Andrew Hamilton’s 1999 Attempt

Day 13 (September 9, 1999)

A couple of days before, we had learned that the Pikes Peak road would open at 7:00am.  My plan was to have mom drive to 11,000 feet on the road, from there I would hike up the road.  It wouldn’t be a direct route, but at least the hiking would be easy, my body needed an easy road hike.  Then we would drive over to the Tenmile/Mosquito Range, where I would try to crank out five easy 14ers(Mt. Sherman, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Democrat, Mt. Bross, and Quandary Peak).

Mom drove to Johnson Village.  The night before she had dropped the trailer and motorcycle off at the Gunsmoke Truckstop.  Ever since I was little, I could remember us stopping and eating or filling up the gas tank at the Gunsmoke.  We would stop there on trips to Denver or on early trips to climb Sawatch 14ers.  They had a big parking lot and it seemed like a good safe place to drop off the trailer.  Somehow the trailer was a little bent up, and we were having a difficult time getting it on the truck (I was totally worthless).  So we made the decision to leave it there and pick it up after the trip, I was hoping Shane might be able to pick it up for me so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.  As we were about to leave I asked mom if she had told anyone at the truckstop she was leaving it there, but she said no and I didn’t have the energy to care.  I was glad that we wouldn’t have to deal with towing around the broken motorcycle for the next two days.

Later the trailer would turn out to be a real hassle.  The unreasonable folks at Gunsmoke and the neighboring towing company teamed up and impounded the trailer in a little fenced off yard.  A couple of days after my record attempt, when I was barely able to walk and totally fatigued, Natalie and I drove down to pick up the trailer.  I had become impatient with Shane and wanted to get the motorcycle and trailer repaired and returned to their owners.  I desperately pleaded with Jim at Gunsmoke to help me out, as I had just driven 4 hours to pick up the trailer, I even offered money.  He refused to unlock the gate saying I had to be there between 8:00am and 5:00pm on a weekday.  I wanted to kill the ?#%$*, and was headed over to the hardware store determined to buy bolt cutters.   But Natalie stopped me and calmed me down,  and we drove home empty handed.  It took a long time to deal with that mess.  I will never give them my business again, and if you ever have a chance to screw them over, you have my full support.  One good reason to stop by might be to dump off any trash from your camping trips.

Mom continued driving and in a couple of hours made it the Pikes Peak Road, where she paid the fee and continued up the road.  To my dismay we learned that hiking was not permitted along the road.  My plan was history, and I hadn’t researched a plan B very well, in hindsight I know about the Crags Campground trailhead, and I know that they just want you to stay off the actual road  However, at the time I did not know this.  She continued driving and when she was just past 11,000 feet I banged on the window because I still had to follow the 3,000 foot rule.

She drove up the road, and she drove down the road.  This continued for awhile as we tried to figure out what to do.  Finally, she started heading up the road because she remembered a spot on the road where a trail crosses the road from the last time she had been up Pikes.  She drove on up and it turns out that that trail was all the way up at 13,000 feet.  I got out and slowly began my hike at 10:00am.  The rest in the truck had allowed me to stiffen up and feet were absolutely killing me.  That day I was dreading, when the blister pain would not go away had arrived, and it was slow, painful walking.  I called Natalie on the cell phone and made arrangements to meet her and Kelly at 11,000 feet on Kite Lake road (the access for Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross).  The Volkswagon had broken down, and Kelly was nice enough to get Friday off from work so she could drive Natalie down to join us.

Soon I came to a nice slope.  I marked a spot at the bottom, and hiked up until my altimeter said I was 50 feet above the marked spot, and I marked this spot.  I then went up and down those 50 feet forty times.  I was sluggish, and the process took over an hour, but I wanted to get in an extra two thousand feet.  It wasn’t the ideal way to meet the 3000 foot rule, but it was the best I could come up with.  I tired myself out by trying to run some of the segments, and when I finished I looked on up at the summit of Pikes, still eight hundred more feet to go.

