| Pikes - Barr Trail
Date: May 21-22, 2010
Climbers: Shawn (Rainier_Wolfcastle) and Kathy
Peak: Pikes Peak
Route: Barr Trail
Elevation Gain: 7,400
Round-trip Mileage: ~20 Miles
Hiking Time: 13 hours
We had been planning trying Little Bear, but the forecast called for sustained 25-25 mph winds with gusts up to 55 from the SW...no thank you. We
have been wanting to hike the Barr Trail on our first ascent of Pikes. As most of you know, the Barr Trail approaches from the East/Southeast...so we would only have to deal with the wind on the summit. I could not find any recent trip reports here or on SP, but I did remember Aubrey posting one around this time last year. Aubrey, thank you for the report, your pics and descriptions past the A-frame helped us out! Next, we were lucky enough to secure a couple of spots in the Barr Camp Main Cabin for friday night. This helped us get a good nights sleep and avoid lugging our tent and sleeping mats up.
We landed a spot in the upper parking lot, right at the TH, just before 4pm friday. It is a bit of a traffic jam up there because of the tourists and all the people using the Incline, but parking was flowing pretty well. We geared up and hit the trail at 4.
The first bit of the trail follows a bunch of switchbacks just West of the parking lot and has a ton of foot traffic going both ways. The next thing you know, you have a good sweat going as you can look a thousand or so feet down to your start.
After a mile and a half you get some great views of some rock formations and mountains to the South along with the Co Springs area back East. This pic is searching for the Peak.
Maybe 2 miles in we got a first good glimpse of Pikes Peak...
little did we know we actually were seeing our future route from 12-to-14K.
When you finally pass through the Boulder Arch at like 2.5-3 miles you have already gained more then half your elevation to the Camp, the terrain flattens a bit (including some up and downs).
There are couple of turn-offs from the trail, but the ancient signs and or well worn trail will keep you true to your target.
To be honest, after the quick elevation gain at the start, I kept wondering when the next hard uphill was going to come...but next thing you know we could see the fence to the right of the trail marking the Barr Camp. It took us 3 hours on the dot to reach camp.
One of the caretakers, Teresa, greeted us as the other guests were finishing up their spaghetti and garlic bread dinner. They had a great spot for filtering water (bring your
own water filter) and men's and women's outhouse (very clean, with tp, and working lights). Teresa and Neal prefer that those in the main cabin do not disturb others if they trek out early in the morning (before 6). So Kathy and I made sure we had everything organized and ready to go for the next morning. We slept in the back room where there is one long platform for ~ 9 people. The ~3 inch thick mattress was suprising comfortable for this side sleeper (bring your 20-40 degree sleeping bag). Vibrating phone alarm set for 4am, off to sleep by 9pm.
We snoozed until 4:15 and were on the trails just after 5. We could turn our headlamps off by 5:30 and were hiking on completely snow clear dry trails for the first mile or so. After the next half mile we decided to put on our microspikes because of the mix of snow and dry trail was starting have a fair amount of ice as well.
This next pic is looking at some peaks to the South.
My goal was to start the steeper snow sections above treeline by 7am and we were right on schedule. Soon the switchbacks we were on started to have deeper and deeper snow sections, then the snow was pretty much continuous and we were still over a half mile from treeline. I was wondering when we were going to see the A-frame...but damn if we could not tell where the trail was anymore...buried in snow with only faint tracks going in more then one direction. I still had a sense as to where the peak was (it was obscured by the trees) so we cautiously started in that direction. Within a minute I saw a the top of a structure to the SouthWest. 10 steps later I could see it was the A-frame and right in front of me was one of those ancient Barr Trail signs...sweet, we are in business!
I took a couple of pics of a plateau at the end of a ridge to the South overlooking the A-frame...this was our point of reference for finding the trail again.
Teresa at Barr Camp was warning all the climbers about finding the A-frame and the trail on the way down. I guess some climbers have glissaded too far on their way down and ended up in the wrong drainage.
