Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Manitou Incline (CO): 7/30/2014

Mileage: 1.35
Elevation gain: 1125'
Trails used: Incline Trail.

My brother's wife, Melinda wanted to do this hike which is near the Pikes Peak Cog Railway station.  We knew the weather was going to be iffy, as monsoonal rain had been falling steadily the day before into the day we planned to hike.  When we arrived, we thought we might have a window of opportunity for better weather but it was not to be.

The Manitou Incline, or Incline as it is commonly called, is located in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  The trail is an old railway/tram that washed out due to a slide in the 1990's.  For awhile, the trail was off limit's but was recently opened to the public for hiking.  There used to even be a building on the "summit", which was demolished around the same time as the tracks being removed.

The Incline gains over 2000 feet in less than one mile, and is a fitness challenge for the locals and other's who want to test it's steep grades (the highest which is about 68%).

For more info, head here the Manitou Incline web page , Manitou Incline Youtube video or Manitou Incline Facebook page

Tim (my brother) and Melinda (his wife) starting out from the parking area.   Also joining us was Melinda's sister Rita (not pictured).  Her other sister Elsa went with her son up the Cog to the summit of Pikes Peak (also another nice thing to do in the area).

At the bottom of the old rail system, looking up.  The views would be obscured by the clouds for the whole climb up.

The trail going up.  It starts off steep and gets worse.  It stays like this all the way up.

A little view from an overlook area along the trail.  I believe it was some sort of maintenance path that leads down and around the power lines.

Oh how I miss cactus (from my days back home in Texas).  Okay, no. Not really.

Some interesting pink flowers along side the incline.  Not exactly sure what they are.

In some places, the erosion and evidence of the slide is pretty evident.  Still steep in this spot.

Like I said, not much for views today.  It rained, then stopped, then started again.  Rinse and repeat for about 3+ hours (actually more since it rained all day).

Higher up the incline looking back down to the parking area.

I made it a little further up from this point but pretty much decided to turn around and head down.  The views were non-existent, the rain was coming down steadily and I was still sore from hiking Mount Elbert earlier in the week.

Heading back down towards the beginning of the trail, as the clouds started to part somewhat and the rain let up slightly.

While we waited for Melinda and her sister Rita, we were graced with the presence of a small herd of mule deer.  It looked to be about 5 does and 1 buck, all very young.

I was about 10 feet from this female as she nibbled on the vegetation along the trail.

The lone young buck mule deer of the herd.  He made his presence known with me, as I was a little too close on the trail.

This hike definitely lived up to its billing as a steep climb and tough workout.  It was too bad the weather didn't cooperate much as the views would be top notch and it would be a good full hike to get in.  Next time I head to Colorado I will give this one another shot and most assuredly conquer it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mount Elbert (CO): 7/28/2014

Mileage: 9.2
Elevation gain: 4490'
Trails used: Colorado Trail, North Mount Elbert Trail.

I was given good information about hiking in Colorado during the summer.  Hike Monday through Thursday, arrive early and usually the trails are lighter.  So I decided to hike this on Monday the 28th and I did indeed luck out.  The weather held out long enough for me to summit the highest peak in Colorado, and my main hiking objective while I was on vacation in Colorado for a family reunion.

I hiked this peak with Rita, my brother's sister-in-law and while she didn't make the summit, she did an admirable job at staying jovial and hiking to at least 13000 feet where she decided to turn around since she was going at a slower pace and the altitude was catching up to her.

Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Lake County, the highest peak in Colorado and the highest peak in the Sawatch Range and Rocky Mountains.  It is also a fourteener, a mountain that exceeds 14000 feet in elevation and the 21st highest peak in the United States.

The start of the North Mount Elbert Trail Head in the Half Moon Creek area.

Kiosk with information at the trail head.

The first part of the trail starts off as switchbacks and stays like that pretty much until we would get into the alpine zone.

The Class 1 trail was easy to follow and the trail was well maintained.

Looking back to Emerald Lake which is near where the North Mount Elbert Trail head starts.

Possibly a fireweed, which was seen right off the side of the North Mount Elbert Trail.

