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Pikes Peak
Elevation: 14,110 feet
Climbed: Aug 19, 1989; Oct 30, 2005; Jan 21, 2006; Aug 18, 2007; Jun 8, 2008; Jun 15, 2008; Nov 1, 2008; Jan 2, 2009; Jan 17, 2009; Jul 5, 2009
Mountain Range: Front Range
Colorado Rank: 30th
Class Rating: 1
Latitude: 38.840600
Longitude: -105.044000

Trip Report

Jul 5, 2009
Three weeks earlier I had hiked Barr Trail from the Manitou Springs trailhead. I got as far as one mile below the A-frame shelter at treeline before I was turned around by lightning. The total round-trip distance for that day was about 16 miles or so.

With that hike as a base, I planned to hike Barr Trail again on July 5. After going to sleep sometime after 10 PM to the sound of firecrackers, I was awake at 2:15 AM. By 3:40 AM, I was hiking up Barr Trail in the darkness, my path lit only by my headlamp.

Other than minor equipment adjustments, I hiked non-stop, passing by Barr Camp and the A-frame shelter without stopping. With a slow and steady pace, I arrived at the summit of Pikes Peak about 10:30 AM.

After seeking out the high point of the summit, I retired to the summit house to drink and eat some food I had carried up the mountain with me. After my legs recovered, I started down the mountain.

It was sunny when I left the summit, but within a mile or so, foggy clouds swept over the mountain. As ascending hikers emerged from the fog, they reminded me of ghost-like apparitions.

My early-morning start soon paid dividends. As I reached treeline, I could hear the rumble of thunder. Soon, light graupel fell from the sky, followed by rain, lightning and the sharp crack of thunder. One lightning bolt struck closely, as evidenced by the quick "flash/crack" that gave new life to my tired legs. I was happy to be back in the trees when the lightning struck, feeling much more fortunate than others still high on the mountain.

About one-half mile above Barr Camp I saw Matt Carpenter running up the trail on a training run. Matt holds virtually every running record on Pikes Peak, for both the 13-mile ascent race and the 26-mile marathon. One year he won the ascent race on Saturday and turned right around and won the marathon on Sunday.

Right after Matt passed by me, I encountered four hikers who had started their hikes at the summit, planning to descend 12 miles to the trailhead. An older woman in the party was having a tough time with her knee, almost collapsing as she stepped over an obstacle. She was kept on her feet by two others in her group.

After assessing the group's situation, I went ahead to notify the folks at Barr Camp of the problem. As it turns out, if you are having troubles on the trail, you don't have many options. Either you get yourself off the mountain under your group's own power or you request a full-blown rescue. There really aren't any other options. The struggling party had not reached Barr Camp by the time I continued my descent.

Keeping a slow and steady pace, I was feeling every step. Significant discomfort has been a consistent theme on every round-trip I've done between the Manitou Springs trailhead and the summit of Pikes Peak. Although the trail is fantastic, the miles always take their toll on me.

I reached the trailhead shortly after 5:30 PM, thoroughly trashed, but hoping I would recover in a couple of days.

My fourth Barr Trail round-trip to the summit of Pikes Peak and down again had followed its usual course; reach the summit in somewhat reasonable condition, deteriorate during the descent, and reach the trailhead feeling like a whipped pup.

Hopefully this hike will serve its purpose well as a training hike to kick off the summer season.

Jan 17, 2009
I finally summited Pikes Peak in January after two aborted January climbs. The wind appeared sporadically, but it was not nearly as strong as when I attempted the summit two weeks ago.

I was hammered by the time I reached the summit. My pack was heavier than it needed to be, since I packed snowshoes that I never used.

The trip down went faster than the ascent, but I was only to Devils Playground when the sun set. Just as I had two weeks earlier, I hiked the last three miles in the dark. Using my headlamp, I followed footprints in the snow as I descended to treeline. Once in the trees, the trail was easy to follow.

Jan 2, 2009
The wind was blasting me above 13,000 feet. I wasn't knocked down, but I was battered by the wind and several times I had to take a few steps to regain my balance.

I turned around at about 13,400 feet, just below the Class 2 section that leads to the summit. The wind chill made bare-fingered adjustment of gear difficult.

I was at Devils Playground, only about half way down, when the sun set over the Sawatch Range.

Sunset Viewed from Devils Playground
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Devils Playground at Last Light
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Nov 1, 2008
With warm weather predicted for the first weekend in November, I decided to tackle the east face of Pikes Peak. The route up Barr Trail begins at the Manitou Springs trailhead, which is beyond the Cog Train depot at the end of Ruxton Avenue.

This long route is a 25 mile round-trip and has an elevation gain of 7,500 feet. I have done this route three times, twice in 2008, and it always seems to feel brutal. The only question is when you hit the wall.