Pretty much right after passing the A-frame we started getting our first good views of the peak.
This next pic is looking back East from this position.
This is where we took out Aubrey's pics and started to piece together our plan of attack. Other then passing a couple of the ancient signs, there was no trail to be seen from this point. We figured we would follow Aubrey and Jen's route from here: staying on the right side of the snow filled gully to about half-way up, then traversing it on pretty gentle snow slopes across to the ridge to the South, and then follow the ridge Northwest to the summit. It was 7am, so we were right on schedule. Well after about 300 yards of staying to the right the wind gusts coming up from the Bottomless Pit are to our NW was stopping us slowing us down and pelting us with loose ice pellets. So we decided to enter the gully a little sooner. There was one clear set of tracks we could see going right up the center of the gully all the way to the top, the top part looked a little dicey to us, but the rest looked doable. So we made an audible and decided to get to that set of tracks and then cut right/North into the rocks just before the steep part with what could be cornice at the top.
Our route is up the center of the snow filled gully in the center of this pic, then cutting to climber's right edge of the gully.
It took us about 30 minutes to get to the tracks in the center, crossing mostly firm snow. The main challenge now was the ever increasing angle of ascent while following the tracks.
Little did I know that the summit was 100 feet past the center of this pic.
There was one short section of post-holing, but for the most part the snow was firm. We did not need to kick-step, the micro-spikes were a blessing...but not mandatory. When I started leading us up this slope I was guessing it was maybe a 1000 feet of vertical (with more vert beyond)...but it just seemed to keep growing...either I am really slow today or I misjudged (I misjudged, it must have been about 1,600 ft). First it was 8am, then 8:30...now it is 8:45 and we get our first sighting of other climbers...they are below us and following our route (I hope we are leading them the right way). It is now time to cut back right out of the steep snow slope. The snow was softening and this was a little bit of a struggle...but after getting to the rocks and climbing up a few feet...we rejoice in seeing this sign!
Above this it was a rock/snow scramble up that right side...Kathy said her Garmin read 13,900...what, I thought we were supposed to see the summit sooner then that? Well next thing you know the observation decks come into view, we are only a hundred feet away.
I had been looking soooo forward to some Pikes Peak food and a cold soft drink...but where are the people? It is a ghost town!!!! Well we came up the back of an observation deck and as soon as we passed it the answer became obvious (it was 9:30am). There are those 40+ mph winds...the gravel was being picked up and was pelting us...I took one right in the nose and immediately said...lets find the high point and get the @*! out of here! I know people exaggerate winds...so I won't even guess..but standing still meant you were going East and during gusts your only choice was to cocoon yourself to ground. We found a sheltered spot and tried to take a couple of pics and then started back down.
By now there was 8-10 climbers in the upper half of the bowl. As we passed them we broke the bad news regarding the summit...but encouraged them regarding how close they were. After stepping down the first steep section, the glissading fun started. We enjoyed some great self-arrest practice with our ice axes (a couple of times I was sure glad I had it). We pieced together over a thousand feet of verticle in about 10 glissades. Our trail can be seen from this pic(the second one is zoomed in) taken later more then a mile past Barr Camp.
Considering how soft the snow was after 10am, the climbers just passing treeline had their work cut out for them. With a couple of lengthy breaks included, it took us until 12:30pm to get back to Barr Camp. Roundtrip from the Camp to the Summit, the Garmin indicated we traveled under 8 miles...Roach and Barr Camp indicate the actual trail is 13...I guess the direct snow route from the A-frame cuts 2.5 miles off each way? We hung out at camp for an hour, got packed up. Neal was kind enough to take a picture of us right before our 6 mile hike out.
The fatigue started to set in during that steep last 2 miles of downhill...but alas we made it back to the car at 4pm. All in all, just an absolutely beautiful overall hike!
Oh yea one last word of caution, don't drive through Manitou Springs on a sunny Saturday afternoon!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):