Saturday, 31 May 2014

May 30th - Pike's Peak, then on to Wyoming


Today we fulfilled an ambition: to drive up Pike's Peak in Colorado, to attain an altitude of over 14,000 feet above sea level in the comfort of our car! It was an experience which didn't disappoint! From waking up this morning and looking at the amazing view of the Garden of the Gods from our hotel room, to the slow drive up the mountain to the graupel and snow falling at the summit, the experience was fantastic. Yes, we had thick fog at the summit because of the cloud passing over, so we missed the spectacular views, but the cloud brought its own charm, and it always seems correct that one should pass into the clouds with altitude.

After a time, thunder boomed in the distance - an odd sound at this altitude as the thinner air gives the sound a different quality. We decided after about 40 minutes that it was time to descend - it was cold, and there's only so long we can look at fog! Also, although the effects of altitude were very minor for us, we could tell there was some subtle effects starting.

The slow drive down gave us time to stop and take pictures from time to time, and I was rather smug that the lady park ranger at the half-way down point said that our brakes were 'nice and cool' - which is ironic, as I usually like to get the brakes smoking!

We then headed north through the very busy areas around Denver to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for the night. We encountered heavy rain and thunderstorms on the way here, with some great lightning.

We ate dinner at Applebee's with Nathan Edwards, and reflected on events a year ago - May 31st. 2013.

This was the day of the infamous El Reno, Oklahoma, tornado, which tragically took the lives of three experienced and extremely popular storm chasers: Tim and Paul Samaras, and Carl Young.

As you may recall we had a narrow escape from this tornado too - I've gone over this day many times since then. It's certainly had an effect on our chase methodology and I think it would be tragic if no-one learned from this day.

Looking back at my blog post from this evening - May 30th - last year, the last paragraph was:

Friday looks like being another volatile weather day for central Oklahoma, unfortunately. Once again the Oklahoma City area is in a risk area for severe thunderstorms including tornadoes, some of which could be strong, especially into the evening hours.

Of course, I penned these words knowing the atmosphere was primed for significant weather, but I could have hardly imagined, or even cared to imagine, what would follow. I think one thing to take from all of this is that a day is either a very normal thing for us: we go about our lives with normality, and we assume we'll do the same tomorrow, and so on; or it can be an historic day, or a tragic day.

Of course, one should never approach the new day with any sense of morbidity - but perhaps having a greater appreciation for each day, and the people around you and the experiences you have each day, is something which we should embrace more. I can't say I have always done this since last May 31 - but as we reach that tragic anniversary, perhaps it's time do it more.

Here are a few pics from today:

The view which greeted us this morning from our balcony.

Pike's Peak summit - pleasant weather! 1C and graupel/snow!


Graupel on my arm.

On the descent - thunder growling away too!


This bottle was sealed at the summit, and then crushed by the higher pressure lower down.


  1. Did you feel any altitude sickness at the top Paul? (or maybe you weren't doing vigorous enough exercise for it to impact)

    1. Hi Harry - no sickness - it was clear we were high up though because our breath was quite short, even just walking to the shop/toilets at the top. However, I didn't feel much else, compared with when we were in Switzerland a few years ago - we both felt quite sick for a time then whilst up the Jungfraujoch.