Thursday, September 22, 2016

America The Beautiful

On September 10th, I climbed another 14er. I made it up Pikes Peak (14,115 Ft.) this time. I can’t say I was that excited about hiking Pikes Peak because of its popularity. I figured I might as well do it because of its convenience. I had hoped to avoid some of the crowds by taking the non-standard northwest slope route. I started the hike on Friday the 9th from the Crags Trailhead (~10,000 Ft). I went to the trailhead after work and ate my dinner at the trailhead so I didn’t have to carry it. I then hiked a couple of miles and set up camp in a meadow (~11,200 Ft.) while the sun was setting.
Sentinel Point from my campsite
I was on the trail before 4 A.M. The dew on my tent was frozen. So it was a bit cold. The first part of the hike was quite steep. It was also quite dark. The Moon had already set. The steepness didn’t ease up until after I gained the ridge way above tree line as I approached Devils Playground. At Devils Playground, the trail crosses the Pikes Peak Toll Road. From this point, the trail essentially parallels the road to the top. The sun didn’t rise until I was just below the summit.
Below the summit of Pikes Peak at sunrise
Looking northwest back in the direction that I came.
The final ascent up Pikes Peaks on this route is a bit rocky and is considered a class 2 climb. I made it to the top around 7:20 in the morning. I believe I was the first hiker to make it to the top that day. There were a couple cars up there already, but they were people who worked up top. The toll road is not supposed to be open until 7:30 A.M. The first train up the mountain doesn’t leave until 8:00 A.M. So I was able to avoid the crowds up top. The top is still weird. It is surrounded by a dirt road, parking, and a few structures including a gift shop and snack bar. The top is relatively flat, so you have to walk the perimeter to enjoy the view. The view is not as grand as other 14ers. Pikes Peak is all by itself. The big, grand mountains that you expect of Colorado are actually a good distance away. One nice benefit with all junk at the top was bathrooms with electricity. The hand dryers felt so good on my frozen hands.
View from the top of the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Looking west while standing on the highest point
Me on top
End of the Line for the Cog Railway
Wet Mountains (left) and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (right)
Looking southeast at Almagre Mountain
Northwest view
On the way down the mountain, there was a constant stream of people going up. I get the inevitable question of “how much further”. Some of them didn’t like that I would tell them the truth. Oh well. I got off the trail around 1 P.M. I was tired but happy to knock off another 14er.
Looking towards the Rampart Range and the Air Force Academy
Pikes Peak Toll Road and Devils Playground
View near Devils Playground
Trail at Devils Playground
Sentinel Point
My Campsite