P is for Pike’s Peak

Yes, I missed a few. And it’s no longer April (in fact, it’s no longer May either)!

So I have lived in Colorado Springs for just under a year now and the over 14,000 foot Pike’s Peak has been looming over me almost every day, watching my every move. The mountain is to the left of me as I drive to work and to the right of me when I drive home.  It is standing there directly across from me as I walk out of my westward facing front door. The only time I don’t see the peak is when the weather systems roll in and the entire mountain range is engulfed in clouds.  Even at night I can see the light flickering from the top of the mountain.

I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy... ~Rockwell

I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
And I have no privacy… ~Rockwell

Pike’s Peak was named after Bridagier-General Zebulon (if anyone knows the origin of that name, please let me know) Montgomery Pike who “discovered” the mountain on an expedition to find the headwaters of the Red River. Ironically to me (the Canadian in Colorado), Brig.-Gen Pike died in battle during the war of 1812 in York (now Toronto – so sorry about that Americans, I’m glad we’re friends now).


There are three main ways you can get to the top of Pike’s Peak:

1. The world’s highest Cog Train: For $36 a head, you can ride the train to the summit of the mountain.  It lets you off for about 30-40 minutes while you scramble to take #summitselfies and try the freshly baked altitude donuts, before taking you back down to the bottom. Total trip time: 3.5 hours.


The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts...

The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts…

2. Drive the Pike’s Peak Highway: Pay between $10-$12 at the tollgate (hint $2 off coupon) and drive all the way to the top! Not for the faint hearted though – although the train probably isn’t either! There aren’t any guardrails, and the right just simply drops off the side of the mountain. My husband was like, “Jenny, you can get a little closer to the right. You have lots of room.  You don’t have to crowd the line,” to which I retorted, “No, I’m good.  Thanks for the advice but I’ll just keep driving up the centre of the road.”  Also, word of advice, if you don’t have hill assist on your car/truck, don’t ride the brakes on the way down or you’ll have to stop halfway to let them cool off.  Not good for your car, and you really don’t want to lose that thing that will stop you if you need to!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

3.  Hike it: The Barr Trail ascends 7,900 vertical feet in just over 11 miles. You could do it in one day – the average ascent time is between 6-10 hours – or you can spread it out over two days and stay at Barr Camp half way up. Doggies on leashes are allowed! How do you get down?  Have a friend meet you at the top, take the train, or hike back down another 5-7 hours! (I’ll opt for the train…)

Someone looks a little pooped!

Someone looks a little pooped!

Some neat events based on Pike’s Peak:

The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb: every year in June, racers of all shapes and sizes test their skills and fear of heights to race to the top of Pike’s Peak. I wanted to go and watch in person, but once you’re up there you can’t get down until after the race is over.  Haven’t decided yet.


The AdAMan Climb: Every year, a select group of climbers ascend Pike’s Peak on December 31st (actually I think they start on the 30th) along Barr Trail and pop off Fireworks at midnight to ring in the new year.  Here’s the view from Garden of the Gods with my first-time attempt at using a tripod in pitch black and no professional skillz to try and get a photo of this cool phenomenon.

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!


