Friday, September 6, 2013

Pikes Peak

Last weekend I got the chance to hike Pikes Peak.

The trip came about with a friend that lives in Colorado Springs inviting a few of us out for some hiking.  The minute I saw the emaill I jumped all over the opportunity.  

The first suggestion was to hike up Grays and Torreys peak.  This would have allowed us to hit two 14ers in one day.  This hike was an 8.5 mile round trip with about 4000 ft of climbing. 
As the trip got closer another friend brought up hiking Barrs trail to the top of Pikes.  This would involve 7000 ft of climbing with a 12.8 mile hike up.  Well how do get back down, you can hike, take a train, hitchhike, or have someone pick you up.  There is a road to the top.

We all met up on Friday ans the decision was made to hike Pikes.  The weather did call for some rain in the afternoon so it would be best to start early.

We arrived at the trailhead for Barrs at around 7 am.  We figured the hike would take 6-8 hrs.  The trail starts at an elevation around 7000 ft.  Right away, I could tell the difference in breathing before we even got to the trail.  I knew the hardest part for me would be the altitude.  I also wanted the experience also.  One of my dream trips is hiking in Nepal.  

In reading about the trail, I found that technically it is not hard.  The distance and elevation are the challenge.   The first 3 miles seemed to have a pretty good climb.   The trail then flattened out a little before Barrs camp which is the half way point. Heading up to this point was not that bad.  We took hiking slowly knowing we still had a was to go.  The key for me was keeping a steady pace while focusing on breathing.  This helped keep the heart rate under control.  

The hike up was beautiful with views of Colorado Springs and the landscape changes from a drier desert to more alpine as you climbed.

We reached Barrs camp in about 3 hours.  Upon arrival we were talking to some people and they mentioned the road may be closed for the weekend because of movie being filmed.  Our plan was to hike to the top and have my friends girlfriend pick us up.  Luckily there was minimal cell phone coverage and we confirmed that the road was open.  We were also told to double our time from there.  6 hrs more, no way.  I was figuring 4 but we got going just in case.

Barrs camp is at 10000 ft, so the trek got a little slower from there.   The terrain for the next three miles were a stepper grade through more Alpine forest. Once you reach 12,000 ft you enter the no tree zone.  At this point you have a little less than 3 miles to go, but still have 2000ft to ascend.  The first mile and half are not that bad in terms of incline, but once you reach the final mile the really climbing begins.  Now, when I say climbing, I just mean a stepper slope and more switch backs.  No technical skills are needed, just endurance at this point and an extra set of lungs if you have a set.  

My lungs could feel the elevation at this point.  I was continuing to focus on an easy steady pace, but even with that I would feel dizzy at times.  I joked around at one point and did a short run, mistake.  I was sucking wind for a couple of minutes and felt like my head was going to explode.  The views at this point were amazing on the clear day we were having.  

After 7 hrs, we finally reached the top!  It was just in time also because you could see some storm clouds moving in.  We conqured Pikes Peak. I would love to go back and try again on day, but I think I'll hit some more mountains first. 

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