This Spring has been quite dry and I've been feeling the itch to get out and get up a summit. I mulled the idea of heading up to do Lackawanna (a high 13er near Independence Pass); however, I knew my time was limited and that I would need to stay closer to home. So, I put out a feeler to my climbing partner Ethan Beute to see if he would be interested in doing something easy close to home. We both settled on Cameron Cone, the easily recognized point often seen in front of Pikes Peak in many photos of Pikes from Colorado Springs. I'd had my radar on Cameron Cone forever it had seemed, so it was a great choice in that regard. At the last minute, I also invited one of my other hiking partners, Sarah Musick, and plans were in motion to meet at Ethan's at 5 AM and hit the Cone. Since both Ethan and I are avid photographers, we opted for the early start in the hopes of getting some decent shots of sunrise from the trail somewhere.
Cameron Cone is named after a famous soldier and newspaper publisher, Robert Alexander Cameron. When originally dedicated, the summit was called Cameron's Cone. The Cone towers 10,707 feet above the city of Colorado Springs and is the fourth highest ranked summit in El Paso County and 1,935th highest in the State of Colorado. For a whole listing of summits in El Paso County, check out this link.
There are several routes to reach the summit of Cameron Cone; however, we chose one of the more rigorous routes to gain the summit. Instead of driving to Crystal Park, as some would suggest, we opted for the long route from Barr Trail. Here is a map of our route, feel free to click on it to see a slightly larger version. All in all the hike was 7.0 miles and 4,175 ft. of elevation gain - a nice work out for sure!
We decided to park on Ruxton Ave. in Manitou Springs and walk the road to where it ends. We then chose to cut left just after the chain link fence to the left of the Barr Trail and then walk the Cog Railway about a hundred feet. From there, we went straight up the hillside to the south until we reached the Englemann Trail. We found this guide to be very useful for the trip, as you can see from this photo of Ethan and I taken by Sarah.
We found the route to be fairly straight-forward once on the trail; however, we did lose the trail in one spot lower in the Englemann canyon. A simple up-climb and we were able to re-locate the trail. I would mention that I did bring my GPS with me and I had entered the coordinates from the Summitpost route description into my GPS as waypoints which proved useful.
Before we knew it, the sun had begun to rise and we found a suitable place to stop. I set-up my new Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod and took a ton of shots with my Tokina 11-16 lens. I love this tripod! It was somewhat heavy, but well worth the haul. I was not terribly impressed with my sunrise photos, mostly because I think we were too low and some of the view was obscured by Eagle Mountain to the south and east. Nonetheless, here's a few of my shots.
The city lights made for a very cool view.
I also had a little bit of fun doing a very short time-lapse video of sunrise using my intervalometer on my Nikon D7000.
After stopping to take some shots of the sunrise, we continued on up the trail. The trail was fairly steep and kept our heart-rates going. Soon, the trail went around this huge rock feature and then dumped us out with a huge view of Pikes Peak and the Cog Railroad, which was pretty impressive.
The rock near the trail was very classic Pikes Peak Granite, with features very similar to those of outcroppings found in Lost Creek Wilderness Area. A truly fun playground, as Sarah was able to demonstrate.
Ethan and I both enjoyed the view of Pikes Peak from this location.
The terrain was like a playground of sorts, with all kind of really cool features.
We took a few more pictures and then we were on our way up to the next section of the trail.
Soon, the trail opened-up again and dumped us out onto a very flat area which was the middle section of the hike. From here, we could see Cameron Cone finally - it seemed a lot futher away than I think we were anticipating. We could also see the Magog Ridge and Magog Rock. For the rest of the hike we all jokingly coined the phrase "Oh-my-Gog."
We went around the huge Magog Rock, which was one of the cooler features I'd seen. It had this smaller rock perched above it which made us all wonder how the heck something like that could even happen.
Ethan took many opportunities to take photos of it as well.
We followed a small road for a ways and then found the trail leading up to Cameron Cone, as advertised. Indeed, the trail was faint and sometimes hard to follow. We did find that there were small ribbons tied to trees at various intervals to help mark the way. We lost the trail a couple of times and found ourselves bushwacking through some steep and nasty terrain. Finally, we reached the ridge to the south of Cameron Cone and then ascended to the summit. It was pretty steep and I could understand if people turned back on this climb. It is much harder than it looks, for sure. Once we reached the top, we all enjoyed the view of Colorado Springs to the east and the unique view of Pikes Peak to the west. I busted out my tripod and set it up for some HDR work. Ethan caught me in the act, with Almagre in the background.
The sky was pretty cool for photography and some jet contrails added to the interest level.
One other nice advantage to bringing a tripod is that it makes for easy group photos.
On the other side of the summit, the views of Colorado Springs, Waldo Canyon, Williams Canyon, Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs were pretty impressive.
From here, I took a quick panoramic photo of the Colorado Springs area, looking northeast, east and southeast.
We spent about an hour on the summit and then head back down. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, albeit full of great conversation with some really great friends. I left with one parting shot of Pikes Peak.
Overall, Cameron Cone is a great hike! It is tougher than it looks and demands some respect when climbed from Barr Trail. Also, good route-finding skills are also required.
The views of Pikes Peak on this trip are totally worth the hike and are quite unique. You won't be disappointed if you choose this mountain that is off the beaten path.