Amazing Africa Part 3: The Summit

3 September 2009
I put on every layer I had, ready to start climbing. Angela had Emanuel as her guide and I had Eli, so that we could go at our own pace. We climbed very slowly, taking one step at a time. It was the night before the full moon (I think) and so I didn’t even need my headlamp; we were guided by the light of the moon. I have no idea how long we were climbing for, but we went from steep trails to zigzag scree. After a while, I could look down and see the headlamps of others directly below me and knew that one wrong step would send me plummeting down the side of the mountain. 
I’m not sure of the time, but about ¾ of the way up, I started feeling sick to my stomach. I quickly got water from Eli and started to feel better immediately. I continued climbing but about 30-40 minutes later felt confusion between needing to pass out or throw up. Eli told me that I was ok and told me to force myself to vomit. I got a little bile out and continued up, but I was not doing well. It was everything I could do to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. The last scramble over rocks brought us to 5685m and Gilman’s Point. It was amazing how fast the sun rose; within minutes it went from dark to daylight.  I remembered our briefing before the climb.  We were told “Whatever you do, don’t have a nap at Gilman’s Point no matter how tired you feel”.  Now I knew why.  Not only was it unsafe to nap at such a high altitude if I was feeling the effects of altitude sickness, but I would miss the sunrise, which was worth every penny I paid for the trip just to experience.  
Eli thought I was fine to continue to Uhuru Peak, although I wasn’t quite sure. He took my arm and we began walking slowly toward our final destination. He was telling me to look back at the other climbers, reassuring me that I wasn’t the only one having difficulty. We passed an American man coming down who said it was his twelfth summit of Kilimanjaro. I remember thinking to myself “Why?” It took another two hours to get to Uhuru Peak (5896m) and I couldn’t believe how crowded it was! People from every nation waiting their turn for a photo op by the summit sign. In my itinerary, it says “spectacular glaciers that still occupy most of the summit area”. It was a spectacular glacier that BARELY covered any of the summit. There was no snow or ice anywhere we walked, and the effects of global warming were evident. This mountain may not see any of its glacier left in the next 10-20 years. It was truly a beautiful yet sad sight to behold.   The air was thin, but I barely noticed in my excitement to capture every bit of the experience.  The summit was buzzing from the energy of all the tired climbers realizing their dream!
We began to head back down and after scrambling over the summit rocks I was instantly glad that we did our ascent in the dark. It was super-steep! If I had seen that hill, I would have surely been demotivated to continue!  Eli grabbed the back of my shirt and we slid down the loose scree like we were skiing. It was a lot of fun, and the lower we went, the better I began to feel. But when I got back to Kibo, I had a brutal pressure headache and severe chills. I couldn’t get warm until I started moving, had to take Motrin for the headache but couldn’t eat barely anything. Eli explained that it was normal to feel this way. We spent the night at Horombo Hut and ended up sharing with two Slovakian soldiers that we shared with at Mandara. One of them summited. A Canadian girl named Leah also didn’t make it, but a 62-year old woman ticking off items from her bucket list made it! I was really impressed!
Sunrise at Gilman’s Point
I was really tired….
Have to keep going…
Our team!  Eli and Emanuel were great and encouraging the whole way!  
I might not have made it if it wasn’t for them!
4 September 2009
Back to Springlands for a hot shower and rest! We were lucky on the way down to walk through a part of the rainforest teeming with monkeys. I learned “Safari n jima” which meant “Good Luck” and I said it to everyone climbing up. We made it to the gate and “Maliza!” we were finished! Eli told me after that he was worried that we might not summit because the night before saw a 50% success rate. Angela had been taking Diamox since day 2 because she was feeling sickness the first day. I didn’t take any altitude drugs and had a bit more trouble at the end, but made it anyway! 
I gave the North Face jacket I was wearing to our waiter/porter Fide. The whole tipping situation concerned me. Before our climb they handed us a tipping sheet with guidelines on what was expected. If I was on my own I would be expected to pay per day: $20 to the guide, $10 per porter (x4) and $15 to the cook for a TOTAL of $345!!!!! This on top of the $1000+ I paid for the climb! I simply could not afford to tip that much. I don’t know where the money from these organized climbs goes, but the tipping expectation was a bit much. A couple from the UK, who the husband climbed had the porters/guide demand tips from them on the mountain. If that had happened to me, I wouldn’t have tipped at all.
Angela and I had dinner, sorted out when we could afford to tip and then I met with three Americans and a Swede who turned out to be the owner of Zara and Springlands. He met his wife on a plane and in the 80’s as she was working as a travel agent in Tanzania and they were unable to book clients because the hotels were full, they decided to build their own. Over the years it expanded with more buildings and the pool to be what it is today. I was telling the story of my summit and mentioned that I met a crazy man who claimed he had summited twelve times!  They all laughed and one of the Americans, Macon Dunnagan told me that he was the one that I saw! His wife had died of ovarian cancer and he carried her ashes to the top and buried at Uhuru Peak.  He asked me if I had called my mom and told her of my achievement and when I informed him I hadn’t, he handed me his cell phone and told me to.  From Africa!  It’s incredible the amazing people you meet around the world when you’re travelling!
This photo is deceiving, but it’s actually taken pointing up at the sky. 
 This gives an idea of how steep it was going up AND back down!
We’re on the moon. It started raining for the first time of the whole trip on the way back down.
We were really lucky.