On Saturday, September 8, 2018, Shapiro Winthers participated in the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado’s 33rd Annual Pikes Peak Challenge. The Brain Injury of Colorado (“BIAC”) organizes the Pikes Peak Challenge annually to raise funds to support brain injury survivors in Colorado.

The Pikes Peak Challenge is a particularly special fundraising event because amongst the participants are brain injury survivors and their families. Hiking alongside brain injury survivors who were defying the odds was inspirational and moving. Participants of the Challenge can choose their own adventure: Summit Hike (13-mile hike to the summit of Pikes Peak, 14,115 ft.); Barr Camp Hike (13-mile round trip hike to Barr Camp and back); Manitou Walk (2-mile walk around Manitou Springs); or the Virtual Challenge (a virtual option for those unable to attend).

This year, Steven Shapiro and Melissa Winthers, partners of Shapiro Winthers and past presidents of BIAC, participated as virtual challengers. Amy Rogers and Lauren Pembo attempted the Summit Hike.

By 5:00a.m., Amy and Lauren were checked in with the registration table and were waiting in line for one of the shuttle buses to take them to the bottom of Barr Trail.

The anxious excitement that filled the air was palpable. In the clear, crisp pre-dawn “morning,” we noted amongst the twinkling stars the constellation Orion. Standing in line in front of us was a brain injury survivor, proudly donning a “Superwoman” cape and preparing for the Challenge with oxygen therapy using a nasal cannula. Directly behind us was a group of men who had participated in the past year’s Challenge.

Small chatter was made as we were all herded into shuttle buses and taken up the hill to the trail. The time had come. After thanking our shuttle driver, who would later be picking up participants who made a successful summit from the top, we asked a friendly bystander to snap a quick photo before embarking on the Challenge.

The first portion of Barr Trail consists of constant grueling switchbacks, affectionately known as the “W’s” due to the appearance on a trail map that resembles a series of sideways W’s.

The unforgiving first three miles (an average 13% grade) seemed to go by quickly, in part due to hiking in the dark as well as the single-file fashion in which all the early Challengers happily acquiesced. In the dark, we could see a train of headlamps flickering up the hillside. We had no idea how the people in front of us carried on a conversation while they hiked that steep grade at such a quick clip. We appreciated the opportunity to match their steady pace until the assembly line dissipated.

As the sun began to rise, the clouds hung over Manitou Springs like a down comforter. The sky was painted blue and brilliant orange. We took a quick water break and snapped a couple photos, admiring the beautiful sunrise with other participants who stopped for a water break.

We continued onward until, finally, the trail leveled off near No-Name Creek.

This is the point on Barr Trail where the trail shifts away from Mount Manitou toward the base of Pike’s Peak. We took the left fork to stay on Barr Trail and reached the first check-in point. Friendly Pikes Peak Challenge volunteers recorded our numbers and offered encouragement that the next portion of the trail toward Barr Camp was more manageable than the part we just completed.

We continued onward as the trail flattened and became more forested. We welcomed the pine canopy coverage, although at this point we removed a few layers of sweat-soaked clothing as the sun began to rise.

Once we made it halfway between No Name Creek and Barr Camp, we passed a group of First Responders, who also offered their encouragement.

The only thing more beautiful than the scenery was the constant encouragement and support by every single person who was involved in this event.

This trail section offered a fairly-flat three miles with a few mild (but glorious) descents.

Finally, we earned our first view of Pike’s Peak. Amy wondered how we would ever be able to make it to the top.

We had already gained over 3,000 feet of elevation at this point. However, we had a completely clear bluebird sky and perfect conditions to encourage us onward, as well as the reminder that brain injury survivors who fought to regain their lives were hiking alongside us.

We continued hiking toward the halfway point to the summit—Barr Camp.

In order to continue the Challenge toward the summit of Pikes Peak, participants must make it to Barr Camp no later than 9:30a.m. to increase the likelihood of a safe summit.

Unfortunately, about a mile from reaching Barr Camp, Lauren twisted her ankle. We took a break to assess Lauren’s injury. We had already hiked so far, and because we knew there would be a water refill station snacks, and a place to rest at Barr Camp, so we decided to slow our pace but continue to the halfway point to re-assess the situation.

