On a warm, sunny day we decided to head to the top of Pikes Peak, the easy way, on the Manitou and Pike’s Peak cog railway. Fleeces in hand, we boarded the unheated train for the steep climb to the top.
Pike’s Peak is named after Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, who never actually reached the top. In July, 1806 Pike and 26 men left St Louis to explore the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers. The Arkansas River, in the recently purchased Louisiana Territory was the boundary between the US and Spanish territory, but no-one knew for sure where the Arkansas River actually ran.
In November, Pike and his men reached what is present day Pueblo, Colorado, ahead of them was a mountain they estimated to be 18,851 feet high. Although they attempted to climb it they were driven back by waist deep snow and Pike proclaimed it to be so high it might never be claimed. It wasn’t until July, 1820 that Dr Edwin James finally reached the top.
The day we rode the train, it was clear and sunny as we passed through different eco systems climbing ever higher up the mountain.
Great views on the way.
The railway climbs 25 feet in every 100 feet and is the highest cog railway in the world with an elevation gain of 7,500 ft.
When we reached the top, according to the summit sign, we were at 14,110 feet, it was very windy and bitterly cold, and thanks to the storm the previous day there was snow in places.
When we booked the tickets we’d hoped to have longer at the top, but we had plenty of time, and despite the cold and the fact that we were rapidly turning slightly blue, the views were absolutely stunning.
We could quite see why during a visit to Colorado in 1893 Katharine Lee Bates was inspired to write ‘America the Beautiful’ after a wagon trip to the top of Pike’s Peak.
To the west lies the continental divide; to the north lies the Rampart Range; to the east lies Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods and Black Forest and to the south are the Spanish Peaks and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
I’m sure we’ll come this way again and when we do, we’d like to drive the road to the top, but I don’t think we’ll be taking part in the International Hill Climb!
Have fun, we are!