Things To Do Before You Die>> Experience Pikes Peak

It's the end of June, it's freezing cold, you're short of breath and you're standing on a mountain. It's pitch dark all around. The only thing is a twisting caterpillar of distant headlights. As you stand there shivering in the darkness, you remember that it is 4 in the morning and you just got up from bed a mere two hours ago. 

You're standing on Pikes Peak in Colorado. And in an hour's time, the sun will start to peak over the horizon. Cars and motorcycles, with extreme brave individuals piloting them, will start flying up the mountain. What you're about to witness and experience is one of the premiere automotive spectacles in the world. 

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb is a 156 turn, 12.42 mile one-way race to the top. The top sits at 14,110 feat above sea level and the starting line is at 9,390 feet. That's 4,720 feet in elevation that each competitor is climbing in the time they're hauling butt up the mountain!

Now, imagine doing all that in under 10 minutes. That's the barrier that the top guys are trying to break.

Rod hit Bonneville right on the head when he mentioned that being at the salt flats is like a day spa for the soul. Pikes Peak is the complete opposite of that. It's a test of human ability to its absolute limit. It's a test for everyone involved: the racers, the teams, the spectators, and also the members of the media.

When you're operating that high up in elevation, there's a lack of oxygen. At 14,110 feet, there's only 61% of the oxygen that you're used to at sea level. Every step you take will quite literally take your breath away.

Simply talking is taxing. Everything you do at that altitude is difficult. 

But the moment a crazy machine slides around a corner, all your complains are instantly forgotten and you're reminded exactly why you're standing on the mountain. 

There are few places on earth where the landscape is as awe inspiring as the racing. 

The great thing about the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the shear variety of cars.

There are the purposefully built machines, like Rhys Millen's Hyundai Genesis RMR PM580…

…or Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima Suzuki SX4.

You can also witness cars like Jeff Zwart's Porsche Cup car…

…to fully prepped rally cars….

…and to the cars of yesteryear.

No matter what kind of cars you're into…

…there'll be something that will please everyone's taste buds. 

Then you have the views. Like this, a corner called "the Bottomless pit," which sit at 12,760 feet….

…or this one which is just a dozen or so feet away from the summit. Vistas like these are breath-taking –literally.

What draws you into Pikes Peak is the relationship between man, machine and mother nature. 

The Pikes Peak experience is far from glamorous. It's freezing butt cold in the morning, you can barely breathe, the weather does what it wants, there are no bathrooms, your body involuntarily passes gas all day long (true fact!), you urinate incessantly and your main source of sustenance comes from whatever you can forage from the 7-11 convenience store before you make the trip up the mountain.

There are no food vendors to be found. Just pine cones and arthropods. But even those become scarce when you're above the tree line!

The best way to experience the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is to experience it as a week long event. There's three days of practice, one day off, then race day on Sunday. Just witnessing it on race day isn't enough to take in the full experience. 

I get asked very often what my favorite event is to attend is. Without even thinking, I say Pikes Peak. There's no other event where after a grueling week of climbing up and down the mountain, breathing barely any oxygen and running on very little any sleep, you'll never feel as proud or as good about yourself of what you went through than you would at Pikes Peak.

We now live in a world where our limits are pushed on a digital level. We also live in an age where we yearn for the more simplistic days of yore. If you're one of those that romanticize about the days before smart phones, youtube, text messaging, and social networks go to Pikes Peak. Experience it. Live it. 

I'll close with this quote from film director, Robert Rodriguez:

"Stop aspiring, start doing."


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Awesome! Absolutely stunning!


Amazing! If it is so difficult on the body with such low oxygen levels, I wonder what it is like to the cars?


lovely write-up and photos!


I really wish I could experience Pikes Peak, but even if I don't I have gorgeous photography to look forward to. Need to find me some HD walls for this.


shit, i have so many things i wanna achieve in my life, but then again im only 14 so i have ALOT of time to do these things, LOVE THESE THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE POSTS <3


absolutely beautiful work, Linh! The proof you gave us in the link regarding the gasses involuntarily was hilarious. Now, THIS WHERE YOU NEED TURBOCHARGING!



Very great written! :)


I have to go to the next one.


i think it odesnt change much, but what happened if you drop lol :P guess you die doing the thing that you like the most :D


beautiful photography...!


Perfect! I've been there before when the road was still unpaved. It's kinda sad that they paved it all, but I understand the reasons behind it. But, amazing write up mate.


Great write-up Linhberg! I can't wait for this years race week. This year I'm going to watch practice on thursday and friday. Hope to see you there!

14's a third one of these I can check off! You do have to get up early, but good news is that you're not there all day.


Feel so bad for turning down the opportunity I had to go a few years ago. Damn...


great write up & top quality photos's - i can't agree with this one tho'... the average joe bloggs is gonna find it very hard to experience Pikes Peak.. even as a spectator! i think think most of us will be dying "un-Pikes Peaked"! - wicked blogs tho.. love 'em


It is absolutely breath taking i know i live in Colorado and the great thing is in the summer at like 1 or 2 in the morning taking your own personal ride of a life time up the moutain


The month of May is drawing to a close, and that means that our "Things to Do Before You Die"


great pictures. great article. very accurate. Ive been going to the hillclimb since i was a kid, and it has always been my favorite event, motorsport-related or not.


excellent post! please make wallpaper version out of these badass pics! PLEASE!!!


On brazil, there is Serra do Rio do Rastro. 156 turns on 8.9km.

Rhys Millen time: 7:17:898. This the record of the hillclimb.

He says:"I think I have a new favorite track".


Wonderful story and perfect quote: "Stop aspiring, start doing!" Perfect article!


Very good read. Its posts like this that cancel out the posts about Scion drift car builds.


Went last year, camped at 11,000ft on Saturday, woke up, walked up to our viewing spot and had an awesome time. Just booked my flight for this year's race!


Great job capturing the essence of Pikes Peak. It is one of the few venues in life that I am able to comprehend and accept the risk for what the reward is. Thanks for posting this.


went in 2009, most amazing thing iv ever seen in terms of rallying, even if it takes five minutes for a car to come past, for those 4 seconds as a car whip's around the corner your standing on you change, its amazing


haha that stupid planking stuff.

good post.


I like the old Impreza that is powersliding. Great photo!


Glad to be a Coloradan for this.


Great writeup, thanks for sharing. Definitely on my list of motorsport 'to-do's'


About time you feautured Jess Neal's black cuda! when are you going to do a spotlight?


i feel guilty having never been there, its only a few hours away. guess i'll shoot for this year? do you need tickets or anything?


The Pikes Peak Hill Climb is an motorsport event like no other. You get one shot at it and that's


Photography is, mostly, a rather geeky affair. We, as photographers, constantly nerd out over numbers