My June 2008 hike would have probably been the best so far, from a physical perspective, except for the fact that I had boot issues during the descent. I ended up losing a toenail on my little toe after that hike. In June, at least I felt pretty good during the ascent.

On this November hike, I started having some hip flexor discomfort about a mile below Barr Camp, when I was only 5.5 miles into the hike. I kept hiking, although at a somewhat slower pace, hoping to work out the discomfort. The trail remained clear of snow and ice until some shady sections just below treeline. I stopped for the first time on top of a large boulder near the A-frame shelter just below treeline. A short cell phone call to my brother, Randy, gave me a short rest. I actually felt better as I resumed my hike into the treeless world above 11,500 feet.

The weather remained warm and beautiful above the trees, even when a few clouds moved into the area. They never threatened, though, so the hike continued. The trail was mostly clear for the first mile or two above treeline, due to a lack of trees to block the melting effects of the sun. The last mile of the trail was mostly snow and ice covered. The 16 Golden Stairs were pretty snowy and icy, but by taking a little care, they were easily crossed without any issues.

I reached the summit about 2:30 PM. I wasn't feeling very fresh and thoughts of a bivouac below treeline started to sound like an option if my legs didn't have the necessary miles left in them. I knew even if I hiked all the way back down Barr Trail, I'd be hiking in the dark for a decent portion of the descent.

I notified the proper people back home about my possible plans for a bivouac and then began my descent about 3:15 PM.

The descent was fairly uneventful as I carefully worked my way down the snowy or icy sections. I stopped near the A-frame, where I had cell service, to provide an update to my spouse. I decided to keep hiking out rather than bivouac. At 5:25 PM, I headed down from the A-frame area toward Barr Camp. About 20 minutes or so above Barr Camp, I finally turned on my headlamp. It was pitch black by the time I reached Barr Camp, where I swapped the water bottles in my pack.

I spent the last 6.5 miles of the hike below Barr Camp starring into the white spot of light on the trail, navigating roots, rocks and logs. I began to have out-loud conversations with myself, primarily for the purpose of giving wildlife a heads-up, but also to keep focused on the trail. Two hikers I talked to about a mile below the summit had spotted a mountain lion and cub about 4:30 AM that morning as they left the trailhead.

The last few miles of the hike were definitely of the grind-it-out variety. I reached the trailhead, but my car was parked along the street below the Cog Train depot. I reached my car about 9:15 PM.

I was pleased to have summited on this first day of November, but it really didn't feel like a November day. On October 30, three years earlier, I had been turned around on the west side of Pikes Peak at almost 13,000 feet. White-out conditions and brutal cold made that decision for me. On this day, the conditions could not have been better.

Times are Reflective of a Slow, Methodical Hiker
TimeEventElevation (approx)
7:25 AMDepart Trailhead6,600 feet
8:40 AMArrive Junction of Incline Trail8,300 feet
10:00 AMArrive Barr Camp10,200 feet
11:30 AMArrive A-Frame11,500 feet
11:45 AMDepart A-Frame11,500 feet
2:30 PMArrive Summit14,110 feet
3:15 PMDepart Summit14,110 feet
5:15 PMArrive A-Frame11,500 feet
5:25 PMDepart A-Frame11,500 feet
9:10 PMArrive Trailhead6,600 feet

Jun 15, 2008
I left from the parking area along the road just outside of The Crags campground and trailhead at 6:45 AM. I was on the summit of Pikes Peak at 10:45 AM.

I stayed on or near the summit for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The descent took close to 3.5 hours, which included time to change socks.

Round trip distance was about 13 miles.

Jun 8, 2008
Without a definite altitude goal, I began hiking from the Barr Trail Trailhead toward the summit of Pikes Peak. My first rest stop was about 9 miles up the trail at the A-frame. After spending about 1.25 hours at the A-frame, I headed to the summit.

After topping out on top of Pikes Peak, I headed for the high point, which is the pile of talus in the center of the parking area.

I debated whether to hitch a ride down the mountain, but opted instead to hike down. About 1 mile below the summit, my little toe began to hurt due to my boots. Changing socks, tightening boot laces, etc., did not fix the problem. I hiked out the last 10+ miles with an acute awareness of each step.

The distance of this route is about 24 miles round trip, so that is the main factor in my difficulty rating of this ascent.

Although the mileage was tough, I had an absolute blast ascending the east face above treeline. The scenery was great as low clouds kept moving across the mountain. Several snow fields obliterated the trail, which made the hike even more interesting. It had been 19 years since I last trod over the high east face of Pikes Peak. I never enjoyed it more than I did on this trip.

Aug 18, 2007
While I was climbing Pikes Peak from The Crags, more than 1,900 runners were racing up Barr Trail to the summit. There was a lot of activity on the mountain.

