In the fall, Bob Stuka – also known as “Crazy Bob” for walking shirtless in all weathers and hearing a fast trotting foreign accent all over the mountain – fell down the Manitou slope when he slipped and fell.
“It was like a double flip,” he says. “And after that my ankle looked like an elephant’s leg.”
He jumped one foot down the back of the wooden steps. “What a workout!” he remembers comments from climbers. “And I say,” It’s not just a workout! “
Stuka sees itself as 95% strong again. And yes, he’s running down the incline again – an act that is not uncommon. But Crazy Bob takes it to an unusual level.
Bob Stuka, also known as Crazy Bob, cools off in the snow after stopping halfway up Manitou Springs Incline to speak to fellow hikers for 35 seconds on Thursday morning, February 18, 2021. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
It claims a record on the steepest, most popular and yet most iconic trail in the Pikes Peak Region: a descent time of 7 minutes and 35 seconds. For perspective, it can take anywhere from half an hour to an hour for people to casually and cautiously step back.
Where dizziness newbies on the 2,768. Level, Stuka is one of a small group of fitness fanatics who see the next challenge and an exciting bonus after the burning climb. They are like children on the crest of the roller coaster.
Troy Dunavin calls the quick jump “invigorating”.
“It is your reward for the climb,” says the bearded salt and pepper lover. “It sure is the best part of it.”
But Dunavin would like to be clear and repeat a warning from Stuka and the others lightly: “I would not recommend anyone to just run down.”
A hiker runs down Manitou Springs Incline in the snow last Thursday. Most of the people climbing the incline hike down the safer Barr Trail, others run down the stairs with an average incline of 40% and parts with a steepness of 68%.
Incline’s managers and lawyers do not advise anyone to do this. Read one of the posts at the base: “Recommended: ONLY ASCENT! Please use the Barr Trail for your descent. “
But as long as the incline has been used for extreme exercise – since the 1990s, after the former funicular railway ended – it has attracted downhill breakers.
“We understand this niche exists,” said Scott Abbott, Colorado Springs regional park, hike, and open space manager who represents Incline’s owning company. “It’s not a hard rule or law, but we value safety and our recommendation for advancement.”
The return on Barr Trail is more than 3 miles, which does not add to the efficiency many regulars desire. They long for laps on the incline, up and down, up and down. The trail leads to obsession and draws a bunch of driven back every day for faster times and more trips that add to their total yearly count. (However, the calendar year record of 1,720 seems untouchable, which was set in 2019 by a diabetic who risked his life).
Many are like Stuka and drive two or three laps before work in the dark hours of the morning. This early window is essential for departures, just as it is by far the most sparsely populated season of the Incline on weekdays in winter.
Snow and ice are damned; They say nothing that spikes on shoes cannot handle. You have a clear starting route.
“Of course I take care of the people and myself,” says Stuka. “So it has to be very early in the morning to make sure that nobody is there, or hardly anyone. Of course, I want to be careful for everyone. “
Bill Beagle hopes so. He is the president of Incline Friends, the official stewards who study trail etiquette at the Incline base. It is reminiscent of the courtesy with which one can go uphill. “Everyone is playing nicely,” it implores. “Be polite and careful and together enjoy the great resources we have.”
The fast downhill traffic “never became a serious concern,” says Beagle. “I don’t hear any problems or complaints about it.”
However, it is easy for Beagle to imagine a “bowling ball” scenario in which someone bumps into oncoming climbers. As a ski instructor, Beagle makes a simple comparison with the slopes: “It’s not just about you. It’s about others around you. “
And while she hasn’t seen a downhill result worse than broken ankles and wrists in her two decades on the incline, Jill Suarez can easily imagine worse.
For the Colorado Springs patrol in the area, their concern is equally important along the Barr Trail.
“That’s where most of the problems come from,” says Abbott.
The shady corridor’s tendency to pack ice along with its rocks and roots, and its sheer length, creates more danger, according to Suarez. “Especially with the number of runners and the competitive nature” of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, she says.
That’s why Suarez started skipping the incline in the first place, she says – she saw it as safer than running down Barr. But very few should see it that way, she says.
“When we are walking down the incline we try not to do this in front of visitors as I think this encourages a very unrealistic view of what it actually entails. It takes years of experience. “
It not only takes strength and balance, but also rhythm, say runners. They describe an awareness of how exactly steps are arranged and which cadences belong to them – like a dance.
You speak of “feline reflexes”. It’s no wonder one of the fastest is known as “the ninja”. And a good ninja is as agile as he is focused.
“It’s definitely not forgiving if you’re not really focused,” says Daniel Sternthal, another of the Incline’s descending speedsters.
He knows he sprained his ankle like Crazy Bob. It’s the cost of the thrill, say downhillers. And from the competition.
Stuka says he recently heard of the next fastest, seconds away from his record.
“He sent me a text message a few weeks ago: ‘I’m ready for you,'” says Stuka. “I know what he means.”