Lauren pulled out her hiking sticks and mustered up the strength to keep going. The last trail portion before Barr Camp was a steady but rocky climb.

With just a few minutes to spare, we made it to Barr Camp under the 9:30a.m. cut off time. See smiling, happy faces pictured below after hiking 6.5 miles and over 4,000 feet in elevation gain!

Once we arrived at Barr Camp, we refilled our water supply and ate some of the salty snacks provided by the BIAC Pikes Peak Challenge volunteers.

We logged our competitor numbers with the check-in staff at the halfway point and headed up the trail so that we would not get stuck behind the 9:30a.m. cutoff and not be allowed to continue.

The Pikes Peak Summit 6 miles sign taunted us on our way out of Barr Camp.

The first half of the hike had not been too grueling to steal the remaining energy we needed to complete the Challenge; however, with one member of Team Shapiro suffering from an ankle injury, we did not want to force our way forward and find ourselves in an even worse situation.

We decided to hike a mile past Barr Camp and then take a food and water break to rest and weigh our options. Surely, from this point forward, the trail would only get harder as would the Challenge, with depleting oxygen levels with every step. On the other hand, hiking downhill on a wounded ankle is a fast way to a worsened injury.

We remembered the friendly first responders we saw earlier in the hike and decided it would be a poor decision to have to call upon their services should our situation worsen. So, with great sadness, we decided to turn back and make our way back down Barr Trail, slowly but steadily to avoid further injury.

On the way back down Barr Trail, the sun was blazing hot overhead.

Our hands were beginning to blister from grasping our walking sticks and every now and then, Lauren’s ankle would twinge in the wrong direction, causing sharp pain. We knew we made the right decision to turn back, despite our disappointment in having to do so.

We took another moment to acknowledge the brain injury survivors, who took on this seemingly-insurmountable task. At the bottom of Barr Trail where the trail links back up with the backside of the Manitou incline was now bustling with other park patrons. The “W’s” we previously traversed up with ease in the dark now felt never-ending. Finally, we made it to the bottom of the trailhead.

The BIAC Pikes Peak Challenge Volunteers at the beginning of the trailhead congratulated us and we received our medals. We were so happy we made it. We sat down and waited with two other participants for the shuttle bus to take us to the park to celebrate with free massages, sandwiches, t-shirts and craft beer. Participants and friends and family that were already at the park cheered every time another wave of shuttles dropped off.

Although Lauren and Amy did not get a summit during this year’s Pikes Peak Challenge, we had a fantastic time and considered the experience a success. We look forward to the opportunity to try again next year at the 34th Annual Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado’s Pikes Peak Challenge!

Shapiro Winthers is a proud Barr Camp Level sponsor of the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado 33rd Annual Pikes Peak Challenge.

Steven Shapiro was a top fundraiser in this year’s Pikes Peak Challenge, coming in at #10 on the Top 10 Individual Fundraisers list.

Shapiro Winthers as a firm raised $3,218.00 in total donations for this year’s Pikes Peak Challenge. Per the Pikes Peak Challenge website, among those who made generous contributions to BIAC in support our firm and its participants included Peter Wall; Scott Bainbridge; Mack Babcock; Kaplan Morrell; Suzanne H. Rosenberg, M.D.; High Impact; Rob Herchert; William Neighbors; Jose and Janet Martinez; Joel and Elaine Goldstein; Jaqua Counseling & Consulting; Lawrence and Jill Dipasquale; Epicurean Group; Red Hawk Trucking; Steve Sarche; All Telecom Services; Dahlberg & Associates; Paul Aylmer; Gregory and Ellen Henika; Jeanne Lee; Ruth Malman; Larry and Pat Schmidt; Heather Lane Therapy; Advantage Alternative Healthcare; Monarch Insurance Professionals; and Jane and Arnold Mondrow.

It is because of all the wonderful sponsors and fundraisers of this event that BIAC’s 2017 Pikes Peak Challenge raised $275,000 in total donations. BIAC hopes to raise over $300,000 in the 2018 Pikes Peak Challenge.