Pikes Peak – another 14er crossed off the list.
Since the extended family was coming to Colorado Springs for a camping visit, this was a perfect opportunity to keep knocking down the 14ers and 13ers list while also spending some quality time with them.
Driving the three hours down from the cabin on Tuesday night allowed me to spend some time around the campfire with a beer or three catching up while looking up at Pikes Peak from the KOA campground. Up early on Wednesday morning to do some work, then they were kind enough to give me a ride to the bottom of the Barr Trail in Manitou Springs so I didn’t have to pay for overnight parking for the car.
3:20, 6.36 miles, and ~3600 feet of elevation later and I arrive at Barr Camp just in time to setup my tent as it starts to rain.
The caretakers Travis and Ellen are awesome – knowledgable, friendly, and good cooks. They definitely make everybody feel welcome and make the stay great, even in the pouring rain.
They have tons of books inside, board games, and other friendly hikers, but I chose to relax in the tent since this was the first time using it and I wanted to get a feel for how I’ll keep water and dirt out when the weather is bad.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to buy quality when it counts, and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 tent is pricey but worth every penny spent. Definitely a great trial run before our upcoming backpacking trip.
Baby It’s Wet Outside
The camping at Barr is simple – pick a spot in the woods and stake your claim. I chose a spot in a clearing well away from the camp and other hikers because it gave me an amazing view of the summit. I hoped that the rain would abate and I would get some great nighttime star views over the mountain, but I was snoring long before darkness came.
Out in the Woods
1am. Crack, crack, crack. Snuffle, snuffle, snuffle. The bears.
One of the nice things about being far out in the woods is being away from the other hikers. The downside is that I’m the first thing hungry and curious bears stumble across on their way to the camp.
Travis warns everybody to put their food and toiletries in a big metal bear box by the cabin, even if you had Gatorade in a Nalgene make sure you lock it up. I had placed all of my smellies in the bear box, but realized that I had a Twix bar wrapper in my tent from when I arrived at the camp. Unzip, lift tent footprint, dig hole, bury wrapper.
Mr Bear came around so I smacked the side of the tent a couple times and shined my headlamp through, and he wandered off to find easier snacks.
3am. Crack, crack, crack. From the same direction as the first bear came, so probably another bear. This time I got up and went outside since I had to pee anyway. He took off in the woods the minute I unzipped the tent door. At least this time the clouds have cleared and I can finally see some stars.
Your $12 camping gets you all-you-can-eat Power Pancakes, and for an extra $10 you can have all-you-can-eat spaghetti and garlic bread at dinnertime. What a deal for starving hikers! I normally don’t eat pasta, but when you’re burning through the carbs – well, I must have eaten two pounds of it. And another two pounds of pancakes for breakfast. Yum.
Barr Camp Power Pancakes
Normally for climbs you get an alpine start (eeeeearly), but since my ride on the cog train back to the bottom wasn’t until 3pm I knew I had nothing but time. 7am breakfast, lounge at camp taking my time drying things out and repacking. 8am, slow roll out of camp and start heading towards treeline.
Do Not Climb
The scenery changes drastically at treeline, the piney green gives way to brown, gray, and orange rock. Beautiful in a totally different way. Shortly after noon and ~3900 more feet of elevation I arrive at the Pikes Peak summit, 14,115 feet. One more 14er checked off.
Pikes Little Peaks
Fun Fun Fun
16 Golden Stairs
Since I had almost three hours to kill waiting for Chris and Nikki to arrive, I found a nice corner seat in the summit cafe and had a hot dog and some chips, then a nice nap! One of the nice things about living at high elevation and having spent the last couple weeks camping at 10000 feet was complete absence of altitude sickness. The cog train keeps people’s summit times down to 40 minutes to keep people from getting sick.
It was great fun when the arrived on the train, I knew the seats we had reserved so I managed to catch them coming up on video.
Even more fun was all of the ooohs and aaahs, and taking the kids down the boulders for some "mountain climbing".
The cog train is expensive but it’s definitely pretty cool, and a great way to go down after the hike up. You see different parts of the mountain and get to sit back and relax. We even had a decent sized herd of bighorn sheep near the track on the way down.
If you’re visiting Colorado Springs – this is a must-do! If you didn’t plan ahead and can’t get cog train tickets, make sure your car brakes are good and do the drive up.