ethanbeute

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Tag: climb

Pikes Peak: Gleeful Ignorance vs Mental Challenge

Tomorrow, I’ll day-hike Barr Trail to the summit of Pikes Peak and back down for the second time.  This hike, however, already feels different.

My first ascent was undertaken in gleeful ignorance just three weeks after moving to Colorado Springs.

  • Sure, I knew I’d be hiking about 25 or 26 miles round trip to the top of “America’s Mountain,” the inspiration for the writing of “America the Beautiful.”
  • Yeah, I knew it would require most of my waking hours that day.
  • Absolutely, I was up for a walk up through three distinct ecological life zones (Montane, Spruce-fir and alpine).

It wasn’t until I hiked up alongside of JJ, a 20-something from Denver who’s in the Colorado Mountain Club, about 5 miles up that I really understood the accomplishment of day-hiking it.  The young man filled me in.

Pikes Peak, Barr Trail, 14er, mountain, summit, hike, peak, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs

First summit hike of Pikes Peak by Barr Trail, September 2006

Pikes Peak by Barr Trail is marathon-length, the longest approach of any of Colorado’s famed 14ers (+14,000 peaks).  It also has the greatest elevation gain of any approach; from the trailhead in Manitou Springs to the summit, you climb approximately 7,500 vertical feet.

Among more than 50 qualifying Colorado peaks, Pikes ranks 30th at 14,110ft above sea level.  So, it’s not even close to being the highest.

It’s also not the most technical.  In fact, it’s probably the least technical.  Barr Trail is a Class 1 walk-up, about as simple a summit hike as you’ll find.

It’s also insanely civilized.  To call Barr Trail heavily used is a gross understatement, even by 14er standards.  There’s Barr Camp halfway up, where many hikers spend the night, purchase t-shirts, eat a pancake breakfast or pick up a bottled drink.  The summit itself is a tourist’s delight, designed to satisfy all those who drive up the Pikes Peak Highway or ride up the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  In addition to a huge gift shop, replete with the requisite “Got Oxygen” t-shirts, summit house offers a snack bar and fresh donut stand.  Note: in addition to hiking it, I’ve been up by (rental) car and by cog railway.

So, what’s the difference between my initial go at it and what I’m preparing for tomorrow?  I don’t keep a list, but I’d guess I’ve climbed a couple dozen mountains since my day-hike of Pikes Peak.  So what’s the big deal?

I’ll call it the mental aspect of endurance.  It’s a little more in my head now.  I’m thinking too much about it.  It’s shaping up as more of a mental challenge than a physical one.

It’s going to be a long day – probably 12 or 13 hours of hiking.  I’m going to start before sunrise.  I’m certain to have blisters by the end of the day (even though I plan to switch between shoes and boots near treeline).

I’m not going up the much shorter Crags route on the west side of the mountain.  I’m not splitting the hike in half with by staying overnight at Barr Camp.  I’m not hiking up, then catching a ride back down in a car or on the train.

Instead, I’m heading up as fast as I can, buying a Gatorade in the summit house, seeing how full the parking lot is, then hauling all the way back down and out (the hike down’s different, but it isn’t easy).  I’m already wondering how tired and sore I might be as I head in to work on Monday morning.

To feel a little more prepared, I put on my boots and a full pack and did The Incline this morning.  And to think … last time, I simply decided on a Thursday afternoon that Saturday’s weather looked good, so I should head up that mountain in my back yard.

All kinds of Pikes Peak photos from my Flickr photo stream are here.

What I Want in a Purchase

Says what it is.  Does what it says.  Solves your problem.  Exceeds your expectations.  That’s all I want in a purchase – how about you?

I really love to hike and to climb mountains.  I don’t do it as often as I would like, but I appreciate every opportunity I get.

Several times in fall or spring, I’ve been out in conditions in which snowshoes would have been a serious benefit.  I’d casually surveyed the market for several months, never quite serious enough to commit to a purchase.  A friend recommended the MSR Lightning Ascent.

MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoe 22" Orange

MSR Lightning Ascent

It’s a serious product.  Cut from aerospace-grade aluminum.  Lightest in its class.  Heel lift to support steep climbs.  A “total traction” design with teeth around the entire frame.  In short, it was designed to serve my purpose in an exceptional way.  I also expected to have the shoes for decades, perhaps handing them down to my son should he want them.

I probably would not have dropped the full retail price ($260-300); I wanted them, but did not need them.  I did, however, find a pair at one of the finest little shops in downtown Colorado Springs, Mountain Chalet.  End of season – $105 off.  Um, OK.

Picked them up and took them out the same weekend for a visit to Horsethief Park and a climb to Sentinel Point with Matt Payne (side note: check out 100summits.com – a website he built from pure passion and no web design background to speak of prior to initiating the project).

The MSR Lightning Ascent performed beautifully on hard pack, soft snow, deep powder, ice, steep slopes and all else we encountered.  Though only about 3 miles to Sentinel Point, the elevation gain is about 3,000ft.  Much of that gain is in the last mile and a half.  The heel lift proved to be an extremely valuable feature.

Approaching Sentinel Point, west side of Pikes Peak

Approaching Sentinel Point on the west side of Pikes Peak

Said what it was.  Did what it said.  Solved my problem.  Exceeded my expectations.  That’s what I got in the purchase.

Worth noting: they have a similar similar design at a lower price point in the Denali Ascent and Denali Evo Ascent.

Here’s a photo set from the hike.

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