The North Mount Elbert Trail branches off of the Colorado Trail and then switchbacks its way up to tree line at about 12000'.

A familiar bird here in New Hampshire.  He ate a twinkie right out of my hand much to the delight of Rita, who had to try it later while I was working my way to the summit.

More Class 1 trail action plus rock steps.  All of the trails I visited were in pretty good shape (minus the Manitou Incline Trail, see separate trip report).

An old gnarly tree that was right along the trail, with some fire damage to it.

First glimpse of Mount Massive before we got to the alpine zone.

Our first glimpse of the long ridge up to Mount Elbert.

My brother's sister-in-law, Rita, who accompanied me on this hike.  She looked back to admire the views we were finally starting to get. Looking back to the Leadville area.

A nice rest area/camping spot that we would use just before we began to head up.  The tree made a nice place to sit down and rest for a few.

The north-northeast ridge heading up to Mount Elbert and Mount Massive in the background.

Starting to climb into the alpine  zone, and it is definitely getting steep.

I managed to take quite a few pictures of Mount Massive, as it was almost always in view.

Heading up the ridge to Mount Elbert's summit, which goes up and over this false summit.

The southeast ridge that heads over South Elbert and back down to the trail head.  I saw several guys hauling mountain bikes up to the summit that were going to use this route to head back down to the bottom.

I am still heading up slowly.  This is another one of the false summit's for Mount Elbert.  I was trying to beat the storms that were slowly making their way towards us.

The long ridge back down to tree line, where Rita was waiting for me to return.  Quite a few people were turning around and going down, both because of the weather and some overestimated the intensity of the hike.

It still looks like a long way to go but it was a steady climb once you got out of tree line.

When you get views like this while you are climbing up, you just can't complain about the hike.

Now why did I take this picture.  See if you can see the animal hidden in the photo.

Can you see it yet?  A White-tailed Ptarmigan almost dead center. I almost missed it if I didn't catch a glimpse of it moving.

Another false summit.  It seemed like there was about 5 of them on the way up, which always makes it a bit frustrating when you think you're almost there.

It seems like a long way down.  People actually climb up through here in the winter.

Finally, the summit of Mount Elbert pops into view.  I was the only one on the summit at the time which was rare for all of the hikes I did while on vacation.

The summit sign for Mount Elbert (elevation 14433') and this signed Navy Seals flag which was really neat and somber to see.

Mount Massive (and its five summits over 14000') and the rain storm moving in over it.

More views, more storms.  That was the norm for the hike today.

A marmot came out to see what was happening.  You will see a lot of marmot and Pika out here while you are hiking.  There is also good chances of seeing mountain goats and maybe elk.

Pretty purple flowers.  These were in abundance along the trail heading to the summit.

I call this "Lone Sentinel of Mount Elbert".  This pika never moved from this spot.  His only job was to alert other pika's in the area of human's being around.

I don't think I am going to beat this storm back down to the car (and Rita and I didn't).

Heading back down the North Mount Elbert Trail and the storm was getting closer.

Rita and I started heading down the trail back to the car.  I wish more trails in New Hampshire were this nice and clear to travel on.

You could see the thunderstorms brewing over Mount Massive.

We moved at a quicker pace to get back down to the trail head.

We made it down the trail to right around here and had to put on the rain gear.  We were still about a half mile from the trail head and car, so we hurried back down as the storm moved in.

We managed to hit the car just as a thunderstorm dumped pouring rain down.  Now it was time for the long drive back into Denver, which is always fun due to heavy traffic and construction.  First we decided to stop in Leadville to get some food and then head back to our respective hotel rooms.

Overall, a good day.  While Rita did not make the summit, she gave it a good try.  It was probably a bit much to have expected from her and I most likely should have done something a bit more in her range, but she is always smiles and chipper.  Even when I was winded and turned back to see how she was doing, she was smiling.  She got the best of me though two days later on the Manitou Incline Trail (see the report here).

I accomplished what I set out to do in my time in Colorado this go round though.  I made it to the highest summit in Colorado, and while the weather did not cooperate fully, I still managed to make the best of it.   Perhaps we will go back to Colorado next year but most likely it will be in two years.