miles, Elevation Gain – 4235’

Note:  This hike is difficult.  The elevation gain is intense and the trail difficult to follow.

I’ve wanted to take this hike for years, but it starts at the Barr Trail parking lot, which has been having fee issues (as in $40 per day parking fee issues).  There’s the incline lot that charges $5 for a maximum of 4 hours directly adjacent to the Barr lot, but I wasn’t 100% sure I could do the hike in 4 hours and the signs warning you’ll get towed if you stay there longer than 4 hours are daunting.

Today the forecast for the high country (anything over 12,000’) was 10-20 degree weather with wind gusts of 20-25mph (read feels like -5 degrees), so while it was beautiful outside, I wasn’t hiking any 13er or 14ers.  It was a shame because it was such a beautiful day!

The weather in Colorado Springs was forecasted for high 50s-low 60s: it was just too good to pass up, so I did the math, and figured I could probably hike the 9 miles in 4 hours.

I made it to the trailhead at 6:51am and was hiking at 7am.

To get to the trailhead, you park at the incline lot, and then backtrack back to Ruxton Avenue and hike west through a street lined with houses, go left around the locked gate, and continue on the road until it comes to a dead end at a stream crossing.  Cross the stream (on two separate bridges) and continue up the hill to the cog railway tracks.

2 trailhead

You aren’t supposed to hike along the tracks, but luckily after about 10 yards or less you’ll come upon utility pole 044954.  Just before you reach the pole the trail starts to your left.  It continues up the hillside, paralleling the tracks for a bit before turning southwest up the hill.


I came upon a really big boulder outcropping that looked like a camping spot.  The boulders were positioned in such a way that if you descended the tunnel about 15 feet you were in a type of boulder-cave.    It was surprisingly clean, and I may come back later to visit again.


The trail continued up, up, and up, with just a little bit of snow until I reached Magog Rock.  This rock is gigantic!  Pictures just don’t do it justice.


There was some easy class 3 scrambling that required all 4 limbs, but once I reached the top the views were great!


I followed the trail west and over a ridge.  This ridge looked like an excellent place to camp in the summer!


After the ridge I reached Gog rock and passed it by hugging the rock to the left  (Yes, the rocks were named after the Magog and Gog in Ezekiel and Revelations… check out your Bible for details).


This is where the snow on the trail started picking up.  It was over a foot deep in some places, and I could tell not many people hike this route, as I was breaking trail and it hasn’t snowed since last week. This was about the halfway point of the hike.


I passed a clearing that looked like another great place to camp, but also like it was an area that sees a lot of quads and motorcycles.  It had a lot of open space, and a sign indicating I was crossing over into National Forest Land.  Here I came upon a road and followed it for about half a mile.  Unfortunately, the service road dropped in elevation (which meant I was going to have to make that up).  I kept wondering if I was on the right path because it was taking me away from Cameron Cone, but I knew I was in the right area when I saw the Cameron Cone trail sign.


This is where the hike got difficult.  There was quite a bit of snow on the trail, and the trail itself weaved in and out of the trees.  If you’re not comfortable with a topo map and compass don’t continue any further:  The trail kept taking me south, which I thought couldn’t be right (but it was) as it was taking me away from the summit.  It turns out you need to summit from the South.  The last mile or so of this hike is completely uphill with intense elevation gain:  the mountain doesn’t relent, and by this point you’re already tired from the 3000+ feet in elevation gain you’ve already done.  It was slow going with no clearly defined path and no clear view of the summit (since it’s treed).


I summitted at 9:31am:  It had taken me 2.5 hours to hike 4235’ in elevation gain in 5 miles.    Not bad, considering it was all uphill.  I spent about 20 minutes on the treed summit taking pictures and enjoying the view.


I found the place where the summit marker should have been, and was upset to find someone had removed it.  Summit markers are few and far between these days…


Now for the hike back down.  The steep elevation meant I was slipping and sliding on all that snow on my downward trek.  At times it felt as if I were skiing.  Microspikes were not necessary, but snowshoes would have been useful.  When I made it back to the Cameron Cone cutoff I had to take off my hiking boots and shake out all the snow and scree.

