First Experience of the Incline: Not to be Underestimated

While admiring Pike’s Peak, one cannot help but take note of a narrow scar cutting up a small central foothill. For those who don’t know, this vertical strip is the Manitou Incline, a straight mile of stairs gaining a whopping 2,000 feet of elevation.

The summit of the incline. Photo by Melanie Mendell

For athletes like myself, climbing up some stairs might not seem like a daunting workout. Doubting the intensity, I decided to “pregame” the climb with half an hour of spinning at the gym (my first mistake).

My friend, an experienced Colorado native, warned me about the  false summit near the top upon our arrival. She advised me to develop a rhythm early on in order to establish a good pace. Within minutes of starting, she had already gained on me, and only continued to do so throughout the climb.

At first, the Incline is a relatively flat set of stairs. It feels like walking up a slight hill. I don’t even remember when it started to get steep, but it hit me hard and fast. Before I knew it, I was sweating profusely while trying to pretend that I wasn’t tired. I’d stop to “take pictures” and “admire the view,” when in reality I was struggling to catch my breath.

After climbing for about half an hour, the stairs got bigger. I had to throw my leg over the next stair and lean forward, sometimes gripping the step in front of me with my hands, in order to pull myself up without slipping. I happen to have pretty large feet, a women’s 10.5, and I had to walk sideways to keep my toes from getting caught under the next step. 

Despite my friend’s warning, I fell for the false summit. I was ready to see the top of the Incline; instead, I saw only more stairs. Feeling both my disappointment and the burning in my legs and butt, I trudged on.

The final stretch of the climb is the hardest to actually climb, but the easiest to push through mentally. The thought of not having to climb any more stairs was enough. I persevered, and reaching the top was wonderfully satisfying.

Although the climb burned in almost every way imaginable, the view from the summit was worth it. Colorado Springs sprawls out below the stairs and the mountains stand in contrast to the sky behind you. We spent 20 minutes admiring the view and catching our breath before heading down the trail to the car. We ran down and it only took about half an hour. The total time, including breaks, was about 50 minutes up and 50 minutes down.

The Manitou  Incline is something every able-bodied CC student should try. It’s a rewarding challenge and an incredible workout not to be taken lightly. Give it a try if you feel so inclined.

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