Flashback to 2004. I had met this crazy outdoorsy guy (soon to be my husband of 10 years!) and he thought it would be exciting for us to have a "first date" on the Incline. I highly opposed this idea, but as we drove closer and closer to the "slice in the mountain" (or how a non-incliner would describe it...) I realized that I had no choice.
We parked and started the trek. DANG that parking lot was steep! Now for the real trek...I took it slow the first time, knowing that I had not prepared for this at all. It was during the summer, so I was lucky. Later that winter, I was not so lucky as we would hike it again.
Granted, this is before it was "legal" so there was less people but c'mon...all the cool kids did it back then! Now of course, the Incline is legal, open to the public and soon because of amazing construction work...sustainable! All of this will mean increased traffic, especially when it opens next week. If you are a beginner or moderate hiker on the Incline, here's what you need to know about hiking it in winter.
1-Be Lucky. Technically, it's not winter yet. These temps we're seeing are above average and we might not get a decent snow on those steps until mid January. With the "stairway to heaven" opening next week, you should get some decent weather, mid 40's, clear skies and trails headed your way. In any case, use the following tips to have an enjoyable experience!
2- Wear appropriate clothing. NO JEANS! Too many times I've see folks hike up this in jeans. Think of going to the gym. Would you wear jeans on the stair stepper at 24hour Fitness or Gold's? Heck no! So why would you wear jeans on the Incline? It's as athletic as the gym. On a trail, sure...jeans are *ok*, on the Incline...no. Instead, opt for some running tights, technical fabric pants that zip off into shorts (discounted prices available at Mountain Equipment Recyclers and Gearonimo Sports) or if you have to, sweat pants. Your shoes also matter. The more athletic, the better, but again you might need traction so wait until #4.
3- Remember to layer your clothes. The thing you have to remember about the Incline is that it is cold to start, HOT in the middle and cold again at the end. Especially during winter, you'll want to wear a top layer over a base layer on your upper body. If the forecast calls for precipitation, take a rain/snow layer also. I usually start with an athletic sweater on over a t-shirt (mid 30s-40s) at the start, in the middle when the sun is baking, I strip down to the t-shirt and tie the sweater around my waist. This sweater usually makes it's way back on me after I've done my "Rocky-fist-pump-in-the-air" dance at the top and I'm running back down Barr Trail.
4- Bring extra winter gear. Again, depending on the weather, you might need some extra essentials. I am a wussy when it comes to my ears getting cold. I always wear a Nike ear warmer that I picked up at the Colorado Running Company. It keeps my ears toasty warm and if I get too hot, I can always wrap it around my arm or the sleeve of my unused (at the moment) sweater. Other items I bring are lightweight wool gloves and a pair of STABILicers or Hilsound Trail Crampons. I can't tell you how many times these guys have come in handy when I've had to hike up a moonlit, icy staircase. Sure, sometimes the footsteps are carved out for you already but it doesn't hurt to take a pair of traction devices. On the way down Barr Trail, I could run with ease and count on my ice spikes to keep me from sliding. The bad thing about traction devices like YakTrax are that the rubber in the middle of the wire wears out on the sharp granite along the trail and can rip. Make sure you are running on ice and not dirt when using your traction. Also, bring a headlamp if hiking near dusk. Eat a sufficient snack before or during the hike and pack out ALL trash (including toilet paper, used kleenex, dog poop, water bottles etc...)
5- Bring water. Duh.
6- Prepare for the trip. Tell people where you are going. Also, tell people when to expect you back. The good thing about the Incline is that it is usually a "buddy" trip. Many people hike it with their friends for support (take for instance the time I had to hold onto my mom when she pulled me up it! JK!)
However, do not take this trail for granted. It has injured many and has caused El Paso County Search and Rescue to come out and carry many off of it or the Barr Trail. Bring cash or prepare to pay for parking. Usually, I would park in Soda Springs Park and run up Ruxtron Dr. but even the park is paid parking now. You can't run from it so might as well pay for it! Don't forget about the free shuttle in the summer.
7- Visit a local cafe, restaurant or brewery afterward. You know you'll need fuel after this workout so, might as well get the energy you need back in town! My personal favorites are Ruffano's Hells Kitchen and Manitou Brewing Company. The classic end to the Incline was of course Kinfolks, but unfortunately we haven't been in since Fred left. Which leads me to my next point...
8- When are we hiking it? That's right! The Incline is supposed to open up next week! DYK that we got our start by hiking the Incline? Boy are we are ready to get back out there! Interested in coming with us? Drop us a line and we'll be more than happy to help you with your first, 5th or 50th time up this beast! Email us at email@example.com. I'll report back to you all after we get up there next week!
We hope you are ready to #InclineUp!