Things You Didn't Know: Pikes Peak
 Photo by @drivepikespeak

Photo by @drivepikespeak

Do you remember all the field trips you took in primary school? The museums and land marks and interactive tours? Growing up in Colorado Springs, for me it looked like sifting through stream water for fool’s gold in a mining town or learning how to grind corn with mano and metate stones at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. I remember dressing up for pioneer day and walking through old forts, interacting with the “wild west” history that I learned to call my own. 

It wasn’t until I went off to college and found myself dating a guy from Connecticut that I realized how much our local history shapes our understanding and identity as Americans. He had never scrambled through caves and shopped for quartz at every gift shop at every museum. Instead he’d visited battlefields, presidents’ homes, and colonial landmarks.

Looking back, the very pinnacle of my experience of “regionality” during my education in Colorado Springs came my last year of high school. There was a tradition that the senior class would hike up Pikes Peak together, so that’s what we did. 

Those of us who live in Colorado Springs and the surrounding towns are so proud of that mountain. It’s part of our identity and language as people from the Front Range. Enough so that my school decided to conclude our educational journey by hiking it.

So as one of the most defining features and treasures of our city, I want to revisit primary school just briefly and celebrate this week with a few fun facts about our beloved Pikes Peak.

  1. To begin, geologists say the formation of Pikes Peak actually predates the formation of the Rocky Mountains. They say the hot magma that made Pikes Peak cooled and formed, but stayed hidden underground for a long time before shifting in the plates pushed the entire mountain range, including Pikes Peak, through the crust and into view. Our mountain had just been waiting to make its appearance. 
  2. Though there were people even before them, the Ute Indians, also known as the Blue Sky People, were the first documented people-group to live on and around Pikes Peak, which they referred to as the “Sun Mountain Sitting Big”. Kind of a fitting name, don’t you think?
  3. The earliest recorded altitude of Pikes Peak was on an 1859 map that described the routes to Pikes Peak during the gold rush. It was listed at 14,500 feet. After many re-measurements over the centuries, the most recent measurement was done in 2002, which reset the altitude at 14,115 feet. Even though this is the current official altitude, the sign at the summit still reads 14,110 feet, one of the earlier measurements. So all of your photos braving the wind standing next to the sign are charmingly out of date. 
  4. In 1911, Pikes Peak was home to a study on the effects of high altitude on human physiology called the Yale-Oxford expedition. The altitude-sickness you experience on the mountain is not a new phenomenon. Pikes Peak has been subject to the topic of altitude-sickness for while. Feel free to blame all your crazy behavior on it.
  5. Have you ever heard of the Frozen Five? It was the name of the original group who hiked up Pikes Peak to set off fireworks to ring-in the New Year in 1922. At the suggestion of one of the members on the climb, they decided to add one more person to the group each year and renamed it the AdAmAn club. To this day, the AdAmAn club ushers in each New Year with a barrage of fireworks from the frozen top of Pikes Peak.

So whether you’re a frequenter of The Incline or simply marvel at the mountain from your sun-drenched porch in the mornings, are a native to the city or a newcomer, I hope you now have a renewed appreciation of Pikes Peak. 

As you enjoy the majesty of it, remember to keep a look out for a regular visitor. It’s been said that residents can see Abe Lincoln in the shadows of Pikes Peak twice a year. When the sun and the south side of Pikes Peak cast a shadow into the city, a figure resembling Abe Lincoln can be seen midday in late February and late October. (Tip: best viewing location is somewhere between E. Uintah Street and E. Fillmore Street in Colorado Springs.) 

Enjoy your city this weekend friends.

Your neighbor,


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