(MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo.) — As the sun began to rise on Monday morning, the trailhead of the Manitou Springs incline began to fill. 2023 marks the eighth annual 9/11 firefighter climb, which is nearly a mile hike up with a 2,000-foot elevation gain.

The nonprofit Incline Friends helps to ensure those participating are prepared for this challenging climb, by providing food and beverages to those at the start.

“They gather in the morning of 9/11 each year to pay respect to the first responders and firefighters that were lost on 9/11,” Incline Friends Trail Maintenance Director, Trevor Becker, said. “They climb all 2,768 stairs in full gear just to honor the ones that were lost in the tower that day.”

Spotted along the trail were different fire departments wearing nearly 50 pounds of gear while conquering the Manitou Spring Incline. One group of firefighters ready for the challenge came from Cañon City. Senior firefighter, John Fear, was the leader of the pack.

“Just to remember the families of the lost firefighters,” Fear said. “Can’t imagine what they’re going through and this is for them.”

John Fear helped set the pace and lead his firefighter family up the incline.

Right behind Fear were three other firemen–Trevor Marshall, Matthew Fifield, and Adan Vejil–all from the Cañon City Fire District. They stuck together every step of the way.

“Remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice to try and save others that day,” Trevor Marshall said. “We’re doing this for those guys and those families, so this is for them.”

Four firefighters with Cañon City Fire District geared up and took on the Manitou Springs Incline on 9/11 to remember the first responders who gave their lives.

In order to make it to the top, this group had to conquer 2,768 steps. Along the way they were cheered on and thanked for their work of protecting the Southern Colorado community.

“It’s very humbling knowing that some of us, some of our brothers and sisters paid the ultimate sacrifice and we’re just out here remembering them, and it’s just unbelievable,” said Adan Vejil.

Flags were placed along the Manitou Springs incline all the way to the top.

Along the incline were flags placed every couple of steps as another form of encouragement for those taking on the climb, and many of the firefighters stopped along the way.

“Just keep going every step and just remembering what everybody did on that day,” Matthew Fifield said. “And just every step is another memorial of the person that gave the ultimate sacrifice up there.”

Firefighters could be spotted along the trail wearing nearly 50 pounds of gear.

For Becker, who helped at the trailhead, the memorial climb had a lasting impact.

“I’m honored to be here and see people so dedicated to their profession and what they do that they’re willing to come out on a voluntary basis in full gear and climb all these stairs just to pay respects,” Becker said. “9/11 was many years ago, and there’s a lot of people that weren’t even born when that happened.”

Two firefighters from Elbert County wore pictures of first responders to honor the fallen heroes from 9/11.

A group from U.S. Space Command, U.S. Space Force, and Fort Carson also gathered at the base of the incline to join the memorial climb, including Team Red, White & Blue, a veteran organization.

77-year-old military veteran held a flag while participating in the Manitou Springs 9/11 Memorial Climb.

“We’ll have a lot of people doing it in vests and then the firefighters come out here, they get in full gear and do it,” said Carrie Pressett, a Member of Team Red, White & Blue. “So, it’s just really neat just to see the community, firefighters, military come together and remember why we’re really doing this and what we’re doing that for.”

A fist bump shared between firefighters on the Manitou Springs Incline.

While the group of Cañon City firefighters made their way to the top of the incline, they crossed paths with another firefighter — a special moment spotted on the trail of the forever bond firefighters now share after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

“This is a lot more meaningful, and I know I got a lot of people behind me instead of just me,” said Fear.

The group waved their flag on top of the incline and took a moment of silence to remember the 343 firefighters who gave their lives on 9/11.