Ascent of Pikes Peak on 2015-07-16

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Katrina
Date:Thursday, July 16, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Pikes Peak
    Elevation:14110 ft / 4300 m

Ascent Trip Report

After hiking to the top of the Teller cohp, an outcropping in the area known as Devil's Playground, I met back with Katrina at the large dirt parking area and we continued on the Pikes Peak Trail. The trail somewhat followed the road for a while, so we got to see Harleys, convertibles, and average cars passing us on their way to the summit. I always thought that I would drive up Pike's, but there I was with the good fortune of having the time to hike it like it should be hiked! The trail followed a ridge that had some ups and downs, but for the most part the elevation remained the same. We saw a group of people that had paid to be driven to the top so that they could come down on rental bikes. At one point during the trail undulations the road regains some elevation on its way back to the bottom. This small hill was too much for most of the bikers and we saw them walking up... Our trail continued on and crossed a pitched bit of snow. I could have skied it if I had driven up. There were a few other people out hiking on the trail at this point, but it was clear that some of them had parked nearby. We finally made it to where the trail skirted around a tight road turn and then we were on the final pitch. The pitch was made of large talus boulders. However, there was still a trail marked by cairns and smoothed by what must have been very difficult grunt work to move these stones to make a somewhat flat stepped course to follow. The middle schoolers were above us and we saw that they missed the trail turning at at least two different cairns. They ended up completely off trail. We worked our way up, on the trail maybe 95% of the time until we saw the guardrail where the road comes by the top of the talus. We had passed the middle schoolers and we now saw how they were supervised. There were chaperons with radios stationed at a few different spots on the trail, counting the number of kids to make sure they were making it alright on their own. We skirted around a couloir that still held some snow and headed up past a maintenance or communication building of some sort. I didn't know where the top rock was, so we kept looking around. The parking lot was filled with cars from a wide variety of states. It turned out that there was a field of untouched rocks, maybe half a football field in size that held the benchmark and the highest rock. For all of the hundreds of people up here, I didn't see anyone but us go to the top. We had heard that there were famous doughnuts at the top, so I thought that we may as well see how good they were. I heard that they actually weren't expensive. On our way over to the tourist building we were stopped by a preteen who had clearly just been driven to the top. He asked us where we hiked, and we told him, well, here for starters. We then mentioned that we had also hiked across Isle Royale this summer. He then said he was there just last week, err, last year! We didn't believe him as he just didn't look like the kind of kid who would go there. Then he mentioned that they stayed in Windigo! Seeing that almost no one knows about that harbor, we then believed him. Once we got over to the building we went inside and found a line almost out the door for food. We turned right back around and went over to the viewing platform instead. There were long views all around. I tried to imagine myself standing on top of the other Pike's Peak, the one in Iowa that I have already been to which was named after the same Zebulon Pike. This one is quite different, but both do have steep cliffs off the top. The weather was partly cloudy, but we could see storms were blocking the view toward Mount Elbert and dark clouds and rain were on their way. We had to start getting back down.

Once we passed that metal building I heard a voice coming from out of the rocks. I found one of the radios that the chaperons were using to communicate between them and the kids. We were 50' away from one of them so I yelled that we found one of their radios. They didn't seem to give us any response, although we know they could hear us and probably the radio. I just left it in the trail and we moved on. Katrina moved slowly through the scree, but we may be making improvements! The weather was closing in on us and it was getting dark. We still had to get all the way across the undulating ridge before dropping off the side of the mountain and back into the trees. Some flurries began to fly and we were hit with some rain. The moisture made the cliffs east of Devil's Playground look like dark copper in the stark lighting. We also realized that those middle schoolers were getting a ride down. We considered whether reaching the summit counted if you don't hike down. We agree that it does count, it's just more respectable to hike back down, but every situation is different and you can only do so much sometimes. Still, we thought if we were the kids that would be too lame for us. We rolled over the meadow after passing Devil's Playground and were passed by two other guys. They made a comment about how going down is much better than going up. We were pretty confused by that. We both enjoy going uphill as opposed to down, unless of course it's on skis. At this point the storms were just messing with the area above 13000' and we were having a sunny afternoon down below that. The weather got kind of hot and we were down to one top layer and sweating a lot by the time we got to the car. This hike was a big success for us and very rewarding. A week ago we thought we were going for Longs, but this was a surprise and perfectly suitable substitute for now. This was Katrina's biggest hike ever, and certainly in my top five. It sure beat the road.

A note about why it's called Pike's Peak from a book called "Mountain Names" by Robert Hixson Julyan. He writes that Zebulon Pike wrote in his reports that he saw the mountain from miles out and deemed it "unclimbable" and so did not even approach it to assess it further. Someone else on his expedition wrote, however, that Pike had led a team to try and climb the peak and had made a failed attempt. It may have been the first mountain that Zebulon Pike had ever even attempted to climb. The mountain ended up being named after him because of his survey identifying it.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1810 ft / 551 m
    Elevation Loss:4890 ft / 1490 m
    Distance:9.5 mi / 15.4 km
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Partly Cloudy
clear to overcast to a few flurries to partly cloudy with ocassional mist
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1340 ft / 408 m
    Extra Loss:290 ft / 88 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.6 km
    Route:Pikes Peak Trail
    Trailhead:Devil's Playground  13060 ft / 3980 m
    Time Up:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:4600 ft / 1402 m
    Extra Gain:470 ft / 143 m
    Distance:6.7 mi / 10.8 km
    Route:Devils Playground Trail
    Trailhead:Crags Campground  9980 ft / 3041 m
    Time Down:4 Hours 
Ascent Part of Trip: Pikes

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Devils Playground2015-07-16 #1
2Pikes Peak2015-07-16 #2

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