MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — By foot, in a vehicle, or on the Cog Railway, getting to the top of America’s Mountain can be life-changing on a clear, blue sky day. But throw in some weather, and that journey can bring a whole range of unexpected emotions.
The new Cog Railway depot sits a bit over 6,700 feet on the west side of Manitou Springs. On an average day, the temperature drops 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit for each 1,000 feet gained in elevation. That means it’s usually a bit more than 40 degrees colder on the summit than at the beginning of the Cog tracks.
Throw in some instability and some moisture in the summer, and Pikes Peak can turn into a thunderstorm-generating machine.
That means it can be an electrifying trip up the Cog, and a hair-raising experience at the summit as electric charge starts to flow from the mountain up through your body.
Regardless of the time of year, wind can always cause headaches too, and can even shut down the train.
But throw in less daylight and the cold of winter, and snow can cause problems on the Cog long after the storm is gone.
Before the recent rebuild of the Cog, the plow that was custom-built on site by the local shop crew had been running since the 1950s. This year, a new stronger and more efficient plow easily cleared the wet, concrete-like spring snow on the first trip up.
Keeping the track clear means more trips to the top more often in the winter, for more locals and visitors than before.
That means even more visitors from across the country and around the world can experience that view beyond the fruited plain.