COBWEB CORNERS: Our New Year tradition
By Mel McFarland
I feel this is a story that can be told every year. On New Year's 1923 the paper noted the brilliant display of fireworks from the summit of Pikes Peak. At 12 o'clock the summit of the world-famous peak was illuminated by bursts from thirty four- pound sky rockets and flares. Members of the AdAmAn Club carried out the event. Thousands of people saw the display through a slight fog that settled near the mountain. There were nine 500,000-candlepower flares, white as well as red. While those were burning, 30 rockets were sent into the clouds. Some of these were still burning as they cascaded down the rocks on the east face of the mountain. They could be seen bursting into finer sprays. The whole display was visible to anyone along the eastern plains. Flares were set off starting at seven o'clock and on each hour until midnight. The mountain was obscured at seven and eight, and the light could not be seen. At nine, there were three rockets fired, all visible from here. There were two at ten, and one at eleven. The main show was at midnight.
The club had been started by the Morath brothers (Fred and Ed) of Colorado Springs in 1922. A third member was Fred Barr, who knew the mountain like most know their living room. Joined by Willis Magee and Harry Standley, the five men decided to hike Fred's trail up the mountain to celebrate the New Year of 1923. They started on the 30th of December. They spent the night in a small cabin at a camp where Barr's burro teams stopped in the summer, at about the 11,000-foot level (now called Barr Camp). The five finished their trip to the top the next day.
Fred Barr and his friends had built the 13 miles of trail from near the Cog Depot on Ruxton Avenue in Maniton Springs. It replaced an older, longer trail to the summit that had been partly erased when the railroad opened in 1891. Barr Trail, built for burros and fairly reasonable for humans, goes up around Mt. Manitou and the front of Pikes Peak.
There is a traditional mirror-flashing exercise in the morning of the 31st when the climbers are above timberline. There is a special display of five flares for the memory of the "Frozen Five" who made the first trip.
This is special for me personally, since I plan to be on top of Pike's Peak Dec, 31st, only I am going to get there the same way I do most of the time, by train!