This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 22, 2004

Weather on summit is snow problem


It may be the dog days of summer, but the summit of Pikes Peak felt like late October on Saturday as some 1,800 runners filed up Barr Trail in the Pikes Peak Ascent.

A mushy fiveinch blanket of snow fell across the peak’s alpine tundra on Friday night and early Saturday morning, forcing race organizers to postpone the scheduled 7 a.m. start by 30 minutes.

With the snow turning the Pikes Peak Highway into a bobsled run, race workers were unable to reach the summit in time to set up aid stations, timing equipment and a finish line.

Race director Ron Ilgen considered not starting the event at all because of the cold temperatures and a forecast that promised more wet weather. Runners were asked to turn back if a storm hit.

“It was a tough decision,” Ilgen said on the summit as competitors plowed their way through the slop. “With the chance of another storm coming in, it’s really important that they turn back if they’re too far from the summit. If they don’t listen, there could be problems.”

At 11:30 a.m., skies were partly cloudy on the summit, but no rain or snow had fallen. Brief snow showers did fall around 1 p.m.

The Ascent has seen snow before, but Ilgen said he could recall only one other time when the race was postponed. It happened in the 1980s when a mudslide temporarily closed the road to the summit.

The runners didn’t seem to mind the snow, muck and frosty temperatures.

“You had to be careful on some of the switchbacks because it was pretty slick, but really it wasn’t much of a problem,” race winner Scott Elliott said.

Arkansas connection
The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon attract people from around the world. But a group from Arkansas has formed Team Arkansas, which is part of the Arkansas Pikes Peak Marathon Society.

This year, according to race records, there are 59 runners from Arkansas making a go at Pikes Peak.

“There was a time when 200 of us would come here,” said Jack Evans, a Little Rock resident.

But why Pikes Peak?
“If you’ve ever been in Arkansas, you know that it’s hot and humid,” Evans said.

“We come here to get away from it.”

He and Hugh Braswell, also of Little Rock, spent several days in Leadville, training for Pikes Peak and becoming acclimated to the elevation. The snow on Pikes Peak did not scare them off.

“One morning (in Leadville) the doors on our car were frozen shut, so this weather isn’t that bad,” Braswell said.

And counting
Runners from 47 states and five countries competed in the Ascent. Kansas had the largest out-of-state participation with 163 entered, followed by New Mexico (86).

There were 1,101 first-time ascenders.


Copyright 2004, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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