Hilliard Peak – 13,409 and Keefe Peak – 13,516

RT Length: 24.35 miles

Elevation Gain: 5700’

Due to weather issues, I did this as a multi-day trip. Due to permit issues, I camped just before the camping permit boundary for Conundrum Hot Springs (worked fabulously!!!). My stats are taken from several GPX files meshed together.

I started from the Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead at 4:45am, after a quick nap on Independence Pass after a long drive and a long day.  Here’s the trailhead:

I followed the class 1 trail for 6 miles to the permit boundary, which is noted by a very visible sign. 

It was obvious this is a popular camping spot (just before the permit boundary).  There are a lot of social trails that lead off into the trees as well for campsites, if you don’t want to camp right next to the sign.  Here’s where I camped.   It’s relatively close to the stream, which is great for filtering water

I set up my tent, as I planned on being here for a few days. The next morning, I started out at 4:45am.  The trail is still class 1, and crosses Conundrum Creek several times.  All creek crossings were easy.

After about 2 miles I came to the Conundrum Hot Springs campsites, an old abandoned cabin, and more small creek crossings.  I took the trail to the right towards Triangle Pass

I was now still on Trail 1981, headed southwest, into the willows

At 12000’ I left the trail, and followed a drainage west

At about 12200’ I turned right and headed north, across the basin.  Yes, there were a lot of crows. 

I kept heading north, skirting a small pond.  This was all class 2

My goal was to gain this ridge.  This was my route (still class 2)

Once on the ridge I placed a large cairn, turned left, and headed west up the ridge

The terrain quickly narrowed and became class 3, full of chossy, loose rock. It never got more difficult than class 3, but the terrain was sketchy.  I was able to stay directly on the ridge.

As the ridge rose, it curved, and I stayed more to the left

I topped out, turned the corner, and saw more class 3 ridge work as I now headed northwest

I lost a little bit of elevation, then followed the ridge to the summit

I summited Hilliard Peak at 9:45am

Hilliard Peak:

From Hilliard, I could see Keefe Peak to the northeast

But first, I was going to have to get over the crux of the route: This pointy mountain right here.

I followed the ridge northeast, and came across this fun formation. I easily passed it to the left

This brought me to a small saddle.  I ended up climbing this part by taking a game trail to the ridge, then crossing over to the right side and heading up

And now for the crux

This is the route I took

But there’s a lot you can’t see…  So here it is step by step.  This is class 4

This was a small, airy traverse, about 6 feet long, ad no more than a foot wide

The good news is after that it’s all class 2 to the top of Keefe Peak.

I summited Keefe Peak at 11am

Keefe Peak:

I decided to make this a loop, and head east down an old avalanche runout.  Let me preface this by saying it worked, but the runout is quickly growing back, and there was a ton of bushwhacking.  Plan your route carefully.  Here are some pictures of the route that led me directly back to the trail (1981) and Conundrum Creek below.

Here’s looking up at the route I took down.  You could also take this route up, and just do Keefe from this angle, and skip the class 4 section of the traverse.  It’s a lot of elevation gain in a short while though (3200’ in 7.5 miles) with a lot of initial bushwhacking, but it goes.  I came down the left side (when looking up), but would recommend sticking more to the right and avoiding the middle.

Back on the trail, I followed it back to my campsite, and stayed there for another night. 

Here’s a look at the route out from the campsite back to the trailhead.

And my topo map

13216 and 13537

RT Length:  25.61 miles

Elevation Gain:  5474’

Due to weather issues, I did this as a multi-day trip. Due to permit issues, I camped just before the camping permit boundary for Conundrum Hot Springs (worked fabulously!!!). My stats are taken from several GPX files meshed together.

I started from the Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead at 4:45am, after a quick nap on Independence Pass after a long drive and a long day.  Here’s the trailhead:

I followed the class 1 trail for 6 miles to the permit boundary, which is noted by a very visible sign. 

