| Pikes Peak at New Years?!?
Day 1 - Distance: 4 miles, Elevation Gain: 3,600'
Day 2 - Distance 19 miles, Elevation Gain: 3,900'
Total - Distance: 23 miles, Elevation Gain: 7,500'
"Pikes Peak at New Years? Are you crazy?!?"
This was the typical reaction I would get when bringing up plans for my latest 14er outing. Some were less obvious about their confusion, consternation, etc and would simply give me a kind of sideways glance which I interpreted to be roughly the same as the more vocal response.
Given this reaction I feel the need to provide a little background / reasons that lead me up to this hike:
1. I live in Colorado Springs - making this a very close-to-home outing - none of the usual 2+ hour drive to the trailhead.
2. I've done a few other winter 14ers and have wanted to do Pikes Peak at New Years for some time now.
3. I'd never stayed at Barr Camp before.
4. I wanted to preview Barr Camp before spending the night there with my oldest (9 year old) daughter.
5. I wanted to ease into sleeping during winter conditions to see how I night do sleeping outside in the winter during a potentially even more adventous outing.
So, given all of the above I figured that sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and to paraphrase the Hoky Pokey, see what it's all about!
We were at the Barr Trailhead at about 2 pm on Saturday, 12/29. We decided to take the Incline up as a way to shave off some of the distance and time it would take to get to Barr Camp.
On top of the Incline. No one's told them that Christmas is over and it's time to put away the ornaments.
After a brief rest to catch our breath we were back on the trail at 3 pm.
It wasn't too much time later that we got our first view of Pikes Peak. The area had gotten some snow recently, but not enough to fully cover the mountain. As we were to discover later the wind did much to move the snow around as well. Note: we both had microspikes but never did feel the need to use them the whole time we were out.
Along the way we encountered a downed tree. Seems someone had a sense of humor, or some Holiday spirit still left.
Just under 3 hours in we arrived at Barr Camp. Be it ever some humble there is no place like home.
We couldn't believe our luck (and I know some of you will have no trouble believing this but) when we arrived we learned were the only people scheduled to stay the night! Neal and Theresa are the caretakers of Barr Camp and being the sole guests meant that we had the extreme good fortune to hang out with Neal and Theresa and hear their stories from living 8+ years at Barr Camp - i.e. animal hijinks, search and rescue efforts, AdAMan adventures, etc, etc. Neal and Theresa are truly an amazing couple and the food and hospitality were very much appreciated.
Morning looking out the "living room" window. It's a jay's turn for breakfast, next up... the rabbits and squirrels.
We were ready to get on our way at 8 am after breakfast and a good night's sleep. Speaking of... the lowest temperature I saw throughout the night was 25 degrees. I slept with all my clothes on under my 15 degree bag and ended up sleeping very well - only my toes and nose got cold during the night.
We gained elevation above Barr Camp relatively quickly and soon had views down on the city.
Our luck continued to hold as we had clear blue skies. It was cold, still around 26 degrees but the sun and little wind made it feel warmer.
Approaching treeline we noticed a funky tree stump / roots.
A good place for a photo op.
A mountain cousin of the more famous Balanced Rock in the Garden of the Gods park.
Rock formation that looked like organ pipes.
Around 10:30 am we reached the 2 miles to go sign. A good a place as any for a rest!
At the cirque. Watch out, the first step's a doozy...
Just past the sign for the cirque we got our first glimpse of the Summit House. Our original preference was for it to be closed to have the summit to ourselves, but then we started thinking of those yummy donuts. Maybe we did want it to be open afterall!
A look back at the trail from the cirque. The oxygen may have been running thin but the near cloudless day was holding nicely.
The last push is at hand - the 16 Golden Stairs to the summit.
Success! After just over hour hours, we're up on top!
Turns out the Summit House was open to car traffic so we were able to get a donut, fill up our water bottles and get warm afterall. An announcement said it was -14 degrees farenheit with the wind chill. Brrrr... I'm not sure if that was accurate or not but suffice to say it was cold enoungh to not want to linger for long. So, we snapped one last picture and around 1 pm and started our descent the way we came.
During our rest at the summit house we calculated the distance we still had to go (13 miles) and estimated when we would be back to the Barr Trailhead. Wanting to be home to be able to put our children to sleep we headed down as fast as we could go and made surprisingly good time.
Last shot of the sun disappearing over the ridgeline.
We made it to Barr Camp just after 3 pm, met some of the AdaMan folks, packed up our remaining gear and made it all the way down and back to the trailhead at 5:30 pm - whew!
One last shot of Cameron Cone before getting back to the car and mercifully a change of boots.
Being a family man requires you to make 14er plans pretty far in advance of the actual outing. This meant that we'd have no way of knowing what the weather would be like when we were finally out and about. I knew this route up Pikes Peak wouldn't be technically difficult but that the cold would likely more than make up for the relative ease of the route. In that regard, Pikes Peak didn't disappoint. While it was cold outside (the average teamperature stayed somewhere in the 20s without wind chill) we dressed appropriately and never FELT overly cold.
At the risk of using an overly used cliche, our hearts were warmed by our time spent with Neal and Theresa and also by our encounters with the AdaMan group on our way down / their way up! The AdaMan folks seem like a jolly bunch and their dedication to make a yearly New Years' summit and fireworks launch from the Pikes Peak summit is admirable. Thanks guys and until next year...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):