Jan 21, 2006
It had snowed a few days before this climb and the warm temperatures of the previous week had vanished. Although not a significant snow storm, it did freshen up the snow and gave me a chance to break out my snowshoes.

It turned out that the cold temperature was the major factor on this climb, at least once I reached altitude. As in October, I met high winds and tough conditions at Devil's Playground and turned back.

Cold and wind contributed to a well-below-zero wind chill near 13,000 feet. While I was able to protect my face and hands, my feet took a beating from the cold.

It appears that I suffered from frostbite, although the severity isn't clear. My toes were numb for quite a while during the upper parts of the climb. Although they warmed during the descent, my right big toe was still partially numb the next day. Permanent numbness can be a result of frostbite, although I'm hoping my condition is temporary. Time will tell.


As of October 1, 2006, more than 8 months have passed since this climb. Although the toe recovered a portion of its feeling, it did not recover completely. Then, it suffered a setback during a minor incident at Lake Como, which is detailed in the Ellingwood Point / Blanca Peak trip report.

At this point, it appears that the toe may forever be susceptible to minor exposure to cold conditions, which is causing difficulty in protecting it during late-season climbs in the mountains.

Oct 30, 2005
For this trip, I decided to ascend Pikes Peak from the west on a trail rated at Class 2. The Crags trailhead, located at an elevation of about 10,100 feet, was the starting point. Snow was still on the ground at the trailhead, left over from a snow storm a few weeks before.

Ultimately, I would not summit on this day. Even though the summit was within view from my turn-around point, the conditions were brutal and the hour was late, so I turned back. Blizzard conditions at 13,000 feet, along with thunder and lightning, had sent me running for cover. With every few steps of my descent, I would 'post hole' up to my knee. I soon slowed my pace, figuring that the lightning posed less of a threat than torquing my knee or wiping out on the slope.

The sun was just about to dip behind the western horizon as I arrived back at the trailhead.

I definitely underestimated the fury that the mountain would throw at me during this climb. Reaching the blacktop of Highway 67, I discovered very icy conditions, which had already caused a wreck. Two highway patrol vehicles had their lights going at both ends of the slickest stretch of road, trying to prevent any more accidents.

Aug 19, 1989
In the late summer of 1989, with very little preparation and less experience, I decided to climb Pikes Peak. This would be my first attempt to climb a "14er."

My training consisted of one meager 7-mile hike on the Waldo Canyon Trail the previous week. This minimal training was a result of my impatience to hike the peak, but it would prove to be extremely unwise.

I remember thinking, during the slog up the east face of Pikes Peak above treeline, that this was the hardest physical activity I had ever undertaken. I told myself that no matter what, I was not hiking down. I would take the cog train down or hitch a ride down the Pikes Peak Highway.

Once I reached the summit, I sat in the summit house recovering. I got into a conversation with someone else who had come up Barr Trail. He was minimizing the effort it would take to descend the trail. In the end, I let someone else's conditioning and perceptions color my judgement. I tested my legs on the upper section of the trail outside the summit house. I decided to hike down.

The ascent was very tough, but the descent was brutal. Even before I reached treeline, I knew I made a big mistake deciding to hike down. I was hurting.

In 1989, the Manitou Incline was still operating. Someone on the trail gave me his unused ticket for the descent on the Incline, but I wasn't sure I could reach it before it shut down for the evening. Therefore, I continued down the trail all the way to the trailhead.

After a rockslide damaged the track, the Manitou Incline closed in 1990. I never did ride the Incline before it closed.

I remember, after driving the 30 minutes it took for me to get home, shuffling from my car to the house. Those short, halting steps reminded me of Tim Conway when he used to play a shuffling, old man. The 24 miles I endured on the hike to the summit and down again had taken its toll.

After enduring the grueling round-trip ascent and descent of Pikes Peak in August 1989, I decided to do only the ascent about one month later. That sounds like cheating now, but at the time it sounded like a pretty good idea. I do not list my ascent-only climb of Pikes Peak on this site and do not count it toward any climb totals.

On the ascent-only climb, I hiked Pikes Peak with my co-worker, Scott Demaree, who also happened to be an ultra-marathoner. He had run in the Leadville 100 more than once, as well as tackling some 24- and 48-hour races. For him, the hike to the top of the mountain was just a warm-up for his run back down the trail. I took the cog train down. With Scott getting a 30-40 minute head start as I waited for the train to depart, he beat me down the mountain. He was waiting at the car when the cog train finished its 45-minute descent.

I don't recall many details about this trip, since I'm writing about it almost 15 years after the actual event. I do recall, however, that we kept a pretty steady hiking pace to the top, stopping occasionally for a snack or to rest a bit.

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