The hike to the top of Pikes Peak is a feat to begin with, but winter weather turns it into a whole new beast. For the Barr Camp caretakers who live at the midway point year round, these challenges …
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The hike to the top of Pikes Peak is a feat to begin with, but winter weather turns it into a whole new beast. For the Barr Camp caretakers who live at the midway point year round, these challenges are just a part of the daily norm.
Barr Camp is a 6.5 mile hike up the Barr Trail, at a 10,200 foot elevation. Renee Labor and Anthony Duricy have been the caretakers since Sept. 2013. “It is not for the faint of heart.” Renee Labor said.
Hosting at the Barr Camp requires being well prepared. While most hikers tackle the climb in the summer months, there are still a few hardy hikers that venture the journey to Pikes Peak’s summit in the dead of winter. Labor and Duricy are both a part of the El Paso Search and Rescue team, which means that they are the first responders if anyone is in trouble two miles above or below the camp. The biggest dangers in hiking a 14er in the winter are hypothermia and frostbite. Most of these problems come from a lack of preparation.
“People think that it can be an easy day hike, but it is the hike with the longest mileage and the greatest elevation gain of any of the 14ers,” Renee Labor said, then added as a bit of advice, “definitely check the weather before coming and know that the weather can change drastically between the trailhead and the summit.”
There a several ways in which an emergency on the trail can be dealt with. If the hiker can still walk, they are often taken to the Cog Railway’s Mountain View stop, which is about a mile away from Barr Camp. If not, then a search and rescue team is called in. Labor and Duricy have not had to send anybody out in a flight for life helicopter yet, but there are two landing zones close to the camp, in case of such an eventuality.
Luckily, most hikers who dare to tackle it in the winter are more experienced, and come well prepared with the right gear. While the hike can be done in one day in the summer, hikers almost always break it up and stay a night at Barr Camp in the winter. The camp often reaches its max of 45 guests in the summer, but Labor and Duricy still host overnight visitors three or four times a week this time of year.
Hosting hikers on Pikes Peak requires other preparations as well. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the Barr Trail, which means that it is a six and a half mile hike any time the caretakers need to make a trip back into civilization. Supplies are brought to the Mountain View stop by the Cog railway, for Labor and Duricy to take back to camp.
The camp is made up of two cabins with hostel-like lodging and a campground. The main cabin has a wood burning stove, but temperatures are usually in the 30’s at night after the fire dies out, so hikers are advised to bring warm sleeping bags. Water is piped to the cabin from a nearby creek through a gravity flow system, but in the winter the system is emptied to prevent freezing, so water has to be hauled in from the creek by the bucket load daily.
While winter on Pikes Peak can bring in its fair share of deep snow and fierce weather, Renee Labor said that the trail is almost always hike-able to the camp for those who want a winter adventure.
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