I made it back down to the Gog rock area and decided to do a bit of Yoga to stretch.  I knew I should try to make it back down to the parking lot as quickly as possible, but I really wanted to enjoy this beautiful day (and see if they really would tow my truck if I wasn’t there on time… I had a feeling 30 minutes wouldn’t matter when there were less than 20 cars in a lot that would hold 200+).


The rest of the hike was pleasant and uneventful.  I crossed the cog tracks and the stream (beautifully frozen in February)


I made it back to my truck at 11:30am, which meant the 9 mile hike took me 4.5 hours to complete.  And my truck was still there!  Woot!

Here’s the route I took:


12th Summit of Pikes Peak – The Flag Photo

I really didn’t want to go.
I mean really.   I didn’t.  I’ve summited Pikes Peak 11 times (9 so far
this year), and honestly I was “done” at about the 8th summit.  Not done forever, but I felt accomplished and
didn’t feel like I needed to hike again this year.  Then some compelling reasons came up and the
weather was unusually pleasant for this time of year so I went again.  However, last time I missed a great photo op
(due to clouds) and felt like I just HAD to summit again if the weather

The picture I wanted was specific.  It required being above treeline before the
sunrise.  That means hiking about 9 miles
in the dark and another mile in the dawns early light.  Added to this is the fact I might not even
get the photo.  I needed a specific
sunrise, and while Colorado has over 300 days of sunshine a year and there’s a
75% chance there will be no clouds on any given day, there’s still a
possibility there will be clouds in the morning blocking the sunrise (like last

Did I mention the time change?  I know from experience I can hike the
required 10 miles in about 3 ½ hours.
Starting at 2am that was more than perfect to be well above treeline before
the time change, but with clocks rolling back an hour this week and the sunrise
changing for this time of year I wasn’t quite sure of the exact time it would
rise (no, those online sunrise/sunset indicators don’t count in this instance,
since I’d be above treeline, miles above the city itself).

So I made some calculations and thought setting my alarm for
1:40am sounded like a good idea.  It
usually takes me an hour to get up, get ready, and make it to the trailhead
(even with prepping the night before), so this should give me 20 extra minutes
to get where I needed to be.  Just trust
me here, the math works.

I woke up and didn’t want to go.  I looked outside, knowing there would be no moon
because I watched it set while driving home the night before.  I was looking to see if there were clouds.  There weren’t.  It was brisk and there were a lot of
stars.  OK, time to turn on the coffee.

I got dressed and added extra layers.  Forecasts projected weather in the high 20s
and very low 30s, with temperatures in the low 20s at the summit, not
accounting for wind.  I have Raynaud’s,
which means I’m extra susceptible to frostbite and extreme changes in
temperature.  I put on two pairs of socks
(one knee-highs), shorts, two pairs of pants (including thermals), a workout
top, thermal sweater, and North Face Jacket (thanks Thomas).  And two pairs of gloves.  And a scarf for good measure.

I drove to Manitou.
Slowly.  I was actually going
about 5mph below the speed limit (which for me is VERY slow).  The temperature gauge in my truck kept
dropping.  It started out at 43, went
down to 33, then up again to 36.
Wonderful.  It was going to be

I drove through Manitou Springs and was greeted by a rather
large buck


And a raccoon.  The
raccoon was expected:  I’ve seen him and
his pal a few times here as he favors this trash can.  I backed up my truck to get a picture (no one
else was on the road at 2am) and he scuttled away (hence the hasty backside


I drove up the hill by the Cog Railway and was a bit
disappointed to notice there weren’t ANY other cars in the parking lot.  Hmmmm.
I got out of my truck.  It was more
than brisk.  I took my time paying the
$10 parking fee at the meter.