It was obvious this is a popular camping spot (just before the permit boundary).  There are a lot of social trails that lead off into the trees as well for campsites, if you don’t want to camp right next to the sign.  While I saw a US Forest Service truck in the parking lot, I didn’t see a service member all weekend.  Also, I’m not advocating anything negative here:  I understand why they have the permit system, I just think permit systems aren’t well implemented.  For example:  I couldn’t get a permit for this weekend, yet more than half the reserved sites were empty THE ENTIRE WEEKEND.  Here’s where I camped.   It’s relatively close to the stream, which is great for filtering water

I set up my tent, as I planned on being here for a few days, and was on the trail again by 8am. The trail is still class 1, and crosses Conundrum Creek several times.  All creek crossings were easy.

After about 2 miles I came to the Conundrum Hot Springs campsites, an old abandoned cabin, and more small creek crossings.  I took the trail to the right towards Triangle Pass

I was now still on Trail 1981, headed southwest, into the willows

At 12000’ I left the trail, and followed a drainage west

Now it was time to gain the ridge of 13216. 

This is the route I took

And some step-by-step pictures.  This was all class 2

When I made it to the ridge I turned left, and was surprised to find it wasn’t a straight shot to the summit.  I followed the ridge south

And was surprised once again to find this wasn’t the summit either.  It was a little further to the southwest.

It was all class 2 to the summit

I summited 13216 at 11:40am

PT 13216:

My next goal was 13537, to the north

I followed the ridge over Conundrum Pass, all class 2 to the pass

Once at Conundrum Pass/13216-13537 saddle, the route became a class 3 scramble.  From my visual it looked like a straightforward scramble up the ridge, all the way to the summit, but what I couldn’t see was a dip in the ridge.  I started my scramble up.  

I came to a false summit, and noticed I could no longer climb up:  I’d need to parallel the ridge and summit from the other side.

Here’s where I made a mistake.  I tried to traverse over to the other ridge too high:  I should have dropped down a few hundred feet, then re-ascended via the obvious gully.  The route I took was sketchy class 4.  Everything was unstable, rocks moved, and the scree was solid dirt with kitty litter sitting on top.  I would not recommend the route I took.  From below, this is the route I took.

And here are some pictures of that route.  Once again, I’d recommend dropping down further and ascending via the gully. My microspikes saved me here.

Eventually I came to a gully that looked like it went.  I was tired of the terrain I’d been traversing, and welcomed the gully, only to find it was just as bad.  Large loose rocks, hard dirt, kitty litter, etc. I headed towards the ridge.

Once on the ridge I turned left, and followed it south to the summit

I summited 13537 ay 2pm

PT 13537:

Originally, I’d planned on doing the entire traverse, but I could see clouds moving in.  Indeed, it started snowing and hailing on my decent, so it had been a good idea to call the ridge for the day and head back to camp. But I didn’t want to take the same route I’d taken in, because I felt it was too sketchy to repeat.  Instead, I decided to walk north down the ridge to where I’d seen the gully earlier, and descend that way. 

Here’s a look down that gully

And my route back into the basin

The gully was much steeper than it looked. I was glad I had on my microspikes. 

From below, here’s a look up that gully. It goes all the way to the ridge.

And now, to make my way back to the trail.  I aimed southeast, doing my best to avoid the large rock bands

When I could see PT 13216, I stayed high, and then descended via the same drainage I’d come in on. 

Back on Trail 1981, I followed it northeast, back to my campsite.

I stayed there for the night, but here are some pictures of the 6 mile hike out to an overflowing trailhead full of vehicles. 

And my topo map

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

Pilot Knob – 13,768

RT Length:  12.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 4162’

This was my second attempt of Pilot Knob, the first being a few years ago when I tried to link it up with Golden Horn and got caught up in some seriously scary scree.  This time I was approaching from the north, my only fear being lingering snow from an early September storm. 

