Day one ended with many blessings. Relaxing and recouping at Barr Camp, enjoying
the spaghetti dinner there, the comradery of other hikers, campers and the camp
care takers, but most of all, the arrival of my niece and her family. My niece, her husband, and their sweet young
children, one of which is my Godson, traveled from Texas, took the cog rail up
to Mountain View, and hiked the mile and a half over to Barr Camp just to spend
one night with us at the camp, and then meet us at the summit the next day!
The entire purpose of this trip was to fulfill a promise to
my son that I made 3 years ago when we drove to the summit of Pikes Peak on his
birthday because I was extremely to unfit to make ANY type of
hike on the mountain. The gift of my
promise was returned to me as I saw my son’s leadership skills first hand. All three of us, my wife, my son, and I are
all VERY HARD HEADED, but this time I kept my mouth shut, for the most part,
and enjoyed stepping back and letting my son take charge of the Day 2 hike to
the summit. At the end of day one, he
reached out to others at the camp, explaining our day, and most importantly
LISTENING to the advice and instructions from the veterans at the camp. Key to this; carry ONLY what you must and
make sure to drink every 15 minutes and EAT at least every hour! Simon walked into the upper cabin where we
were all staying and exclaimed “Alright let’s lay out what we are bringing to
the summit! All we need is food, water, and rain gear. If you get hurt you can have 1
Band-Aid!” He further instructed, “Mom
set a timer on your phone to remind us to eat every hour and we are going to
drink water every 15 minutes.” I was proud
to see him in action as we laid out only the essentials that we would carry up
to the summit. My son went around to
each of us asking, “How much water do you think you will need?” He did the
math, rounded up the appropriate amount of bottles and then went and collected
and purified the water from the stream.
“I am the youngest and most fit.
I will carry the one back pack.
The rest of you can help by each carrying a bottle of water. As the day progresses and we eat and drink my
pack will get lighter making it easier on me as we reach the summit.” That is MY BOY!!!
Now, this plan only worked because of my INCREDIBLE niece
and her husband. They gratefully
accepted taking a pack stuffed with ALL of our remaining gear with them on the
train and up to the summit! What an
incredible gesture to drive out for an overnight stay just to root us on and
help us out!
Another form of support was all the other family, friends,
and supporters from Facebook. Their
words of encouragement and compliments of my family efforts kept us driving on,
but the most important gift of all were the PRAYERS! Of the greatest Facebook supporters was an
incredible woman named Terri who every day for SEVERAL months posted pictures
of Barr Trail and Pikes Peak on the Fourteenthousand Onehundredten Facebook
page. But Terri did MUCH more than that
as will be learned later in this post.
The night before, one of the caretakers at the camp, Renee,
asked how long it took us to get from the trail head to the camp. “9 hours” was
the response. “Well, then it should take
you 10 to make the summit.” Though I
did not physically see any, I swear at that moment I heard crickets. Soon after I started hearing the squeaking
grinding of cog wheels as my mind began to process time windows. I had made arrangements to meet on the summit
between noon and 1 p.m. with a gentleman
that at the time of this writing must remain private (I don’t want to ruin any
surprises). “cccrrreeeakkk…. whhizzz…
clank… ccrreeaakk…. clank….
cccrrreeeaaakkk…. DING!” …. “2
a.m.” … “2 a.m.!” “We MUST start hiking at 2 a.m.”!
Bundled up in our toasty 40 degree rated sleeping bags we
rolled out of our surprisingly comfortable bunk beds at 4 a.m.
We were donned in our modern day long johns, now made of
polyester with just a splash of spandex, (NO NOT PANTYHOSE!!!! These were
OFFICIAL athletic wear). “Ain’t no way I am hiking up the side of a mountain I
have never been on at 2 a.m.”
We decided on a 5 a.m. departure figuring one hour in the
dark before sun up won’t be so bad. I thought to myself, “Hell at the rate we
hiked yesterday we’ll only be about 150 yards from camp.” Not to forget to mention the rest of the
campsite was booked full with 2 separate Boy Scout troops. “They should easily hear our screams for
So on with the ankle braces, knee braces, Bio-Freeze, hiking
boots, jackets, skull caps, and gloves.
Of course we made one more run to the last closed in in restroom for the
next 6 miles. Then off we went into the
dark with my wonderful family cheering us on as we marveled at the fact that we
could see our breath in the light of our headlamps. The temperature was around 40 degrees.
On we marched carefully watching our steps. The stones were still, and some man-made
steps with ties were not too terribly difficult to navigate. The trail was a bit confusing in just a
couple of places but we felt confident we were on the right path. Fifteen minutes in; “Drink!” ordered our
leader, and we did. I personally was already
a bit winded and confessed so to the group.
Thankfully for me my wife said, “So am I”. I was just happy to not be alone. We had to book it. I wanted to be at the summit no later than 1
p.m. I felt great, actually. I was not sore. My ankle was not in too much pain. I had slept well and was refreshed. Oh, and my new hip, the one I received just
20 weeks prior; though the muscles on that side were still a little weak, was
doing GREAT! “WE CAN DO THIS”!