You’d think by this point I was 100% committed to hiking
Pikes Peak today.  I mean, I’d eaten a
big bowl of chili (with extra cheese) last night to gain calories, and this
morning had a full spoonful of peanut butter/Nutella in preparation (adding
Nutella actually helped make the peanut butter a bit more palatable this
time:  I ate the whole thing).  I’d woken up at 1:40 in the morning, drove 30
miles to the trailhead, and was wearing triple layers of clothes.   Yes,
you’d think by this point I’d be certain I was hiking this morning, but I wasn’t.  Even after paying the $10 parking fee.  I slowly walked back to my car and added
layers.  It was cold.  I hate being cold.  

I’m not sure why I chose to start hiking, but I did.  It was probably because I didn’t want to lose
out on the opportunity to get that picture I wanted (because I really didn’t want
to take this 26 mile hike in the cold).

I started at 2:43am.
At MM ½  I began taking off
layers.  I was getting overheated.  Fast.  I
could actually feel beads of sweat rolling down my breastbone.  This was something new.  It was cold out, but I was overheating.  I contributed it to the fact I was wearing
Thomas’ North Face Jacket.  It was
surprisingly lightweight, but quite a heater!
I may be stealing it again in the future.

At MM2 I started putting layers back on.  This change in temperature was to be
expected.  The temperature often shifts
on this hike, and is usually pretty cold from MM2-MM5.  

I hiked on in the darkness.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s “fun” to hike alone in the dark because
it’s not.  It’s scary.  Yes, I’ve done it before, and I was doing it
again, but only because I had a goal in mind.
I REALLY wanted that picture.  I
had no desire to hike alone in the dark, but saw it as a necessary evil to
reach what I was hoping would be a fruitful end result.  It was a gamble I was willing to take.

On a positive note there was no wind.  I didn’t see anyone at Barr Camp, but I didn’t
really expect to as there weren’t any cars in the parking lot.  I also didn’t expect to see or hear anyone, so
all noises I heard were not expected to be human.  

While I was still a bit uneasy about the hike (the whole
alone in the dark thing) I was feeling pretty good about my physical
stamina.  I wasn’t freezing and while I
wasn’t going for a personal best I was hiking at a pretty quick pace.  

I was at about MM8 (no mile markers past 6.5 so I’m
guestimating here) when the realization came upon me I might actually miss the
sunrise.  It was starting to get light
and I was still over a mile from where I needed to be.  At this point in the hike that meant about 30
minutes away.  I could tell by the way
the sky was brightening the sunrise would be a good one.  I knew I was playing a game with the timing
of this, but I’d be darned if I was going to hike 8 miles in the dark only to miss
my photo op by 2 minutes because I wasn’t hiking fast enough.  I did not want to take this hike again this

I took my hiking up a notch and felt it in my gluteus

No one was at the A-frame (as expected) so I continued
on.  When the sun rose I was exactly
where I needed to be.  It took about 15
minutes to rise, and I used all of those minutes to take pictures.  I had an exact picture in mind and was going
to do my best to actually get that picture I hiked all this way for.  I had to take off one pair of gloves to make
it happen, and about 5 minutes into taking pictures my fingers froze.  I kept snapping pics.  After taking about 200 photos this one was my


I started to get emotional.
I got the picture I’d wanted, and I just realized I was hiking Pikes
Peak, America’s Mountain, on election day.
How awesome is that?  I felt very
patriotic, and a bit sad I was the only one experiencing this.  In my head I sung “America the Beautiful” and
the “Star Spangled Banner”.  I went over
the meaning of the words to the poems by Katherine Lee Bates and Francis Scott
Key.  Line by line.  Yes, I’m a dork, but I was enjoying myself.

As I continued to hike I slowed down a bit, since I’d
already gotten what I wanted.    You might ask why didn’t I turn around and go
back down the mountain, since I’d gotten the photo I’d come for?  I was the only one on this mountain.  I could just tell people I’d summited and no
one would know the difference, right?

