Where did we leave off? Ah yes, the trailhead of the Barr Trail.
Shortly after taking this photo, we scanned in our race bibs at 5:18AM. I was at a slight advantage, being from Milwaukee and thus having my internal clock set at Central Standard Time, aka it felt like 6:18AM to me :-)
It was ridiculously dark outside!
We scurried up the trail and it was INTENSE. Though I had on my headlamp, the trail was completely dark...
This would be me, stumbling up the trail.
... and I quickly became aware that this hike was not going to be any walk in the park.
The Barr Trail is no joke... steep switchbacks, seemingly endless, and all before sunrise! I did fine, but immediately felt the effects of the altitude and was instantly winded. I didn't do much whining (it was all in my head), but remember mentioning "I think my lungs are bleeding. I taste blood" to my teammates.
Adding to my anxiety, several parts of the trail did not have a railing installed. I was kinda nervous about the steep dropoffs and narrow passages, and annoyed by the jerky hikers who insisted on passing others there instead of waiting until a wider section of the trail. Not cool.
See, it was intense. I made sure to keep swigging water from my Camelbak, and had a couple Shot Bloks. We took a few breaks. Oh, and kept up morale with goofy photos every few minutes.
Before I knew it, we had completed nearly 3 miles. Hooray! At about the same time, the sun started to rise, providing us with a gorgeous view.
One of the things that was great about our group, was that we took every opportunity to take photographs. What else would one be compelled to do when hiking through such beautiful terrain?
The views just kept getting better and better. HA.
Soon, we caught our first glimpse of the summit!
So close, yet so freakin' far away.
At that point, the view was breathtaking. Both in its beauty, but also in the fact that I couldn't believe that within the same day, we'd make it to the top! The concept made my lungs burn.
We continued up the trail, which was getting rockier (bouldery-er?) and trickier. Morale was high and we were having a great time, moving at a decent pace.
The first trail marker! Just 7.8 miles to the Pikes Peak Summit...
About halfway up, we finally made it to Barr Camp!
After waiting like 20 minutes in line for this...
...we filled up our Camelbaks and water bottles, and hit the trail for the final 6.5 miles.
The sun was out and the steepness picked up, so we quickly shed our outer layers.
Every now and then, we'd catch another peek of the Peak, which was starting to feel a closer in range.As we started to approach the timberline (about 3,000 feet below the summit), we passed through remains of the Dismal Forest. The eerie-looking trees had burned in a massive forest fire around 1910. The scenery, along with the ever-increasing altitude, made for a surreal feeling.
Here, I was feeling crappy (lightheaded, kinda headachy, lethargic) enough to ask for 'just a hit' of oxygen. The doc took my pulse, and told me I was doing great. I opted for a snack break instead.
A vermin friend tried to give us the bubonic plague... we said 'nah, not today.' As we took our break, I tried not to look up... a daunting view if I've ever seen one!
We got started again and thought the trail was super different, with loose gravel and a super steep grade...
We did laugh at the situation and take a moment to soak in the view.
Then, onward and upward... literally.
TO BE CONTINUED, YET AGAIN...