“It’ll be more than 20 degrees colder at the top, Dad.”
We were packing the car to begin our day in Colorado Springs under a cloudless, brilliant sunny September Sunday sunrise, temperature about 53 degrees.
“Yah, but, by the time we’re ready to go up Pikes Peak, the temperature at the base will be 80 degrees, so I think I’ll be OK.”
“You might want to bring something else to wear,” my daughter replied, looking at my outfit-du-jour: sneakers, shorts, a polo shirt, a light fleece, and a baseball hat.
By mid-afternoon, the air temperature had, in fact, reached 80 degrees; the air was almost still, no wind. My pulse pumping a bit from hiking up and back the first half mile of the Barr trail that leads up Pikes Peak, we boarded the Cog Railway for the three hour ride to the top of Pikes Peak.
We began the journey with the railway car windows open. By the time we reached mile 4, at about 9,500 feet elevation, we could feel a bit of chill in the air. By the time we reached Windy Point, at 12,135, feet, the air was clear, the panoramic views were spectacular (to the east, the Great Plains out beyond the border of Colorado and Kansas; to the West/Southwest, the Collegiate Range), the wind was blowing at about 20 mph, and, the air temperature was 46 degrees. By this point (thankfully!), all but one of the Cog Railway car windows were closed tight. At the summit, 14, 115 feet – a little colder. Wind chill – about 32 degrees. “I’ll be twenty degrees colder…” Right!
As we posed for our picture at the summit sign, I shivered almost uncontrollably, the wind pushing icy air up my legs under my shorts and cutting through my light fleece. My baseball cap kept the mid-afternoon sun out of my eyes and provided little additional comfort.
“Don’t you have ANYTHING else in your pack that you could put on?”, gently inquired one of my family.
“No,” I chattered, lurching, post-picture, toward the nearest door of the Summit House where I stayed until Cog Railway departure time for the return trip. Didn’t see much of the view from the top.
Once back on the train and miles down the hill, as we talked about our experiences, the words “that was just stupid” might have been heard, I think in reference to my bare skinned planning and execution.
A little pre-cog research (rather than making assumptions and ignoring the counsel of more experienced colleagues), a little thinking – anticipating likely possibilities, and carrying a few things that might have been useful depending on actual conditions could have enabled me to experience and learn a lot more, rather than my wasting precious time in a spot we worked so hard to reach, huddled by a heater.
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