Mike Anderson's Pikes Peak Ascent Description
The Pikes Peak Ascent is run on the third Saturday in August. It starts in Manitou Springs at an elevation of 6,300 and ends 13.32 miles later at the top of Pikes Peak, elevation 14,110 feet. In this photo the starting area is in the extreme lower right corner of the picture, actually slightly out of the frame.
It is not exactly a run, though race is a good term, since you are trying to get to the top as quickly as possible. Most people, however, do not run the whole race, but rather, run what they can and hike the rest without losing too much time. The better you are, the more you can run.
The race is divided into 5 major sections:
The Road Race - this is the paved section of the race, more than a mile through Manitou Springs, with plenty of onlookers. If this were all there were to the race, people would talk about what an uphill race it is, yet that section is nothing compared to what is coming.
The W's - a series of 13 switchbacks on the front of the mountain, just outside Manitou. The W's stretch for about 3 miles and constitute one of the most strenuous portions of the race. Unfortunately most people feel fresh when they hit the W's and overwork themselves on them.
From the Top of the W's to Barr Camp - this is the most pleasant part of the trail and relatively easy to run. Barr Camp is at an altitude of 10,200 feet.
From Barr Camp to A-frame - It is said that the race starts after Barr Camp. Certainly, this is were the Mountain starts to have the upper hand. The 3 miles from Barr to A-frame are beautiful, but in my experience, it is the seemingly longest stretch of the trail. A-frame is at timberline, elevation about 12,000 feet.
Above Timberline - a series of switchbacks lead the hiker/runner up the east face of Pikes Peak to the top. Much of this is actually runnable, but few have the energy/oxygen/wits to do it.
Because there is also a road to the top of Pikes Peak, runners will be greeted by a small crowd of onlookers, and then in an odd twist will board shuttle vans to be taken back to Manitou.
Here is another look at the mountain from Colorado Springs. In this photo you can see the red rock formations of Garden of the Gods. The race starts to the left of those formations about a mile.
For more information, see Matt
Carpenter's Ascent and Marathon Page.