We marched on drinking every 15 minutes. I was the slowest of the group so I lead the
charge. About an hour in as the sun was
creeping up I began to see just how steep the climb was. “Dang it!”
I did NOT need to see that! It
was nothing more than a mind game. I
remembered what so many GREAT supporters on Facebook and hiking family members
had said, “Pace yourself. Walk a few
steps and rest”. My dilemma was that I
MUST make the summit by 1pm.
“1, 2, 3, …. 50, 51…. 98, 99, 100 steps. Stop. Take 5 deep breaths. Repeat.” And so was the grind for the next five and a
Of course that grind was broken up with timeouts called by
my son, our enthusiastic leader. “Time
to drink”. “Time to eat”, which happened
to work out to be about every 30 to 45 minutes.
It was during one of our chow sessions that we had one of the most
pleasant moments we had been waiting for on our hike; OUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER
HAD CAUGHT UP WITH US! “HELLLOO???” we
heard. “TERRI!!! Is that YOU????” Sure enough!
Terri, a local and 4-time summit veteran of Barr Trail, had caught up
with us to support us and cheer us on the rest of the way!
Back to the topics of supporters AND hiking up the side of a
mountain at 2 a.m. As mentioned
previously Terri had been one of my family’s biggest supporters on Facebook where
we met. Terri had dinner with us at the
Colorado Brewing Company earlier in the week so we could both do the whole, “is
this person a weirdo test” in person.
Sure we enough we all passed. We
all are definitely “WEIRDOS”. I mean who
wants to walk 12 plus mile up a mountain in little oxygen and possible harsh
conditions? Luckily for us LOTS OF
This awesome new friend hit the Barr Trail head Sunday
at 2 in the morning.
And by the time we headed out from Barr Camp was only 30 minutes behind
us! “Chugga, Chugga, Chugga, Chugga. Chugga, Chugga, Chugga, Chugga. CHOO CHOO!”
This woman was a beast!
We quickly shared our adventures of the previous day,
Terri’s of the previous HOURS… and then we continued. “1, 2, 3, …. 50, 51…. 98, 99, 100 steps. Stop. Take 5 deep breaths. Repeat.”
“There’s the A-Frame!”
A public structure created for refuge in the event shelter is required
on the side of the mountain; especially in the event of harsh conditions. This was about the halfway mark to the
summit. It was 9 a.m. Now thinking back to the actual time, down to
the minute, that we walked away from Barr Camp it was 5:23 a.m. “Wow.
We are making much better time today and I feel great!” … “Drink and eat … Drink and eat” … “At
this pace we will be able to make summit by 1 p.m. without a problem!” Water drank, food ingested, water bottles
refilled, and bladders re-emptied it was time to move on!
“Here comes the tree line.” The area above the tree line had
been described to me by veteran Barr Trail hikers as walking on the soft sand
of a beach, but it is small pebbles, up a steep grade, no shade, and little
oxygen. There are no trees above tree
line because there is not enough oxygen to support them. The mind game was on and buddy, WE WERE
As we pulled out of the trees, onto the slopes of the
pebbles the sun was only partly making its way through the clouds, the air was
cool, and so far, so good. Then I hear
my son say, “Oh WOW!” I quickly turned
to him and saw the direction of his gaze; just as quickly, I exclaim “Oh WOW!” Sprawled out in front of us was the most
incredible view I believed I had ever seen.
Mountain ranges, massive boulders that looked like marble, perpetually caught
from rolling down a mountain side, the bright glow of a ray of sun illuminating
an edge of the reservoir below. “How
could anyone think there is not a God?
How blessed am I to be here and witnessing this?”
“1 p.m. summit. Gotta
move.” I stepped on but as I rounded
switch back after switch back I soon realized that the gifts and surprises
waiting for us at the summit were no match to what was I missing by scurrying
on. View after view, angel after angel;
it was breathtaking, even more than the lack of oxygen at this height.
We continued on with our grind. It was a challenge to breathe. The breaks became much more frequent and the
large step ups onto, and over smaller boulders deprived my muscles more and
more of strength. A great blessing that
we had is that clouds had rolled in and the sun was not beating down on
us. “How much harder would this be if I
was dealing with lack of O2 and the bearing sun?.” I realized at that moment
that the prayers from all of my family’s wonderful supporters were being
answered. It was pleasantly cool, near
cold, and I still felt GREAT; I just needed to keep pacing myself.
“Phew, time to sit.”
As I sat on a rock taking in more of the incredible view, again I was thinking
“how can this keep getting better and better?”
At that moment out of the corner of my right eye I spot, not more than
20 feet in front of us, an eagle. I could not believe it! I was questioning myself, “Is that an
eagle? Is that an EAGLE?” I panned the sky following it to my left and
called to the group, “IS THAT AN EAGLE?”
Sure enough it was indeed an eagle!
As it continued its show by circling back around and gracing us with yet
another fly by no more than just a few yards away! “Incredible!”
“It probably wants to eat us. Let’s move.” So on we went with the same
grind. As I was trekking along,
something else caught my eye. Down below on the ground vibrant against the
mountain side were groupings of the tiniest, red, violet, and yellow
flowers. “Amazing. This is just AMAZING! This is worth every step I have trudged and
breath I have ached for.”
