I grew up in west Texas and for two August summer weeks, every high school year, I endured 2-A-Day football practices in blistering heat on a practice field peppered with sticker weeds. I always thought that was the most physically and mentally challenging activity I would ever perform. That is before I vacationed at an elevation 5,800 feet higher than where I lived and then hiked another 7800 feet higher. While I will equate those 2-A-Day practices to how difficult the hike was, reaching the summit of Pikes Peak is, by far, the greatest physical accomplishment of my life; so far.
I want to share my experience for a few reasons. One is to just have the experience documented. Two is to let others, especially those new to hiking and, even more so hiking at high elevations, my lessons learned. Finally; three, just to relive the experience as I recount some of the greatest memories of my life.
I was told by those experienced, “you need to hit the stairs”, “you need to work your legs” and all I heard was, “you need to do cardio”. NO! Pay attention, especially you flatlanders, YOU NEED TO HIT THE STAIRS! YOU NEED TO WORK YOUR LEGS!
I prepped by walking a few trails with smooth ups and downs, I walked for miles around our nice neighborhood and parks with some inclines but that is NOT what you are going to find on Barr Trail. Looking back through the haze of my oxygen deprived memories I would guess that 80% of the trail was STEPPING UP and heaving my weight in lunge like fashion to progress forward. I found that for the other 20 percent of walk where I could take little half steps and trudge forward I was fine, but for the other 80 percent my calves and quads were SCREAMING for oxygenated blood.
I heaved my still very overweight body, and at times strapped with a backpack up just 8 to 12 inches. After those 1 or 2 steps my breathing would rapidly increase working to get oxygen and blow off carbon dioxide.
Train with a weighted back pack. Train on uneven ground. Train with the gear you plan to use. Practice, train, practice, train…..
I also learned I should have done more than just train physically. I had one VERY disappointing moment just 1 switchback and 100 yards away from the summit. I could not figure out the action camera I was gifted with for Father’s Day! I was to winded, to light headed, and to emotional to figure out how to change it from taking photo’s every 1 minute to constant recording. So I did not get to film our team’s final steps up the summit.
Practice, train, including with your gear! Here is another embarrassing tidbit. I left our trekking poles in Texas! We bought more in Colorado of course, VERY nice one$, VERY light weight one$. They pulled apart and collapsed on to themselves for VERY quick $torage. Unfortunately as we hiked the basket at the bottom of the poles would get stuck in a crevice or on a bush and a pole would pull apart and collapse!
The first stop the day after the summit was to take these pole$ back! So we did where a store clerk quickly showed us how to lock the poles in place to prevent that from happening! They did this of course by pointing out the instructions, in pictures, displayed on the LARGE shopping tag connected to the poles themselves that was there when we purchased them. In the “techy” world we refer to this as RTFM (Read The F$@%ing Manual). Practice with your gear, study your gear, know your gear before you go. No matter HOW SIMPLE you may think it is.
Tomorrow - I will post DAY 1 of our 2 day hike.