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591 Summer Stories
Mountains of Advice

hikers on the Barr Trail

As part of our summer trip we visited Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs, CO. Our plan was to hike the thirteen mile Barr Trail which leads from the tourist town of Manitou Springs to the summit of Pikes Peak.

The trail was originally built in 1914 to 1918 as a path to guide tourists to the top of the mountain. Almost a hundred years later, the trail is still in great condition and is still an endurance climb for all who want to hike the twenty-six miles round trip in a day.

There are other options... transportation can be arranged to pick up or drop off hikers at the top of the mountain. Hikers then only have to walk the thirteen miles up or down the mountain and for the other half of their journey, the hikers take a car or the cog rail train.

Another option is to stop and camp along the trail. Barr Camp is a small non-profit facility located at the halfway mark on the trail. They have a cabin, bunkhouse, lean-to's, and tent spaces. An evening meal and breakfast are served with the accommodations.

I had walked the Barr Trail twice. Once with my friends, Mark and Ray and once with my wife, Amy, and Jake the dog. We all enjoyed the trail. In planning for the summer of '11, we talked our good friends, Jon and Laura to join us for another visit to the mountain, but his time we reserved two of the lean-to's at Barr Camp.

Arriving at the Camp in early afternoon, we piddled around the lean-to preparing for our climb the next day. We were going to stay two nights at Barr Camp and were able tocleave all of our sleeping gear in the shelter for the day of the climb. Finally six o'clock came and we joined the other twenty or so hikers in the main cabin for a spaghetti dinner.

We sat at a long table and met three young ladies (college age, I assume) who joined us at the table for dinner. They were camping at the Camp. In other words, they had carried their tents and all of their camping gear with them to Barr Camp. Their plan was to carry all of their gear to the top of the mountain. One of the girl's fathers was going to meet them at the top and they were planning to drop off their gear with him and walking back down the mountain with just a day pack of essentials.

It was a good plan; but their climb to the summit was going to be very difficult with heavy packs. We asked them how much weight they were carrying? I do not remember their exact answers; but stories and weights flew around the table. I remembered it was more weight than I would have wanted to carry. In our short conversations with them it was clear they did not want to carry those heavy packs to the top either.

As the conversation continued we also found that they were not going to leave Camp until after breakfast, which was at 7. At that late hour we hoped we would be high on the mountain, but they had paid for breakfast and seemed to be looking forward to the meal. (It was very good, we had the pancakes the next morning.)

Finally we suggested to the hikers to leave their camping gear at Barr Camp, hike to the top, meet the father - so that he knew they were okay - and then return to Barr Camp and continue to the trailhead (downhill) with the big packs loaded with gear.

It is hard to give advice. It would have been a good lesson for the girls to have learned the errors in their plans by experience; but an exposed 14,000 foot mountain is not the best place to learn from hard knocks.

When we left camp the next morning we did not know if the girls took our advice or not. We started at daybreak. At the summit, we ate our breakfast of coffee and doughnuts and then headed back down the hill. On the way down we met the girls. They were climbing strong. They had taken our suggestions and left their heavy gear at the camp and were carrying only the essentials.


Hail storm at Barr Camp


After we had returned to camp early that afternoon, we read and rested the day away. Our restful day was interrupted by a strong storm passing through the area. Marble sized hail pounded the roof as lighting darted across the skies and thunder boomed all around.

The girls were definitely still on the trail. We thought about where they might have been and how they were dealing with the storm.

Giving advice makes you as an advisor, partly responsible for the success or failure of the advisee. We wanted the girls to summit and to be safe. We tried to give them prudent suggestions.

In this case, the girls would have struggled to reach the summit if they had not taken our advice and had instead carried their heavy packs. There was a good chance they would have still been on the climb when the storm hit. But, because they did not take the heavy packs, they did make the summit much earlier and with less effort. But then, once on the summit, they did not have the option to quit and ride down the hill with the father who had come to meet them. They had to walk down the mountain and were therefore had to endure the large afternoon thunderstorm.

The advice we would give to anyone climbing a mountain would be to start early, carry only the essentials, move quickly, watch the weather, climb within their fitness and experience levels, and to be at a safe place before the afternoon storms arrive.

We hope the girls were in the safety of the trees before the storm came and learned a little about starting early, packing light, and moving fast.

Happy mountains of advice trails


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