Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Conquering the Incline: A Bucket List Completion

The Manitou Springs Incline:  Originally the track bed for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway until 1990 when a rock slide destroyed the tracks, resulting in its relocation.  Today, the rail bed has been restored for those hikers and fitness nuts wishing to conquer the Incline.

When Cristi and I first moved here and heard about the Incline, we of course added it to our bucket list.  We were up for a challenge.  We quietly chuckled to ourselves when folks told of how hard it was, or attempting it and quitting partway up.  I mean, how hard could it be?  It's not even a mile long!  OK, sure, it does start at 6600 feet and gain 2000 feet of elevation in that mile length, but still.  We're in shape!

Notice the cut in the mountain above the cloud.  That was our destination.
This week, we finally got around to doing it.  And, let me tell you, it can be really, really hard!  At one point, the "stairs" are two railroad ties high, making each step up about kneecap high.  That's only about a 68% grade.  We started off fine -- for about the first 100 yards when we realized this would be perhaps "a bit" difficult after all.  It wasn't long, though, before we huffed.  And we puffed.  And we counted steps until the next break:  First it was 200 steps.  Then it was 150.  Then it was 75.  Then it was 50.  We seriously contemplated bailing out.  Except that we both knew that if we bailed, it wouldn't count, and neither of us wanted to go through this again!  On one of our many breaks, I snapped this picture looking back down. 

At about the point that I thought all the oxygen had been sucked out of the air, I looked up and realized we were only about 200 steps from the top.  We did it!  We conquered the Incline!  It "only" took us an hour and 10 min!  I reached for my phone to commemorate the occasion only to realize that the sun had finally burst through the fog and would not cooperate for a good picture.  Below is the best I could do, and then we settled for a selfie in the shade.

Not wanting any part of going back down that staircase as fatigued as we were (the ties were also wet after rain the night before), we chose to take the Barr Trail down.  Even that trail was steep with the grade and our tired legs forcing us into an almost-jog down the mountain.  We commemorated again at the bottom, and I have to say, there's not anyone else I would have wanted to do this with other than my favorite running partner.  In fact, in full disclosure, while we were both huffing and puffing, I think Cristi was waiting on me more than I was waiting on her.  I don't know if I would have made it without her encouragement (which took the form of her standing next to me going, "So are you ready to go on yet?"  "Yep.  Of course!  That is, if you are...but we can rest longer if you're not!")

It wasn't 12 hours later that we agreed that we would do it again.  Does that make us crazy?