I believe the 3000 foot rule (which had never been written down as far as the record was concerned) was about ensuring that anybody went through a minimum amount of effort to reach a summit.  I believed my interpretation of completing “laps” absolutely forced me to put forth that minimum amount of effort.  In fact you could argue it was more difficult because I was over 13,000 feet for the entire time.  [Later this decision, caused some grumbling from the previous record holder.  He didn’t feel that these “laps” satisfied the 3000 foot rule.  But the next summer he took his revenge by taking a day and a half off the record! So in the end it didn’t matter.  I must say, that in my naivety, I had no idea that anyone would take it so seriously!  Especially because I had more than “honored” the record by hiking extra stuff and mountain biking stuff that other people were able to drive in their 4 wheel drives.  In hindsight, I understand that people are very serious about their personal records.  I think this is way more true today than it was in 1999. But now Teddy has written in very much detail what the rules are so there is no room for my type of “effort” interpretation of the rule. ]

I made the summit at 12:30pm, and wandered around for awhile looking around for the highest rock.  I went over and touched one possible candidate and then walked over to the truck.  Mom was waiting for me, she fed me a little, cheered me on a little and then sent me back down the mountain.  I slowly (very slowly since my blister pain had never gone away) made my way down and she picked me up at 1:45pm back where I had started, then we headed down the road.  At a brake check, the ranger informed her that the brakes on the truck badly needed replacement, so for the next two days she had to worry about that, since there was no time to have them fixed.

While I was sleeping in the back of the truck, mom drove over to the dirt road that heads up Mt. Sherman.  Somewhere on the dirt rode I woke up and looked at my watch.  We were at 11,100 feet and mom was still going.  I banged on the window so she would stop, but she didn’t hear and continued up to 11,500 feet.  Then she stopped and asked me what our elevation was.  I angrily told her we had gone too high (I was in a bad mood).  She offered to drive me back down but I told her to forget about it and got out and started hiking down the road at 4:10pm.  I hiked a long ways down that road until my altimeter finally read 11,030 feet, then turned around and started up.  Somewhere along the way my mood became more positive. When I got back to the truck, mom joined me and hiked about a mile up the road with me.  Then she turned back and I continued past the Dauntless Mine on up to the Hilltop Mine.  At this point I looked north and was confused.  The mountain I thought was Sherman looked much smaller than the peak to the north.  I thought that maybe I was going the wrong way.

After doubting myself for awhile I decided I had been right in the first place.  I headed right up that mountain and shortly made the summit ridge.  I called Natalie again to verify that she would still be meeting us, and hiked up the nice trail to the summit at 6:45pm, where I found a summit register that was torn and tattered.  I started down and was happy to find a nice scree slope to ease the knee pain.  By now I was an expert at going downhill backwards, and I put that expertise to work.  Around 8:30pm I made it back to the truck, and mom started the drive over to Kite Lake.

Kite Lake is a high trailhead at 12,000 feet.  So we had to stop before the end of the road.  It works out well, because right at about 11,000 feet the road gets steep, and there is a nice little pull out where mom could park.  The road was easy to that point and it would be easy for Kelly and Natalie to spot the truck.  I only had a little more that a mile to hike on the road before Kite Lake. From Kite Lake Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross are about the easiest three mountains you could ask for.

I asked mom for about 15 minutes more sleep, and after 15 minutes got up and prepared to leave.  I put some new batteries in my headlamp (I complained the night before to mom because the cheap batteries she had bought had died quickly, so she bought me some real batteries), and started up the road at 9:30pm.  No sooner than I started, Natalie and Kelly drove up.  They left Kelly’s truck running and started hiking up with me, with Buddie and Dave Dog.  A few minutes later I said goodbye and continued up alone.  I called Buddie, but wise in many ways, he didn’t want to come up with me.  I held a nice consistent pace and was able to climb the mountains faster that expected.

At 11:30pm I made the summit of Democrat, I continued up and over Mt. Cameron until reaching the summit of Lincoln at 12:30am, then continued over to Bross which I summited at 1:00pm.

The descent of Bross used to be a nice scree slope.  But the large numbers of people running down the slope has made much of the scree disappear.  Still, it was better than nothing and I was back down to the truck in an hour and a half, at 2:30am.  I had 27 hours to beat the fourteen day barrier, and six mountains left to climb.