Manitou Springs Incline

Copyright 2019, Scott D. Murdock

Tuesday, 24 Jul 2018

I made my first visit to the Incline with my friend Chris. I knew this would be a tough hike; the incline is essentially a staircase of railroad ties. It goes for approximately one mile and gains approximately 2,000 feet of elevation. My first attempt showed me I was not ready, so I turned off at the bailout point about 2/3 of the way up.

Friday, 31 Aug 2018

I arrived at the parking lot just a few minutes after 0600, and got started on the hike at 0617. Temperature was about 68F and the sky was cloudy for my entire hike. It was just getting light enough when I started that I left the headlamp in the car. My pack was down-loaded for this hike, no fleece jacket, no rain jacket, no SATCOM, less snacks, and less water than I carry for an actual mountain hike. So, I lugged 8 pounds instead of 13. That's still more than most people were carrying this morning. If I do this again, I should look for a minimalist ultralight pack or even the dreaded hiker's fanny pack that holds two water bottles with a small pocket for snacks and stuff.

I made it the 1.08 miles to the top in 1 hour, 28 minutes. The Garmin watch suggests I burned 1,175 calories. I was very glad to have a cool breeze and cloudy skies -- unlike the blazing sun that beat on our backs last month! Altitude gained in 1.08 miles was about 2,032 feet. (That's an average from multiple data points from my Garmin watch, the Sports Tracker app, and the Compass app.) The hike lives up to its beastly reputation; there were a couple times after I had passed the bailout point, I thought I wasn't going to make it. But the thought of trying to turn around and go down those damn steep steps was frightening enough to keep me pushing forward! Once at the top I rested for about 3 or 4 minutes, texting Debbie to let her know I was successful and safe, then I started down before my joints had time to stiffen up!

Going down was easier on the heart and lungs but harder on the knees. Garmin suggests 668 calories burned. I made it down the meandering, heavily switch backed trail of 3.11 miles in 1 hour, 29 minutes. It was as scary as going up, because of lots of loose sand and small rock bits on the hard-packed dirt trail. As I heard people hiking nearby it was common to hear the "crunch, crunch, CRUUUUUNNCCCHHH, crunch, crunch" of someone taking a brief slide. I did slip and slide a few times, but only touched ground once: my left foot slid out forward and to the left, lowering me quickly into a modified combination of splits/squat kick and I caught myself with both palms on the ground. I bounced up and kept going, but I felt that move for a few days.

I only drank about .75 liter of water on the hike, most of it on the way up. Had the sun been out, I likely would have drunk more. So, carrying 2 full liters was overkill for a cloudy day, but maybe wise for a sunny day. I ate two Cliff snack bars (about 500 calories total) on the way back down. Back at the car, I enjoyed Gatorade and a container of cantaloupe that Debbie had cut up for me. When I got home, I slammed down a few Pop Tarts and some pistachios, finished the rest of the Gatorade and a couple glasses of water, and took a nap.

Will I do the Incline again? Maybe. It is certainly a good accomplishment, and a great barometer to determine if I'm ready for another fourteener.