By Kathy Clark, Michelle Bender, Beth Schmitz, Becky Holzwarth, and Lindsay Jacobsen.
When Kathy Clark moved to Colorado Springs in the summer of 2018, she and her husband bought a house with a great view of Pike’s Peak. Every day Kathy would look out her front door and think “I want to climb to the top of that mountain”. She began doing hikes in the area and planning for the hike to the summit. In the spring of 2021, Kathy decided this was the year to make the hike a reality. She mentioned it to her friend and golf buddy, Beth Schmitz, and Beth immediately said “That’s something I’d love to do”. Shortly thereafter, at a happy hour following a Tuesday night golf league outing, Kathy and Beth were discussing plans when Michelle Bender’s ears perked up and she asked what we were talking about. She immediately said “Can I go?”. The same happened when Becky Holzwarth and Lindsay Jacobsen learned of the idea. The planning became a reality with Michelle and Beth doing research. We decided that since none of us had ever hiked to the summit of a 14er, it would be best to spread the hike over 2 days.
The hike is about 13 miles one way on the Barr Trail, departing from Manitou Springs near the incline and gaining over 7,400 feet of elevation. There is a camp called Barr Camp at about the halfway point where you can sleep for the night. We learned that Barr Camp has a cabin that sleeps 12 people and since Covid, they only rent to one group. We thought that would suit us well. Soon, six more women friends and family signed up to join the “Flying Horse Five”.
We reserved the cabin for the night of August 26th and hoped the weather would cooperate! Several of us did some practice hikes to begin to get in shape. We decided that it would be a great idea to plan a hike up to Barr Camp and back, a 14 mile round trip, in order to give us the experience of the “easy” first half of the hike and to see the facilities at Barr Camp.
The Flying Horse Five set off on July 19th. We went at a comfortable pace and stopped for lunch, making it to Barr Camp in a little more than 4 hours. We met the couple that runs the camp and scoped out the cabin, agreeing that it looked pretty comfortable for a one night stay.
We also tested our water filtering system as the only water available at Barr Camp is from a stream, which needs to be filtered before drinking. All went well and we all agreed that coming down from Barr Camp was easier on the lungs but harder on the joints than going up!
As the big day approached for the hike to the summit, the weather looked great and we were all getting excited! We arranged for a couple of husbands to take us to the start of the trail on Thursday and a couple others to pick us up at the top of Pike’s Peak on Friday afternoon. We set off for Barr Camp at 10AM on Thursday, August 26th. The first couple miles have a fair amount of traffic coming down – people who go up the Incline come down the Barr Trail. After passing the top of the incline, it’s rare to see other people and we settled in for a steady, comfortable hike. We broke into a couple natural groups, each going their own pace.
We all arrived safely at Barr Camp by mid-afternoon. We all filtered water and refilled our supply for the next day. Then we had some time for games before enjoying the Barr Camp’s famous spaghetti dinner. Approximately 20 people, including us, were staying at the Camp that night. There was another group of 4 women from Kentucky. We maintained a steady pace that slowed a bit as we gained elevation. We passed the tree line at about 12,000 feet and the views were just spectacular!
We saw and heard dozens of marmots and chipmunks, and stopped periodically to rest and drink. The more water we drank, the lighter our loads became! Finally, we reached the last mile! As we passed 13,000 feet, we encountered several groups doing high altitude training – starting at the top, then hiking down and back up. Some were doing the 3-2-1, three miles down and three up, then two down and two up, then one down and one up.
One group of three women passed us going down very quickly. Shortly thereafter we heard a voice from behind saying “Hey Kathy!”. It was the three women coming back up and one of them was fellow Flying Horse Member, Sara Godwin! She and her friends were training for a long-distance high-altitude race!
Step by step, we inched closer to the summit, finally reaching the 16 Golden Stairs. We knew we were close and embarked on the final few hundred yards, scrambling over large boulders and stopping often to catch our breath. Alas, we made it, safe and sound.
All 11 of us made it to the top where two of the husbands arrived to present us with roses, cold refreshments, and some wonderful snacks! It was a great adventure for all of us and the first 14er for all of the Flying Horse Five!
None of this would have happened without the connections and friendships we made at Flying Horse. We all feel fortunate to be part of such a wonderful Club! We’re looking forward to planning more 14er hikes next year and would welcome others who’d like to join us.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be part of our next adventure.