Pikes Peak or Bust

Pikes Peak 6:30 a.m.

Pikes Peak 6:30 a.m.

When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark northwest and Zebulon Pike south to survey the Louisiana Purchase, he could have never dreamed of the sights that lay in wait for these intrepid explorers. Nor could anyone have imagined the distances involved.

Leaving Missouri in the summer of 1806, leaving in summer garb for a roundtrip anticipated to take six months, Pike and his men had no notion that by Christmas they would be cold, starving, sockless, and plowing through waist-deep snow near present day Salida. The men suffered greatly. Two were left behind In Canon City. Two additional men were left behind just south of Westcliffe, and a fifth man was left just east of Medano Pass.

Noting a “small blue cloud” in his journal, Pike watched the cloud take on mass as he neared Pueblo, and on November 23 he headed north to see the mountain for himself. Pike had every intention of climbing to the summit, but the weather was not in his favor.

My photo of the Cog Railway gives a good idea of the steepness of the incline.

Check out the incline!

Pikes Peak is taller and steeper than Pike thought. It is bigger than I thought!

Sunday, August 9th, three founding members of the Silver Cliff/Westcliffe Ride the Rockies team, in the company of Kyle Pitman and Jim Remington, churned and burned their way up the mountain as participants in The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb. Kyle rides for U.S. Military Endurance Sport. http://www.usmes.org . And Remington climbed last year as well as this year. Once was not enough!

left to right: Lockett Pitman, Kyle Pitman, Jim Remington, Mark Stamper, and Mark Dembosky

left to right: Lockett Pitman, Kyle Pitman, Jim Remington, Mark Stamper, and Mark Dembosky

1913 - An early Rambler hill climbs to Pikes Peak.

1913 – An early Rambler hill climbs to Pikes Peak.

Having never driven the 19-mile Pikes Peak Highway (paved in its entirety in 2011) I thought that it might be a good idea to drive to the summit prior to Sunday’s ride. Yes, we had a topographical map, but a piece of paper doesn’t bring the ups and downs – home to the bones. Mark drove; I sat in the passenger seat taking notes to correspond to the mile markers.

Hairpin curves and the absence of adequate guardrails keep drivers on their toes.

Hairpin curves and the absence of adequate guardrails keep drivers on their toes.

The starting line began at 9,390 feet – seven miles up from the toll road entrance. From the starting line, the goal was to cycle 12.4 miles up a road comprised of 156 turns and a grade of sometimes 10% to an elevation of 14,115 ft. This was not to be a climb for the faint-hearted. The switchbacks between the 12 and 16-mile markers were particularly challenging. Transcribing Mark’s comments, my notes include words like “eee-ah!” “Nasty” “Bloody Hell!”  and “mother fuc*er – look at that!”

If you think about it, Zeb Pike’s projection that he could hack his way through the forest, reach the summit, and return within three days was probably over-reach. That said, where would we be without men of vision?

I recommend your reading Zebulon Pike’s journal of his trip. It is a fascinating first-hand account of the landscape and the men who braved the unknown to know it.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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10 Responses to Pikes Peak or Bust

  1. arthurvonboennighausen says:

    Friend Doris:

    * As you say: “ The Map Is Not The Territory…… “. I did not like really being an Officer in the US Navy because it was not like books and movies I enjoyed.

    Thinking allowed…..

    Arthur von Boennighausen – BSIE, MSCS, MRE, Independent Broker, * http://www.WestcliffeColorado81252.com

  2. Brent Bruser says:


    • timeout2 says:

      Missed your company, Brent. You missed the best part. Mark misplaced his helmet and did not realize it until moments before the start. No helmet; no start. So he ran through the parking lot calling out for a spare helmet. He was given one… by a girl! It didn’t really fit – way too small. About 13,500 feet, Mark had a severe headache. He thought it was probably elevation sickness. But when he took the helmet off and saw the serious indentations on his forehead, he thought again. The headache may have been the helmet. A little laughter is helpful on these challenging rides.

  3. Robyn Wallerich says:

    Doris, this might have been the most entertaining of all your blogs to-date!! Just loved it!

    • timeout2 says:

      I know that you bike. Lori Fox is thinking about rounding out the team with more female riders. She will start slow… Westcliffe to Silver Cliff… (it is uphill and a bit of a challenge for me) and as the women gain strength, she will lengthen the training rides. I think that you want to participate. I’ll keep you posted, Robyn.

  4. bar scott says:

    Love it as usual, Doris! Thanks for doing what you do. And if Lori does a riding club I might give it a shot, although I’m a wimp when it comes to hills and long distances. I like the view, let’s put it that way. xoxo

    • timeout2 says:

      I might give it a shot too… my goal would be to have the ability to ride The Valley floor and make it up that small “hill” between Grape Creek and Second Street. A modest goal to say the least. xo

  5. Jennie Ensor says:

    Spent 10 mins typing in my comment on iPhone & just lost sodding thing !!! Yes I get the pull of the mountain roads & tho have trouble cycling the modest hills of Crouch End I still want to do the Tour de France route near our house in Pyrenees which is less arduous than Pikes Peak looks – one day 🙂 in the meantime will admire those who actually get up & do such things. One question – where are the women in the team?

    • timeout2 says:

      No, Jennie, you did not lose your first comment. I received the first and second. As for climbing Crouch End hill – a major goal – can’t imagine my cycling up it. As for the Westcliffe team, Lori Fox rides with/for the team and she is one of the strongest riders. It is a great thing to see her at the head of the pack. The men are impressed with her performance and proud to have her. Looking ahead, Lori is looking for more women to join her. Thanks for reading.

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