“Look!” I hear Terri exclaim pointing to the front of us “I
big horned sheep!” Staring off in the
distance was a lone big horn sheep, galloping down the side of mountain with
incredible grace and speed. I continued
to be in awe as I was finally able to have such an experience in person and not
living through somebody’s video on the Internet.
We continued on closer and closer to the summit. It was getting colder and the clouds were
getting thicker and thicker. It was to the point where visibility at times was
probably no greater than 50 feet. We
were all getting tired. The air was
really taking its toll, and then I come to a point where the trail ended; so I
thought. In front of me lay a small
boulder that I really couldn’t see over. “Oh no. Did we miss a switch back?” … Nope. Up steps my son, “C’mon Pops.” Simon steps from rock to rock, onto the big “rock”
and says “Take my hand.” I was tired, my
legs weak, especially the operated one. I get up the rock, face down to the
side of the mountain, and feet dangling over the edge. Simon pulls on me as I push and scooch my way
to the other side. “That was AWESOME!!!”
We continued on the trail, again parts of it not even
looking like trail to me. There was no
way we busted our noon summit and there was no chance we would make it by
1. The clouds were thicker than ever and
then “BOOM!” THUNDER! It was right on
us. It didn’t matter now; we were closer
to the summit than any retreat so move forward we did!
My head was down. It
was cold. My fingertips were tingly and
pink so I put the gloves back on that I had removed earlier in the day. “There is the sign for the 16 golden stairs
ahead” Terri stated calmly. “There it is
…. ahhh.... there it is…. the home stretch….”
Emotion was starting to take me over.
“I am not going to cry” I told myself.
We paused for a photo op at the sign. We caught our breath. We ATE!
As I leaned on the cool damp rock, my back to the sign I
looked over the first “stair” of the Golden Staircase. This was nothing man-made. This was not just “16 steps up” and we would
be done. What I was seeing was the first
of 16 steep, large, rock-laddered, switch backs, tightly stacked together. They were way too tall for my tired weak legs
to step on, or lunge up to. I was going to have to incorporate my hands and
knees to climb and crawl up these “steps”. It was impressive. I was wasted. I continued to sit. I stared it down. It taunted me with every
new inch I scanned over with my eyes. I
told it, “Bring it you B!%CH.” And it
began to pour down sleet. “Oh it is
on. IT IS SO ON!”
We began. My son
jumped ahead of me in case I needed a hand.
Steps were slow and cautious. BB’s
of frozen rain drops pelted us. It was EXCITING!!! IT WAS AMAZING!!!! The climb was exerting. At times my face was
inches from the ground and that is when I paused and I took a moment to really
study what it was that was pelting us.
These perfectly round, white and crystalline balls. I could see tiny striations in some, on
others just a small kiss of a tiny point. They were so clean, so perfect; they
“Ow!” “Dang!” “It’s
like getting hit with air soft pellets on my ears!” My son’s exclamations rattled me back into
reality. Unfortunately he was wearing a
baseball cap and no protection to the side of his face or ears. “Let’s move!
We are right there!”
We climbed on, pushing, pausing, breathing heavily… and then….
smooth trail! We had made it past the
gauntlet of the Golden Staircase.
Emotion started taking over again, as fought crying, a little less
successfully this time. “I am NOT going
to cry” I exclaimed to the group.
Looking up, the clouds were a soup, but through the white
murk, just yards above a perfect rectangle began to appear. “That’s it!”
My wife Trish stated, “That’s the summit house!” “Wow” and then we turned to the right and
continued on the trail. The summit house
was above us …. NOT in front of us. A
few more switch backs to go.
Anticipation was growing.
Adrenaline was pumping. The steps
came easier. “CHUGGA, CHUGGA. CHUGGA
CHUGGA!!!!” Then I FROZE! I could not believe it! No it was not the summit sign it was
something straight out of a movie. A
large heard of big horned sheep and their ewes stood above us; 12 to 15 of
them. Majestic and proud and is if they
were there to greet us. As if they were
there to congratulate us! “Look!” I
exclaimed “Look there!” … “Yes the summit house is right there” was the
response I got. “No Look in FRONT of us!” We stood in amazement.
“WOO HOO!” “WOOOO
HOOOOO!!!!!!” I was cheering… Thanking them… and off they began to go calmly down
the other side of the mountain. Then right on cue, a huge, majestic sheep with
its large crown of curved horns stopped and looked back and stared at me one
final time. “Wow. Just, wow.”
I was in a state of euphoria that I can only compare to my
wedding day and witnessing the birth of my son himself. 2 more switchbacks to go! They were smooth,
they were leveling out! And then, THERE
IT WAS!!!!!!! THE SUMMIT SIGN OF PIKES PEAK!!!!!!! EMOTION WAS LOST AS I BAWLED! TURNING, I GRABBED FOR MY SON; WHO BAWLED!!!!! AND WE REACHED FOR MY WIFE; WHO BAWLED!!!!!
WE MADE IT!!!!! WE
MADE IT!!!! A 3 YEAR PROMISE!!!! PIKES PEAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!