I arrived at the Ice Lakes trailhead at 5am and was the only vehicle in the lot.  It was a balmy 22 degrees and since I wasn’t in a hurry I decided to take a nap in my truck until first light.  I was on the trail at 6:45am.  The trail starts at the obvious trailhead sign at the west end of the parking area

From here it was an easy hike on a class 1 trail all the way up to Ice Lakes Basin.  The avalanche area was easy to navigate. 

Stay left here

And continue to follow the trail to gain the basin

Once in the Ice Lakes Basin the trails get kind of goofy.  I skirted Ice Lake to the south and continued heading west.

After Ice Lake there’s a little stream to cross, and then the trail ends and the class 2 section/route finding begins.

Here’s an overall view of the route I took up to Pilot Knob

And step by step (sorry, I couldn’t resist; I thought this was cool)

I followed the drainage west up the basin

And once I reached the basin I turned right and headed for the gully that would lead me to the ridge

There are a lot of ways to ascend this gully, none of them fun.  The rock here is loose, the scree runs out below you, and there aren’t many handholds.  Basically, pick your line and head for the ridge. Microspikes and poles help. I took the solid line up, the dotted line down, but there are tons of options here

Once on the ridge I continued to skirt the north side of Pilot Knob.  There was a little bit of snow here, but nothing that required traction.  Here the wind picked up, and in the shadows it got really cold. 

I rounded the corner and picked up a faint trail in the scree that continued to skirt the mountain.  You basically want to stay high here.  The scree here is loose, but much, much more table than the scree when coming from the opposite direction (Golden Horn).

By sticking high here I came upon cairns that led me to the access gully.  This gully is extremely well cairned and easy to follow.  The climbing is class 3, bordering on class 4, and when you see a cairn and think to yourself “There’s no way I go over that”, you do.  Stick to the cairned route here; it goes.

Here are some highlights:  I followed the gully northeast to the ridge

Once on the ridge the scrambling got interesting.  This is class 4 and there’s exposure, but luckily the rock is grippy.  Here’s the exact route I took, staying to the left of the ridge

The last bit to the summit was underwhelming, and very, very windy.  And cold.  And windy. 

I summited Pilot Knob at 11am

Pilot Knob: 

Here’s a look down at the way I came in through Ice Lakes Basin

Time to head back.  Here’s an overall view of the ridge to the gully

And a step by step view back down the gully

Once down the gully, here’s the route back to the access gully

The access gully was much more fun do descend than ascend.  I put on my microspikes and literally scree-surfed the entire way down, stopping a few times when the rubble became dangerously fast. 

Once at the bottom of the gully I followed the same route out

Past Ice Lake and down into the lower basin.

And back down to the trailhead

I made it back to my truck at 2pm, making this a 12.6 mile hike with 4162’ of elevation gain in 7 hours.  On to the next trailhead!

Clark Peak – 13,580

RT Length: 25.36 Miles

Elevation Gain:  6619’

This was my second attempt of Clark Peak.  On the first attempt I’d been unaware there was a creek crossing, and the creek looked too high for me to safely cross in the dark.  A storm was coming in later in the day, so waiting for daylight hadn’t been an option.  I’d turned around and done another peak instead.  This time I was prepared (or so I thought) for the creek crossing.  Also, please don’t make the same mistake I did crossing the creek…

I drove to the trailhead the night before and got a few hours sleep before staring on the trail at 5:45am.  The trailhead has space for about 20 vehicles, and good signage

I started off following the Maroon Snowmass Trail south, and then southwest.  I went through two unlocked gates

And shortly after the second gate there’s an unmarked side trail that leads down to cross Snowmass Creek. However, after my last failed attempt I’d done more research, and was told I’d gone too far last time and to look for an easier crossing earlier.  So I did.  I ended up crossing the creek and then running into Beaver Ponds about 20 yards long.  I was able to gingerly cross them, stepping through a thin layer of ice while doing so.  I picked up a faint trail on the other side, which brought me to the actual trail, where I noticed last time I’d indeed been in the correct area.  Hmph.  So I’d done all that wading in cold water for nothing.  Here is where you should cross:

Doing so will bring you to the West Snowmass Creek Trail.  A well-defined, class 1 trail.

