The alarm goes off at 3:30am and it’s time to get up for my 2nd Pikes Peak Challenge hike. My wife & I are checking in for the hike at 4:20 and after a quick van ride to the trailhead we are off and hiking a few minutes before 5am..…in the dark, flashlights in hand, making our way up the switchbacks of the Barr Trail above Manitou Springs. Ahead of us is 13 miles and 7400 feet of elevation gain to the summit of Pikes Peak. As we look above and below us, we can see a steady stream of flashlights from the 450 participants who are making trek this year. Sunrise comes around 6:30 and we get our first glimpse of the summit which is still about 10 miles away…but we are feeling good and energized. Our goal is to finish in 6 hours, but we haven’t hit the thinner air above timberline yet.
The Pikes Peak Challenge is an annual fundraiser to raise awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) both in the areas of prevention & victim assistance & recovery. This year’s hike took on a special meaning for me personally as in my new job with Bachus & Schanker I have been exposed to cases where our clients have endured a TBI because of the fault of others. My wife Kathy & I feel very fortunate that we have the health and ability to make this hike and can support those people who have had this opportunity taken away from them either by accident or by someone else’s negligent actions.
Back to the hike….We’ve made to the A-frame (at timberline) in 3 ½ hours….we still have 3 miles to go and less than 3000 feet up to go; the view of the summit is still a daunting sight…but we are feeling great. We take a quick break to down a quick energy bar and continue the trek upwards. The next 2 miles go a bit slower, our pulse is quicker, and breaths are deeper but we are making good progress. The final mile is up the “16 Golden Stairs” which are actually 16 very steep switchbacks up the east face of the summit. At last we hear cheering from the top and see a TBI survivor coming part way down to meet us, he shakes our hands, and thanks us for our support. It’s actually the sight and sound of them at the summit that is our encouragement to ignore the burn in our legs & lungs to make the final steps up the hill. Finally at the top, more people greet us with hugs, medals, smiles, and sincere thanks for our accomplishment and support. We’ve made it 5 ½ hours beating our goal, but the accomplishments these people have made in their own recoveries from TBI’s make them the true heroes of the day…not us.
We can’t wait until next year so we can do this again! You can find more information on the hike at www.pikespeakchallenge.com