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."


More Things to Do Before You Die Stories on Speedhunters