A sturdy group of hikers continues a decades-old tradition by summiting Pikes Peak on New Year’s Eve—and then setting off fireworks.
At 11:30 p.m. on December 31, 2009, the temperature atop Pikes Peak was minus 10 degrees and the wind blew a steady 55 mph, with gusts up to 90. In such conditions, according to the National Weather Service, exposed flesh would freeze solid in five to 10 minutes. This fact did not deter the 23 members and eight guests of the AdAmAn Club, who had hiked for two days in midwinter to reach the 14,115-foot summit, and for whom adversity is part and parcel of an 87-year-old tradition.
What did trouble the AdAmAn team, however, was the small box of wires and switches that lay in the crusty snow outside Pikes Peak’s Summit House that was linked by an electrical cable to a trailer parked about 100 feet away. This trailer was lined with mortar tubes, which were loaded with five- and six-inch diameter firework shells. At the stroke of midnight, the AdAmAn crew planned to launch these bombs into the sky, more than one and a half vertical miles above Colorado Springs. But the cold and the blowing snow had scrambled the control panel’s circuits, and as the wind roared over Pikes Peak, the AdAmAn pyrotechnicians ripped off their mittens and braved frostbite to fiddle with the frosty switches. After eight decades of ushering in the New Year for the state’s second-largest city, a windchill of minus 46 degrees wasn’t going to steal the show from this merry band of revelers.