Intro/StatsPikes Pk (14115')
Via Barr Trail/SE Ridge
Sept 12, 2011
24.5 miles RT, 7650' gain
Pikes has been my backyard 14er since I moved to Colorado in 2003. I've enjoyed following Ken Nolan's 14er grid pursuits, so somewhere down the line I decided it would be cool to finish the grid on Pikes. The grid is simply hiking a peak in every month, although not consecutively. It then morphed into a "how many routes can you make up" project since I didn't want to go up Barr or the Crags all the time! My first ascent of Pikes came in August 2003 with my cousin Jeremy Collins. A variety of routes and conditions has made this project interesting and challenging. It ended up that my final grid slot in September would also be the 12th route! For those of you interested in exploring Pikes via non-conventional ways, here's a listing of the routes:
1) Barr Trail
2) East Face winter gully route
3) Northeast Ridge (up to 5th class options)
4) Southeast Ridge (bits of 3rd class)
5) South Ridge/Cog Track from Windy Point
6) West Fork from Gilette (very scenic)
7) Y Couloir left branch
8) Y Couloir Direct
9) Y Couloir Right Branch
10) Rumdoodle Ridge
12) Little Italy/Crags trail/NW ridge direct
I wanted to hit the Sept slot before the snow started piling up and the forecast for Monday looked pretty decent. No takers as expected for a weekday hike, plus it was going to be a long slog. I set out pretty late at 6:30am from one of the last legal parking spots below the cog railway. There is now a fee to park at the Barr trail lot, but it only added about 1/4 mile and 100'.
A Picture Perfect Finish to the Grid
I kept the pace pretty mellow heading up to Barr Camp even with the late start. There were a few early morning clouds, but they quickly burned away and it turned out to be warm enough to hike in shorts and tshirt all the way to the top! There were some nice views of the sunrise as I started out.
The familiar 6.5 mile slog to Barr Camp went by pretty quick and there weren't many folks on the trail for a Monday morning. I took a nice break at Barr Camp, chatting with Neil and a temporary caretaker who was there for a few months. He said there were only a few heading up today.
My plan was to follow the trail all the way above the A-Frame shelter, then traverse across the east slopes when I was above the trees to the southeast ridge. I ended up leaving the trail at around 12200' and the ascending traverse was enjoyable on mostly grass, weaving around a few slabs here and there.
The s.e. ridge emerges:
The toughest part of the ridge is near 13K, and I intersected it about where the scrambling begins. I stayed true to the ridge as much as I could to maximize the short scrambling section. Lots of high quality Pikes Peak granite to play around on, with all of the exposure being on the south side. This route affords some amazing views of The Cirque.
The optional crux of the ridge is a downclimb into a notch near where the trail flirts with the ridge. I'm sure the few hikers on the trail were wondering why I was playing around on this with a cruiser trail nearby!
An inspiring view down a narrow gully into The Cirque:
The ridge was very efficient and I was soon seeing the train crest the summit. The ridge turns into small talus near the top and hits the south ridge at 13900'. Tourists were watching me as I weaved my way up to the observation deck. The ridge was much shorter than the trail with it's many switchbacks and long traverse.
The second half of the ridge:
I topped out at 12:10 and was immediately hit with the tourist questions. The most common is "Did you walk all the way up here?" I don't take many hero shots on summits, but I thought it was worthwhile to have my pic taken at the plaque commemorating the writing of "America the Beautiful" by Katharine Lee Bates. That's why it's called America's mountain. I thought it was fitting to visit the plaque just one day after the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I feel a lot of patriotism hiking on Pikes with all of its history. It sure has been fun exploring Pikes in non-conventional ways pursuing the grid!
I strolled over to the true summit and scared the tourists with a high quality summit yell, then enjoyed a chicken sandwich, Gatorade, and a donut in the summit house. Ah, the luxuries of Pikes. The day was in stark contrast to some of my summit visits! I was feeling pretty good after a long break and decided to try and run down most of the way. As I was descending the 16 Golden Stairs, none other than legendary ultra runner Matt Carpenter passed by! He seemed like he wasn't even breathing hard at 14K as he effortlessly climbed.
The final stretch up the 16 Golden Stairs:
I was really feeling good today and decided to run down to where the trail hits the halfway mark of the Incline. I took another break at Barr Camp and the trip down was uneventful other than I wiped out for the first time while trail running and it sure hurt! Luckily I rolled over on my back and my pack took most of the blow. I laid there for a minute, but the pain went away pretty quick. I don't think I'll be running the Marathon! The bottom half of the Incline wasn't as bad as expected. My knees have felt much worse after coming down from the Y with a big pack. I made it back to the car at 4:25. What a day to finish the grid!