Living at the base of “America’s Mountain”, Pikes Peak, provides some truly wonderful scenery. The summit, at 14,110 feet (about 4300 meters), looms above Colorado Springs and is a constant reminder of what a beautiful state that we live in. One of our favorite New Year’s Eve traditions is going out into our front yard, weather permitting, and watching the firework display from the top of Pikes Peak. The AdAmAn club has been climbing to the top of Pikes Peak every year since 1922 to light up the night sky. We stand in awe as we watch the fireworks, not so much of the light display, but of the members who have hiked to top of the peak to set them off for all of us to see.
We’ve been to the summit several times, by car, by the cog railway, and we even hiked it once. We hiked it in the middle of summer and can only imagine what it would be like to hike it in the bitter cold and snow of winter. Going up the Barr trail to the summit of Pikes Peak was, without a doubt, the most difficult hike we’ve ever done. We have tremendous respect to the men and women (they recently started allowing women to join the club) who make the annual trek to top of the peak, regardless of the weather. Even if the weather doesn’t allow them to shoot off the fireworks, the intrepid group still makes the arduous climb every year.
Back in 1922, a group of five adventurous men decided that they wanted to do something unique to celebrate New Year’s Eve and decided to climb to the summit of Pikes Peak. Fred and Ed Morath, Fred Barr (who created the trail that the club now hikes), Willis Magee, and Harry Standley made up the original group. The weather on that first climb to top of the peak on New Year’s Eve was extremely cold and snowy. Because the snow was so deep that year, the group decided to go up the Cog Railway tracks, which had been running since 1889, instead of the Barr Trail. At 9 miles, it was shorter than the 13 miles on the Barr Trail, but was also more treacherous and dangerous. At Windy Point, about a thousand feet above the tree line, the snowy conditions and wind had created snow drifts that were almost impassible, but the group managed to make their way through. When they reached the summit, the “Frozen Five” as they were to become known, sheltered in the old summit house and thawed themselves out. They had picked up flares that had been left by the railroad workers and at midnight, proud of their accomplishment, they lit their flares and fireworks that they’d brought with them, and the tradition began.
The following year, Fred and Ed Morath suggested the name AdAmAn (pronounced “Add A Man”) for the group and declared that they would only add one new member every year. The group has continued to add one member every year ever since over the past 90+ years. It may have seemed a highly unlikely choice for a New Year’s Eve tradition, but for those of us who watch in awe every year, we are glad that they decided to make the trek all those years ago. While other’s are singing “Auld Lang Syne” in crowded ballrooms, surrounded by balloons, we’ll continue to toast champagne, bundled in heavy coats, and watching the fireworks from the top of Pikes Peak. It is one of our treasured memories and something that we look forward to year after year.