Climbing Colorado's Fourteeners
Class 3, Steep Snow/Ice (Seasonal)
From Bottomless Pit: 2.0 miles, 2,470 feet
From Barr Camp: 8.0 miles, 3,950 feet
From Devil's Playground Trailhead: 7.0 miles, 4,170 feet
From Manitou Springs Trailhead: 19.2 miles, 7,400 feet
Many people are surprised to learn that Pikes has exciting technical routes. Not surprisingly, they are on Pikes' north face. The Railroad Couloir, in spite of its name, provides a titillating, sky-reaching snow climb in a rugged setting. It is the easiest route on Pikes' north face. Snow conditions are best in May and June, and the couloir is bare in August. Preview conditions from a distance before committing to this climb.
Use either the Bottomless Pit Trail Approach or the Rumdoodle Ridge Approach to reach Bottomless Pit at 11,640 feet. The Railroad Couloir is the easternmost couloir on the north face. Angling slightly to the east (left), climb south into the snow bowl in the center of the face at 12,600 feet. Stay to the east (left) and climb the now distinct couloir as it steepens and narrows. Pass a large rock buttress, then angle west (right) at 13,700 feet. Continue straight up for the steepest, most classic finish, or angle east (left) for an easier finish. Your climb and solitude end abruptly a few feet from the end of the cog railway line on the east side of the summit.
An unusual hazard on this climb is tourists on the summit who try to fill up Bottomless Pit by tossing rocks down your route. To minimize this risk, consider being dropped off and climbing early from a bivouac in Bottomless Pit. A very early start from Barr Camp is another good alternative. In any case, wear a helmet.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication