I knew there was a reason why I had been procrastinating doing a full 14er. I had been hiking since childhood but couldn’t quite explain my lack of desire to hike a peak . That was until the 3:02 a.m. alarm titled “This is fucking crazy” went off on my phone the morning of my first 14er. When the 3:04 a.m. alarm titled “You are fucking crazy” sounded, I was still in a daze. And when the last 3:07 a.m. alarm titled, “You all are fucked in the head…” blared I was finally semi-conscious. A groggy version of myself arose and stumbled into the shower. Still in a blurry state, I managed to dress myself, drink some coffee and load my gear into my friends’ 4 Runner. After that it was a half hour to meet another friend and another half hour to the trailhead. A few more logistics were involved but by the time we began our ascent up Pikes Peak via Barr Trail, I was energized.
Barr Trail doesn’t exactly start gradual… it’s actually about as easy as starting the Incline. While the switchbacks make it a little less intense than the mile-long stair stepper called the Incline, it definitely awakens the muscles and warms the lungs. And before 5 a.m. it’s a little tough to breathe in and out let alone hike in the dark. Within one hour of our hike, we were ready to rearrange our packs and shed some layers. We made the rookie mistake of carrying full-size backpacking packs up the mountain. We were prepared for anything to include camping overnight if necessary. Definitely overboard for Pikes Peak unless you plan on hiking in the winter…but this was August. After a few adjustments and pictures we continued on our journey.
We followed the scent of fresh coffee to Barr camp around 7 a.m. with relief in our eyes when we saw a bathroom. Surprisingly, Barr Camp is staffed every day of the year and sells local baked goods such as granola and energy bars. The rustic interior and warmth of the coffee brought us so much unexpected joy. After a short stop, we snapped a few pics and ventured back to the trail.
After Barr Camp, we expected the trail to become slightly flat for a few miles as one of us had read about a meadow. The high elevation definitely added to our breathless conversations. By the time we found the A-Frame shelter, we stopped looking for the “meadow” and shifted our attention to the views. After we passed the tree-line, every step involved some strong breathwork and concentration. At one point, clouds began rolling across us and we saw a little lightning. Upon the first strike, one of us booked it under some boulders for shelter…not exactly the most brilliant idea according to an old man with a dog.
Upon our arrival to the Golden Stairs we had given up on finding the “meadow” and were amused with the picas and marmots along the way. We could see tourists at the top unloading from the Cogg Railway Train to get some prized “World Famous Donuts” and souvenirs at the top. When we finally reached the very top we were congratulated by other hikers and tourists. While some may claim this hike is very anti-climactic, I would deviate to say it was probably the specialist hike I have done. We celebrated with a traditional beer and cider at the top holding a handmade cardboard sign. After several silly pictures, we devoured some of those famous donuts which I might add, hold their title and taste so much better after a long hike. Overall, I’d put this hike as one of my favs but definitely not one for the occasional hiker.