Monday, July 21, 2014

The Incline

In a small mountain town, neighboring Colorado Springs, there is a famous "trail" known as the Incline. 

In 1907 the Manitou Incline was built for a cable car to carry materials to build pipelines on Pike Peak. The railway didn't serve this purpose long and eventually was turned into a tourist attraction, lifting riders high atop the mountain. In a 1990 rock slide the tracks were washed away and they were never repaired. 

At this time accessing the trail became illegal due to trespassing on railroad owned land. However, challenge enthusiasts began using the trail as the hellish workout that it is. It is made up of railroad ties as stairs that lead you up a 2,000 foot rise with as incline of 68% in some places. The Incline takes you up about 3/4 mile where you are then able to wind down the 2.9 mile Barr Trail to get back to where you began. 

Sound doable?
Apparently I thought so. 

Toby talked this challenge up enough and I thought it might be a fun thing to try. But the words of Yoga fit well here. "Do or do not, there is no try." Once you're on your way up, you've just got to keep hiking. 
Look for the faint tan line, that is the Incline from miles away

I guess I wasn't quite sure what I was up against, until I got going for a while. We took the trail in the evening, it worked out well because it was cool and there weren't many people making their way up. An older woman, with two walking poles began just before me. At her slow pace I quickly found the need to pass her. I knew I had roughly an hour of extreme stair stepping ahead of me, so I tried to keep the pace slow-ish. 

After I climbed for roughly 10 minutes I felt the need to pass. However, soon enough I was feeling like I might explode if I didn't take a break. My friend with the walking poles soon passed me. In fact she continued up the mountain at her slow, but constant pace, not breaking once. 

The impending doom ahead of me
The trail was rugged and unforgiving. The steps were uneven and at times you might have a moment where you feel you'll lose your center of gravity. 

I was forewarned about the false summit or also known as the bailout. A spot that appears to be the top but is merely a tease making you believe you are finished. At this spot there is a trail leading you down if you can't continue to the top. My friend with the walking poles left us then. 

Standing fully upright was becoming increasingly tough
As I got closer and closer to the top I had to stop every several feet or so. I remember thinking several times this is the stupidest thing I've ever done. But I was happy to be doing it, most of all I was going to be happy to be through with it! 

Toby walked patiently behind me while I competed my beginners clime in about 65 minutes. His quickest climb of the Incline was 27 minutes, meaning he is running steps in certain places. The fastest recorded time is 16.42 minutes by a triathlete.
Finally standing and smiling again

I couldn't believe the energy it took to make one trip up the Incline. In 2013 an man broke the record for most trips up the Incline in one year at 719!

Going down?

Walking up hikers have right-of-way, but unbelievably there are people trekking down the Incline. One misstep and you are nose diving 2,000 feet down. For non-suicidal types, use the Barr trail. The remaining part of the trip is a 2.9 mile hike down the mountain, at a much, much tamer slope.