early morning on Pikes

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 17, 2006
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring

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Until recently, I would never have thought that I would ever climb Pikes Peak again. But the rest of my family settled on it as a family trip for later this summer, using the shorter route from the Crags campground as a doable day trip. Then, just by chance, I got to talking about it with my young friend Sarah and her father, and it turned out that Sarah would be in town in June and wanted to make Pikes her first fourteener. When her father asked if I would be willing to be a guide and partner on this, I was only to happy to say yes, since a chance to scout out the route might well also pay dividends for the family hike later on.

Equally nice, it turned out that Sarah liked the idea of hiking through the night to reach the peak early in the morning, something I rarely can get enough of. So we left the Crags TH at 1 am MDT on Saturday, the 17th of June.

It’s a good, well-worn trail, and not really hard to find and follow. All the same, the big excitement of the trip was somehow getting off the trail to the north around timberline. We consequently did some unnecessary, but enjoyable scrambling and bouldering before throwing in the towel, and deciding that we would have to do some backtracking. We also had to give up a little bit of elevation before we got out of the rocks, and began climbing the gentle tundra slopes to the ridge.

City lights as far away as southern metro Denver were visible. Around 3:30, we turned off our headlamps for good, and enjoyed traveling by moonlight for the rest of the night. We finally encountered the road, and the section of trail which parallels it, somewhere south of Devil’s Playground. From there, it was a fairly easy, if cold, slog to the summit. I was impressed with the early morning views of the territory west and southwest of the peak.

We didn’t make the peak by sunrise, but it was still quite early, and the place was deserted, when we did swing around the last turn on the road and out onto the broad summit area. It was the earliest (6:40 MDT) I’d ever attained a 14er summit, and the third time in less than a year that I (or my party) had had such a summit all to myself/ourselves.

It was, however, very windy and cold. We headed down just after 7 am. Technically, the hardest portion of this route is the rock scramble just below the summit, but it’s well-cairned and well-worn. We found it easier than the unplanned rock climb we had done on the way up.

We met several parties coming up as we were going down, but, considering that it was a Saturday, and warming up nicely by that time, it really wasn’t many people all told. Altogether, an unexpectedly enjoyable amble through some pretty country, on a mountain I hadn’t anticipated enjoying again.


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