The trees were absolutely beautiful!  It was still early morning, so these pictures aren’t the greatest, but the trees had me daydreaming.

This is where I made my second mistake of the morning:  I missed the cutoff.  The cutoff comes after hiking for just over 4.5 miles.  It’s an obvious junction you can see if you’re not looking up at the trees. And cows (there were cows in the meadow). I ended up hiking quite a ways past this junction, just following the trail.  It wasn’t until I realized I was switchbacking and I wasn’t supposed to be that I noticed my mistake.  This mistake cost me well over a mile and added about 1000’ of elevation to the hike.  Here’s where you turn left

After hiking a few dozen yards south the trail abruptly ends.  When it ends, turn right and head west towards the hillside.  A trail will pick on the hillside.

Here’s where I made my third (and final) mistake of the morning:  When you see the path split in two, take the higher one (the lower one is a cow trail that leads you through gooey mud then ends).

From this point on the trail becomes faint.  At times I questioned whether I was on an actual trail at all.  It will parallel West Snowmass Creek, and stay high.  Here are some photos:

I came to a clearing and headed southeast, crossed West Snowmass Creek, and once again picked up a trail.

I took this trail to treeline, where it ended. I put pink surveyor’s tape on a tree so I’d know where the trail picked up on my way back.   

From here the rest of the hike was full of rocks and boulders.  I headed southwest

I lost a little bit of elevation before gaining it again

Rock-hopped up this drainage

Followed the creek for a bit until it ended

Ascended another drainage and at the top turned left to skirt Moon Lake

This basin never seems to end!  I just kept heading southwest

At the end of the basin it was time to gain the ridge.  I stayed right of the drainage. 

This was mostly class 2, but towards the end became class 3 to avoid the snow

Once I gained the ridge I turned left and followed it to the summit.

Ha!  That’s an oversimplification.  I did indeed follow the ridge. The ridge proper goes all the way to the summit.  However, it’s a fun scramble to get there, with a lot of exposure, and more than one knife edge.  If you did Capitol Peak and it left you wanting more, this is the peak for you!  Here are some highlights:

I summited Clark Peak at 2:25pm

Clark Peak:

There were some great views of Snowmass and Capitol Peak, and check out the ridge looking back!

Here’s looking back on the way in through the basin and around Moon Lake

Here are some pictures of the ridge on the way back.  I had fun with the exposure here

At the saddle I turned right and headed back through the basin

Skirting Moon Lake to the east and back to the trees

Next profile pic?

Once at treeline I picked up the trail again.  After crossing West Snowmass Creek I headed for the trees.  The trail picks up again in-between these two trees

Here are some pictures of the trail back down.  As I was hiking, I heard a faint bugle.  It didn’t sound like a normal elk call:  it sounded close but faint.  Usually when I hear an elk bugling it resonates, it’s crisp, and I can hear it from far away.  This didn’t seem loud enough for being so close. As I reached the meadow I noticed a hunter sitting beneath a tree.  I raised my hand to silently say hi, he did the same, and I continued back to the trail.

I kept picking up my pace.  Due to this morning’s route finding errors this hike was taking me much longer than I’d anticipated.  It was quickly getting dark, and I wanted to get back to cell service so I could call my daughter and tell her I was ok, just running late.  I ended up using a flashlight for the last two miles of the hike.  Here are some pictures from the rest of the way back to the creek.

I crossed the creek and took Maroon Snowmass Trail back to the trailhead

I made it back to my truck at 8pm, making this a 25.26 mile hike with 6619’ of elevation gain in just over 14 hours.

AdAmAn Peak

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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.

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

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

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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

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

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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)

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

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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

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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?

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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

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Here’s how we summited:

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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

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There were some great views!

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

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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…

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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