I mentioned recently, in my post about the Amalfi coast, that driving the mountains in Colorado was a whole other story. So I thought I’d share that story with you about the day we almost died on Pikes Peak.
We almost died on Pikes Peak
It was September 16, 2018, and we had gone to Colorado to get away for a few days and celebrate James’s birthday. We thought it would be a great idea to visit Pikes Peak and take the drive to the top. For a little while it WAS great! We enjoyed beautiful scenery, we saw a beautiful lake, we enjoyed looking at the trees that had started to turn for the fall. It really was pretty awesome — until we got closer to the top. Once we passed the tree line (which in Colorado is between 11K and 12K feet) everything changed. This is when we stared death in the face from our windshield.
Okay, we didn’t really almost die but it sure felt like we were just seconds away from death for awhile. What we thought would be a beautiful drive up the mountain with beautiful scenery ended up very different.
Let me just tell you that when you’re having a panic attack, hyperventilating, and freaking out because you’re certain at any second you’re going to plummet down the side of the mountain and experience sudden death, nothing really looks all that beautiful. LOL!
I enjoyed the part of the mountain below the tree line but sadly we didn’t make it to the top. I think I was more terrified than I’ve ever been in my life once we got above the tree line. James was finally able to turn around and took us back down and then I could breathe again. The roads are literally against the edge of the mountain with no guardrails on most of it! NO GUARDRAILS. Are they serious?!
Seriously … does that look safe to drive on? LOL! Straight drop off to the left is what that looks like. No thank you! And as you can see this is going DOWN the mountain. This was AFTER we’d turned around and I had gathered my wits enough to actually take a picture.
Side note – we asked when we came back down why there are no guardrails. They said it’s because the snowplows can’t get through to plow the snow off the road if there are guardrails. Can you even imagine driving a snow plow up there?!
I. would. die.
I’m getting heart palpitations just sharing this with you and thinking about it again. I think I’ll enjoy mountain views from below the tree line from now on, unless I’m in an airplane. Admittedly, there is a small part of me that wants to go try again on the shuttle or on the cog railroad. (Once the cog railroad opens back up.) I wonder if I’d do better in a situation like that? But my biggest fear about that is that I’ll flip out again while on a shuttle full of people and there will be nothing I can do about it. I’d be trapped. Worth it? I’ll have to decide that next time we go to Colorado Springs. 😉
James is my hero!
Most of all I have to give a shout out to my awesome husband for dealing with me and my freak out while he was driving those roads. I seriously don’t know how he did it. He’s my hero for getting me down that mountain safely. Now we just get to remember that trip as the day we almost died on Pikes Peak. 😛
AH YES. I needed that beer! And I’m no hero.
It took a few hours to pry my white-knuckled hands from the steering wheel that day. It was the same type of butt-puckering experience I had driving a trailer for the first time.
Heights didn’t bother me as a kid. I jumped off roofs and climbed tall trees and never had an issue. But as I got older something changed. Perhaps it was wisdom that I could actually die. Regardless, all was good the day we decided to ascend Pikes Peak in our Ford Explorer UNTIL Donetta started to lose her ever loving mind at 13,000 feet and convinced me to actually focus on something besides the road ahead.
It was at the moment I realized the gravity of our situation and how this was not going to be a pleasant journey into greatness. It was also a learning experience in that riding your brakes AAALLLLLL the way down a mountain is the wrong way to descend into shame. Thanks to the park ranger for teaching me how to use our gears on the new SUV. 😀
While we survived this experience I don’t know if I will ever attempt a mountain summit by vehicle ever again. I also have flash backs and PTSD from the day “we almost died” on Pikes Peak. Thank God for the fine breweries in Colorado who brought me much solace from that ordeal. And just think, I wanted to jump out of a perfectly good airplane as a paratrooper.
Photos by James and Donetta Dalman