Saturday, May 9, 2009
| Objectives: || Rocky Mountain (9250') & Mount Manitou (9429') |
| Route: || Incline/Bushwack/J-Pipe/Incline |
| Total Distance: || ~5.75 miles |
| Elevation Gain: || ~3050 ft |
| Participants: || Jim & Karen |
After a couple of weekends in a row mostly at home, highlighted by my first mountain biking trip in 3 years (during which I successfully avoided killing myself), it was time to start whipping ourselves into hiking shape for upcoming summer adventures in the high country. Originally the plan was a leisurely morning of suffering on the incline - an abandoned cog railway track in Manitou Springs that draws hundreds each weekend looking for an outdoor stairmaster of sorts. The stats are something like 1800-2000 feet of elevation gain over about a mile. Sounds like fun doesn't it?
For extra credit, we were considering continuing on above the incline to the summits of Rocky Mountain(+) and Mount Manitou(+). The forecast was for pea soup-like conditions in the morning, so we'd just have to see if the weather and our bodies would cooperate with that plan.
An unusual thing happened this Saturday which made it very special to me - the alarm didn't go off at 4am, or even 8am. No, friends, no alarm would be going off at all this morning. We got to sleep in to 9am and still got to go for a terrific hike. I could get used to this.
The downside of targeting the Incline as your Saturday morning hike and not getting there by 6am is you're going to have a heck of a time parking. It's tight parking around there anyway, and the cog railway that is still functioning reserves much of the area for paying customers, which we were not. There's room for 15-20 cars at the trailhead, otherwise you're left with finding a place to parallel park somewhere further down the road, adding a nice jaunt up the street to the days hiking mileage - which is always more demoralizing at the end of your hiking day on the way down. So, this morning the line of cars stretched all the way down Ruxton Ave to downtown Manitou (sigh). Fortunately, we tested fate and managed to score a prime spot right at the trailhead as someone had just finished torturing themselves and was pulling out. Timing really is everything.
There is a shortcut from the parking lot that leads to the Incline, however not to its true starting point. It's steep enough, but still cheating. I was in the mood for full 100% suffering in its purest form, so we headed for the very bottom tie on the track, making a 10:48am start.
Karen was off like a rocket while I stayed back setting a moderate pace, determined to go the whole way up without stopping. I thought maybe I would catch her at some point if she stopped to rest or maybe if she slowed down as the slope steepened, and I finally did - when she was waiting for me at the top. There's not much to say about the Incline other than it's long, it hurts, and if you take the time to turn around for a second the views of Colorado Springs are pretty neat.
I finally reached the top at 11:38am, just beating 50 minutes without stopping while Karen made it in a hair over 45 minutes, also without stopping. So much for my strategy.
At the top, we found a cool shady spot to refuel while we waited for our lungs and our legs to catch up. The weather was turning out to be gorgeous and we were feeling good enough to continue, so we pressed on to Rocky Mountain. The trail was easy to follow with only two forks to throw you off.
A right, then a left, and a switchback or twelve later we wandered up to the eastern summit of Rocky Mountain at 12:23pm with Pikes Peak staring us right in the face.
The eastern summit has a couple of large class 3/4-ish boulders, oddly decorated with rebar and a long 4"x4" on top. Karen took the monkey route up the steeper eastern side of the highpoint while I tested the weenie route on the north.
I have been looking for an ideal spot to take a really nice picture of Pikes Peak for each season of the year, and I think this might be it. The unobstructed view of Pikes from the top of the eastern summit on Rocky Mountain is primo!
After a careful descent and some more photo ops, we headed for the true western summit of Rocky Mountain which we reached at 12:57pm
The western summit is more heavily tree'd but the highpoint is pretty obvious. A hand on the top of the summit boulder was good enough for me, but Karen felt the urge to put a foot on it.
The forecast was for rain starting early this morning, but so far the weatherman had been a bit off. However, clouds were starting to roll over Pikes, making our decision to head for Mount Manitou more difficult. It seemed pretty straightforward and not too far away so we decided to go for it. There wasn't a trail to follow from where we were, so we channeled our inner Baker
and set off bushwacking through the forest toward the next bump on the horizon.
My GPS indicated a road of sorts ahead of us after a few hundred yards, which we found with no trouble. We had a route description for Mount Manitou that told us to look for a trail off of this road on the right-hand side, but it eluded us. But, after traversing around the eastern side of the mountain we found a suitable slope to ascend and clawed our way up to the summit at 1:36pm.
14 minutes later we headed for home, Bakering our way back to the road, and then following the J-Pipe expressway back to the top of the incline.
It must be early on in the hiking season when someone can convince me that a 2000-ft descent down a stairmaster is a good idea. Hopefully my knees will be willing to forgive me tomorrow. Having a pair of trekking poles to share was a big help though and we took our time. A nice 10 minute break to chat with a friend on the way down felt good too. 40 minutes later, I stumbled down the shortcut back to the parking lot while Karen continued down to the very bottom tie, rounding out a nice afternoon exploring El Paso County's highpoints.