72 steps. That’s how many steps you climb to get to the top of the Art Museum in Philadelphia. That’s what I’m used to. 4,123 steps? That’s what I’m not used to. That’s how many steps you climb to get to the top of the Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado. I’m not any good at math, as anyone will tell you, but I do know that’s a heck of lot more steps than Rocky had to climb.
A few of the interns decided a few days ago to climb one of Colorado Springs’ landmarks, the Incline, a one-mile trail partway up Pikes Peak. One mile, right? Not bad. I can do one mile. My usual run in Philly’s about 8 miles, so while I knew the Incline would be trying, I had no clue what I was signing up for.
We all met in our hallway at 8am, and drove to the trailhead of the Incline, staring up at the steepness and altitude that pictures can’t do justice. Most of the trail has a 70% grade, made up of old railroad ties from the Cog Railroad that went to the top of Pikes Peak, and it gains over 2,100 feet of elevation on the climb. It was more intense than I had imagined, for sure. I couldn’t have pictured how demanding one single mile could be. Along the way, Calli and I met two locals, Sarah and Braden, and we motivated each other to make it to the top, making two great friends along the way.
What I found incredible was how friendly everyone was on the trail. In Philly, we do the typical “Philly nod” when you pass someone on the street and make eye contact, but you never, ever speak. But here, everyone was encouraging each other to get up to the top, asking where you were from, if this was your first time, and giving you advice and support for the rest of the climb.
While it may have taken Apolo Anton Ohno only 16 minutes to run up to the peak of the Incline, we were able to make it to the summit at just over the two hour mark. When we reached the peak, I did the obligatory Rocky arms in true Philly phashion, and took a million and one pictures.
We walked down the Barr Trail, the trail that leads to the summit of Pikes Peak, and took our time going down the 4 mi trail. Everyone was so strong and I was so proud of us all. One of my highs was walking with Kelly and Bri down the Barr, both of us holding her hand for support down the slippery slope, and knowing that we were all doing this together. These girls were definitely my heroes today.
The day was definitely the most grueling workout of my entire life, bar none, but the views from the top and pride of completing the Incline was an incredible experience. I haven’t decided if I’ll ever climb the 4,000 railroad ties again anytime soon, and I’m pretty sure I’ll need a full week for my legs to recover, but it was well worth the climb. Next up, Pikes Peak, because if we can hike the Incline, we can hike a fourteener. It’s one of those things you absolutely must do while in the Springs, and a rite of passage, it seems, for USOC interns to complete. My advice? Pack plenty of water, charge your camera, set out earlier than we did, and hike with your friends. You won’t go wrong.