Well, you see, I’m stubborn.
I was now about 2 miles from the summit (30-45 minutes).  I couldn’t get this close and turn back.  So I kept on.
As the sun rose it got warmer (surprisingly, as usually it gets colder
as I ascend).  There was still ice in the
granite.  Not worth taking a picture of
as it was more than but similar to last week.
I found myself more thirsty than normal, and in need of more breaks than
usual.  I attributed it to “booking it”
that mile and a half for the sunrise photo.
I kept reminding myself to “stop-stopping”.  

At 7:50am I summited.
I was the only one at the top of Pikes Peak.  I sat down in the window of the old Summit
House and reflected on the hike so far.
I was so glad I’d hiked today!  I
always am.  I’ve never regretted a hike
up Pikes Peak.  They are always challenging,
surprisingly different, and I always learn something about myself as I
hike.  As I munched on my snack of dried
mangoes I composed a caption for my picture.
I wanted to capture the experience and share it with everyone, but knew
I’d never be able to.  I’m pretty patriotic,
and this election means a lot to me personally (another post), so I wanted to
get it right.  I’d actually teared up on
this hike thinking about the awesomeness of it all.  Here’s the caption I came up with:

There’s something
emotional and powerfully patriotic about summiting Americas Mountain on
Election Day. Vote People. #bythedawnsearlylight
#12thsummit  #pikespeak  #coloradomakesitsownflag

It’s not safe to stay at the summit for very
long (due to altitude, etc.) so I packed up and got ready to go.  My fingers were starting to freeze again, but
I took a few more pictures.  I was trying
to “prove” I’d summited without taking selfies (I’m not a fan of selfies).  I liked this shadow idea, and will probably
try to perfect it next summer as I don’t really like any of these.  I feel no need to do so this year.  


I saw a couple of pikas as I hiked down, but they are pretty
elusive creatures.  I’d see one run past,
it would squeak, then quickly hide.
Thus, no photos.  

I made it down to the A-frame in pretty good time.  I wasn’t going for a record, so I sat on a
rock outside the shelter and edited my pictures a bit, then posted them to
facebook.  It wasn’t lost on me how
awesome a view I had or how blessed I was to be right here, right now.  I could see myself as if I were standing
behind myself, watching me on the rock with the view.  This is why I hike.

I regretfully started my decent again knowing I was dawdling.  I saw someone running up.  I couldn’t tell if it was a guy or a girl. It
looked like a girl but he/she had a mustache? I once again thought to myself “no
matter how intense you are, there’s always someone more committed than you.”  I refuse to run.  I didn’t see this runner again, which means I
made it down before he/she did (a win considering he/she was running and I wasn’t).

I saw about 7 more people total.  That’s very few people for this hike, but it was
a Tuesday in November, and also election day, so I guess it was

My mind wandered and I thought about the perfect length of
time between hiking Pikes Peak.  Two
weeks ago I’d hiked it on a Saturday and then a Friday, and on Friday I was
slower than normal (so 6 days in-between summits was too short).  This time it had been 11 days since my last
hike and I felt pretty good, but not 100%.
I’m thinking 2 weeks between hikes would give me enough time to recover
before hiking again.

I’m not gonna lie, I was looking for a bear this trip.  I always am, but never seem to see one.  I did get a little surprise however around
MM1.5 on the way back:  As I was scanning
I saw a butt.  Seriously.  I stopped, turned back around to confirm, and
yes, what I saw was a butt.  But not one
belonging to a person: one attached to a rather large mule deer with its back
towards me, munching on leaves.  I
laughed and continued on.  It actually
looked at first like it belonged to a person… No picture because it was on the
hillside over from me covered in scrub oak and wouldn’t have turned out.  

I made it back at 12:23pm, making my total time 9 hours 40
minutes.  Not bad, considering I took
lengthy breaks this time. I drove home, took a bath, and was just getting into
bed hoping to get a 2 hour nap before the kids got home from school when I got
called into work.  Immediately.  To check an important voice mail.  Lovely.

Happy Election Day!

Pikes Peak Summit Sticker can be bought here