Friday, September 3, 2010

The Longest StairStepper In The World

Long ago, in 1907, the Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway was a 1 mile long cable train which began as construction of a hydroelectric water plant, with pipes running all down the mountain, thus forming a huge network that is our water supply.  Seeing a profitable situation, the railway quickly turned into a tourist attraction. 
It boasted to be "the longest and highest incline on the globe" and was advertised to bring you scenic splendors and access to miles and miles of beautiful hiking trails, atop Mount Manitou, which sits at the base of Pikes Peak (our highest mountain in our front range).  On this open-top train, it was an easy 16 minute ride to the top, going between a 40% grade to a 68% grade.  (Info and pictures taken from This Site.)

It flourished for many years, but profits decreased, and with the constant upkeep the rails required (rock slides and such) and the maintenance costs became too high.  In 1990, there was a huge rockslide which shut it down, and despite pleas from the public, it was finally dismantled, and all that was left, were the old wooden railway ties that scarred the mile long pathway straight up the side of Mount Manitou.

Someone along the way got the clever idea to use it as a workout.  Climb the railway ties, which are perfect steps up the mountain, and allow it to test your endurance.  Over time, it became a right of passage for some, a tourist attraction for others, and a daily or weekly workout for many.

Due to it's dangerous nature, it is actually against the law to hike the incline.  There are "No Trespassing Signs" posted along the way, but everyone ignores that.  The land of the incline is actually owned by three different companies (The Cogg Railway, The City of Colorado Springs, and Pikes Peak Forest Service, with the cities water rights running all down it via the pipes.  A tricky situation indeed.  So it's not surprising that they want people to stay away entirely.

Oh, but the lure of such a difficult workout, while enjoying nature's beauties, draws people back day after day.   Heath has hiked the  incline many times.  Many of my friends have hiked it.  I have been told many times "You just have to hike it!!"  Well, yesterday, I hiked it.  I didn't think I would survive it.  Somehow, I did.

Not only that, I forced my friend Jen to do it with me; my friend who came here expecting to vacation in Colorado by taking it easy, and have nice quiet slow-moving afternoons, interspersed with some casual hikes and picnics in breezy meadows.  Ha Ha.  Too bad for her!

So with our husbands managing all ten of our kids, we headed out to conquer the dreaded incline.  One mile straight up the steep mountainside, gaining 2011 feet in elevation, and climbing an average of 41% grade, with it's steepest being 68% grade.  Then, hiking four miles back down the mountain in a crisscross fashion, along the Barr Trail,until you reach the bottom.  Sound delightful?  Hmmm.  Not really.

Here we are at the start of the trail.  Already, we are not really anxious about what lies before us.

Of course, had to get a picture at the No Trespassing Sign.

Already tired out, with more left to go than I can fathom.  Oh, and in the next picture, that is not "the top" of the incline. That is the false ascent.  Luckily I knew that, and for me, it just meant I was nowhere close to being done.

Then the stairway starts getting rougher and steeper.  Some steps are up to my thigh, and I'm practically crawling up them.  There are many dangerous parts, where the water pipes are open and cracked and could cause some serious damage if you stepped wrong.  Oh, and yes...this is how steep it was.

Getting closer to the top.  We just mounted the "false ascent" and here is a view looking up (first) and then down.

I did it!  So did Jen!  We made it to the top!!  In fact, Jen did much better than I did.  She humored me for all the resting stops I took, but I could tell she didn't need them as much as me.

Here's us posing at the top.  It's unfortunate for me that Jen is a tiny little thing, barely weighing 100 pounds, and me standing next to her just makes me look uncomfortably large.  Look away if it's too much for you. 

Along the way, we kept our sense of humor by making fun of my "fanny pack" that The Husband made me wear.  It was huge and ugly and although I can't remember all the snide remarks I made at my own expense, regarding the fanny pack, I must say, I was amazingly witty for being so exhausted from the climb.

Surprisingly, I didn't have "rubber legs" when I got to the top.  My legs were actually fine the whole way.  It was my cardiovascular endurance that was severely lacking.  That was what made me stop every minute to catch my breath.  We did the incline in one hour and 40 minutes.  My husband does it in less than half that time...but he doesn't stop.  I stopped as frequently as I could.  For me, it wasn't about the time.  It was about succeeding.  It was about accomplishing something that I've dreaded doing since moving here.

Will I do it again?  Yes.
Will I stop just as frequently to rest?  Yes.

So if any of my girlfriends want to do the incline with me, I say Let's Do It...but with (very) frequent stops along the way. Oh, and it took us one hour, going down along the 4 mile trail to get home (hardly anyone goes down the incline unless you either want to break your neck, or are an amazing athlete with no fear).

I thought I'd be incredibly sore this morning, but I'm not.  I'm a bit stiff, but not sore at all.  I guess all that hiking around with the family has done some good afterall!  Now, to just work on my cardio endurance, and I'll be all set.


Heath said...

You guys did a great job and I am so proud of you. I thought you might take the ditch-out on the side to the Barr Trail half way up, but you didn't.
Don't feel bad about stopping. The first time I did it no one told me much about it, like you were supposed to ware running shoes and shorts. I did it in hiking boots pants and a pack, and I stopped a lot. And the false accents played with me a bit. But I made it and have been many time since. But the views are worth it to stop sometimes. You just have to make sure you don't get dizzy and stumble backwords. Great job Babes, I'm very proud of you.

Jen Sue Wild said...

Congrats!! I know how hard that can be we have a mountain called Lazy that is exactly like that with out stairs. There is stairs every once in a while. I hiked it for the first time 3 years ago with out any of knowledge that it was going to be hard. The kicker was it was in the ice and snow. It was a 8 out 10 for diffculty.
I still look back and marvel that I did it in the winter.

So be proud of your self and do it many more times befor you know it you will be lean and cut. LOL

I tottally will do it with you when you get there. That is hike the incline. LOL

purejoy said...

wow! look at what you've been up to since i've been away!! kudos to you!!
i've been working out more lately and both knees are giving me fits. it's hard enough to get started at something than to have a dumb injury along the way. i'm pushing through the pain… but i swear… all thouse stairs just made my knees ache!

congrats to you and i agree. it's not about the pace… it's about the accomplishment! (and fellowship)

Jennifer Magreevy said...

Wow, I lived in Colorado Springs for 4 years, and I never new about that incline you could walk! I can guarantee I wouldn't have made it all the way. Just going up the stairs at Waldo Canyon did me in every single time! So congrats to you!!

Adri said...

You rock, Shaina! I haven't hiked the incline yet, my excuse being that the majority of the time I've lived in Colorado Springs, I've been pregnant. Yeah...that one's running out on my real quick, huh? Good thing winter is on the way...I'll have at least 9 more months of excuses before I'll probably have to suffer through a trip to the top, too. But, now you have bragging rights, huh???

Shannon said...

Now you'll be ready for Vernal Falls in Yosemite, if you ever make it there. That hike definitely gave me noodle legs, as I suppose I would have if I hiked what you did. Great job!

edyB said...

WOW WOW WOW ~ how brave you are! Congrats on such an accomplishment!

runningfan said...

Thanks for the history lesson....and congrats on making it to the top! I'd love to go next time, especially because I'm sure I'll need to stop a lot, too.

Valerie said...

Congratulations!! What a fabulous accomplishment. I wish I could do it with you girl!