Pikes Peak – Colorado
“Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.” Cheryl Strayed Brave Enough
Why This Mountain?
It would be a bit inconceivable to do 52 Peaks in a year and not include some peaks in the Rocky Mountains, home of the fourteeners (Mountains above 14,000 ft). California has 53 fourteeners. Pikes Peak tends to be the most known of the these and seemed the logical choice to begin the Northwest portion of 52 Peaks. This will also be the first National Park visited by the 52 Peaks team. The US National Park Service is celebrating their 100 year anniversary this year.
Mountain & Route Facts
Pikes Peak, at 14,114, is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The mountain is named in honor of American explorer Zebulon Pike who was unable to reach the summit. The first actual ascent to the summit was fourteen years later in 1820 by Edwin James. The mountain is located near Colorado Springs and is designated a National Historic Landmark.
Team 52 was joined by special guest Nikki Honey Badger (who had driven Tami’s truck from Texas). There are several routes to the summit of Pikes Peaks. We took the most established route – the Barr Trail which approaches the summit from the East. Since the hike is almost 26 miles and about 7,800 ft. of gain, we decided to split the hike into three days and stay both nights at the Barr Camp which is halfway up the trail to the summit. The first day we hiked up to the Barr Camp. The downside to spending more days hiking and staying overnight on the mountain is that we had to carry significantly heavier packs. The first day we hiked 6.5 miles for a gain of about 3600′. The most memorable section was that we decided to add in part of the famous Incline stairs and then reconnect with the Barr Trail. We went up the extremely steep stairs for about half a mile.
The Barr Camp was a nice option. The camp sits right above 10,000′ so it’s a great way to acclimate. We stayed in the bunk house which meant sharing a room with a lot of strangers, but we met some really nice people. One guy was from Austin and had driven all the way up to have a couple of days of solitude in the mountains. A mom was there with her two daughters doing one of their first ever major hikes. We had the option to eat breakfast and dinner (spaghetti!). We were able to leave a lot of our things in the bunk house which meant a lighter summit pack. Tami and Nikki were even able to stay awake to play a game of Scrabble on the second night (first time to play for Tami!)
Day 2 was Summit Day. We awoke at 3:30am to depart by 4am. We saw a beautiful sunrise right around 6am. The trail was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. Later in the day, we would start to see runners practicing (the annual Pikes Peak Marathon is this weekend). Even though we went about 6 miles with 4,000′ of gain, the terrain was fairly gentle and it was an enjoyable hike. At one point, we somehow made a little wrong turn. We did a great job navigating with the topographical map and made our way back onto the main trail. The summit for Pikes was a little crazy. There was a full restaurant and souvenir shop. People can drive up or take the train, so there were lots of people. We had lunch then made our way down quickly in our attempt to avoid the typical afternoon showers. We had about 15 minutes where we were in a hail storm. But we made it back to the camp about 10 minutes before the serious rain started!
The third day we hiked down the last 6.5 miles to the truck. The morning was beautiful and we were able to get down quickly in roughly 3.5 hours. We stopped for one break at the half way point at a large rock with a stunningly beautiful view of the mountains. It’s those moments for which we hike! Pikes Peak is a beautiful hike that we highly recommend. It can be done in a long day, but if you can spare the time, stay at the Barr Camp and soak in as many days as you can!
Historical and Cultural Information
“Tava” or “sun,” is the Ute word that was given by these first people to the mountain that we now call Pikes Peak. The band of Ute people who called the Pikes Peak region their home were the “Tabeguache,” meaning the “People of Sun Mountain.” The Ute people first arrived in Colorado about 500 A.D., although their traditions say they were created on Pikes Peak. In the 1800s, when the Arapaho people arrived in Colorado, they knew the mountain as“Heey-otoyoo’ “ meaning “Long Mountain”. Early Spanish explorers named the mountain “El Capitán” meaning “The Leader”. American explorer Zebulon Pike named the mountain “Highest Peak” in 1806, and the mountain was later commonly known as “Pike’s Highest Peak”. American explorer Stephen Harriman Long named the mountain “James Peak” in honor of Edwin James who climbed to the summit in 1820. The mountain was later renamed “Pike’s Peak” in honor of Pike. The name was simplified to “Pikes Peak” by the United States Board on Geographic Names in 1890.
Gold was discovered in the area of present-day Denver in 1858, and newspapers referred to the gold-mining area as “Pike’s Peak.” Pike’s Peak or Bust became the slogan of the Colorado Gold Rush (see also Fifty-Niner). This was more due to Pikes Peak’s visibility to gold seekers traveling west across the plains than any actual significant gold find anywhere near Pikes Peak. Major gold deposits were not discovered in the Pikes Peak area until the Cripple Creek Mining District was discovered southwest of Pikes Peak, and led in 1893 to one of the last major gold rushes in the lower forty-eight states.
In July 1860, Clark, Gruber and Company commenced minting gold coins in Denver bearing the phrase “Pike’s Peak Gold” and an artist’s rendering of the peak (sight unseen) on the obverse. In 1863 the U.S. Treasury purchased the minting equipment for $25,000 to open the Denver Mint.
During 1899 the Serbian physicist Nikola Tesla built his first working version of the Magnifying Transmitter in his laboratory some kilometers away from Colorado Springs, up in Pike’s Peak, working on his idea of wireless energy transmission.