At The Summit of Pike's Peak
It’s cold. The kind of cold that instantly freezes your wipers to the windscreen. For these wipers to be of any use, I would have to pull off the road, pry them from the windscreen and rub them repeatedly with my large and cumbersome mittens. Thankfully, this is a bright and sunny day and I don’t need wipers…only very dark glasses to cut the glare.
When it is time to get out of the car the cold takes my breath away and burns my lungs. It isn’t a cold that penetrates, like the damp cold of New England. This cold envelopes you, and caresses any exposed skin…caresses with sandpaper. I’m at 9,000 feet above sea level in Colorado, having a stare-down with the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak
We’re lucky. Today the skies are “Colorado Blue,” a color those of us from this region know exists in no other place on our planet. This color of blue is mesmerizing. If you look at it long enough, it will take over your mind. And if this mountain were not in the way, I could probably see California. (OK, that’s an extreme exaggeration brought on most likely by the severe cold…or Colorado Blue.)
On December 30, thirty members and guests of the AdAmAn Club depart the trailhead of Barr Trail, and make their way along the icy slopes on the east face of world famous Pikes Peak. Overnight is at Barr Camp at 10,200 feet. Temperatures are about zero, Fahrenheit.
The Pikes Peak AdAmAn (Add-A-Man) Club has been a Pikes Peak Region tradition since 1922. It is a unique group of mountaineers, who each year on December 30 and 31 climb to the summit of Pikes Peak and at the stroke of midnight, ignite a glorious fireworks display to usher in the New Year with 60 shells and 40 flares.
It is now December 31st. Mirrors are flashed from the location at timberline (12,000 feet) to friends and families in the Colorado Springs area. In the early afternoon, the ascent to the summit is finished. 13.2 miles under clear skies and high winds. The climb from timberline (12,000 feet) to the 14,110-foot summit is often accomplished on icy and snow swept slopes with wind chills of -50 degrees Fahrenheit.
At 9:00 p.m. five shells are set off in memory of the “Frozen Five,” the founders of the club in 1922. Their idea was that each year, only one new member would be added to the Club, and as a result, the name AdAmAn (add a man) was chosen. Each year, members choose one new member from a list of applicants. And yes, there are women in the club these days!
At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, a spectacular fireworks display is ignited, which on a clear night, can been seen for hundreds of miles along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies and eastern plains. Reports this year is that the show was seen from Denver north to Pueblo south.
At 12:20, when the smoke clears, five red flares are shot into the black sky, and they float down the mountain in deathly silence, one after the other until they burn out. It is absolutely my most favorite moment of the entire affair.
Watching the red flares float in the darkness, making their way through the currents of wind, I take a deep breath and close my eyes. Standing 50 miles west, 100 miles east, 100 miles south, and 50 miles north, the flares are visible to all. It’s time for a new year and the perfect moment to contemplate all that has gone before and to be resolute in how I will live my life in the coming year. With those red flares float away all my mistakes. And at 14,110 feet you can reach up and pluck a star…a bright and shining start for the New Year.
Perhaps I’ll see you up there…on the summit of Pikes Peak, or the summit of your own peak that you will soon build when you volunteer abroad.
This year, Inspire The World…Inspire Yourself!