Going up the summit of Pike's Peak, the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America at 14,115 feet, was high on my list of priorities for visiting Colorado Springs. While I originally wanted to climb it via the Barr Trail, with its 8000 feet of elevation gain over just 13 miles, there wasn't enough time, so I opted to take the Pike's Peak Cog Railway. Given the way the weather was, it turned out to be the right decision!
Trivia: Apparently, Pike's Peak is the world's second most visited summit after Mt. Fuji, as my Uber driver, a middle-aged family man who had run several mountain marathons, tells me.
I started my day by taking an Uber from the Garden of the Gods to the train station in Manitou Springs. I had reserved my ticket online in advance to make sure I got a window seat.
At the station, there's a nice souvenir shop where you can even buy oxygen, because you might need it for altitude sickness from the massive elevation gain (almost 8000 ft / 2400M in just 1.5 hours!) from the station to the summit. There's also useful info for everyone who may have not prepared for the weather conditions at the top:
This was actually the state of the summit at 9:00 am that morning, showing off the first snows of the season apparently, so conditions really weren't promising for a clearing up top:
Still, train rides are always fun, so I remained excited. This was the route we were going to take, a round trip of about 9 miles in 3 hours:
On the way up, I realized that there was indeed a reason why these mountains were dubbed the Rocky Mountains.
It was hard shooting good angles from the moving train but the views were interesting all the way. Higher up we went, and as we did, everything became shrouded in white, obscuring what I think were supposed to be the grandest views of the ride based on pictures I've seen.
As we went past the treeline, it started to snow and suddenly the surroundings became eerie and surreal. I'd never seen anything like this in my life, particularly having only seen snow fall only once before, seven years ago.
As we arrived at Windy Point, it began to snow in earnest.
Here's a short video in 4K of the last stretch of the ride up:
Finally, without having a clue where in the world we were due to the snow, we made it to the summit. What a view!
It was, obviously, as cold as predicted, but my layers proved up to the task. I even found a Filipino couple to take my picture at the summit marker too!
When asked by the staff at our resort after I had come back down if I was disappointed about the weather, I said no way! It was such a cool and novel experience for me taking pictures in these conditions, and I suspect that, even though I got shortchanged on epic vistas, I was able to come back with photos that are more unique and matched to my style. The following images looked stunning when I printed them on professional metallic gloss paper when I got home:
Sadly, train riders are only allowed 30-40 minutes on the summit before the train has to come back down and make way for another set of passengers. But, despite the short time (the whole trip was just over 3 hours all in all), it was the highlight of my trip to Colorado Springs and gave me some unique imagery I'd never shot before.
And that's the end part 3. For part 4, I have one last round around the other side of the Garden of the Gods. Thanks for reading and until next time!