Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pikes Peak Blows

Yesterday Mary and I attempted to climb Pikes Peak. Although there is a road to the top, if I am going to end up climbing all the 14ers in Colorado, I probably am not allowed to cheat. So we set out Monday morning from the Crags Campground on the west side of the peak at about 8:00 am on Monday morning. We were a little worried about the accessibility to the trailhead, as I had read previous reports saying that the road was only plowed to the Mennonite campground, a whole 1.5 miles below the Crags Trailhead. To our great fortune, it was actually plowed clear past the Crags Trailhead, and we were able to get a better start than previously anticipated.

Mary and I donned our snowshoes and took off up the mountain at a pretty considerable pace. We covered the first two miles in about an hour, which is pretty good with 20 inch conglomerations of plastic and aluminum fastened to your feet. Next, however, we had to climb the main headwall up to the Devils Playground, which would lead us to the summit ridge. This became slow going as we consistently sunk to our waists in the deep, snowblown powder. We continued up the slope, trying our best to avoid the dangerous avalanche terrain. At one point, a shooting crack appeared for about 20 feet, but to our relief, it didn't slide. We eventually trudged our way up the 1000 vertical feet to the Devil's Playground.

At this point, the wind picked up considerably. We had observed from the bottom of the climb that the clouds were moving quite rapidly over the top of the mountain, but once we were in the middle of that quagmire of snow, ice and other precipitation, it was much more difficult to navigate. It was probably the most miserable wind I have ever experienced, and after the climb I learned from the summit weather station that the winds were in excess of 60 miles per hour, with additional gusts faster than that. Mary and I weren't able to appreciate the beauty of the rock formations surrounding us, as we hunkered down behind a large rock to provide us with shelter. We discussed the possibilities of continuing for several minutes, but eventually decided to turn around. It was a good decision too, as when we reached the bottom of the climb, the summit became engulfed in a large storm which surely would have disoriented us.

We had a good time, and Mary proved to me yet again that she was born to climb. That badass bit of beauty and muscle will soon be summiting the hardest 14ers in Colorado. Hopefully next time we will be blessed with less wind, and more sun. Plans are already in the making for another trip up a TBD peak on February 3rd. I'll keep it posted.

(sorry for the lack of pictures, it was too cold in the 60mph winds to take my gloves off and dig out my camera. Lithium batteries have a minimum operating temperature, and on these 14er outings, you have to keep the camera insulated in a jacket or something to maintain battery life.)

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