Climbing The Manitou Incline Once Is Hard Enough. This 62-Year-Old Man Has Scaled It Nearly 1,720 Times In A Year

December 20, 2019
Manitou Incline Record Greg Cummings 2019Manitou Incline Record Greg Cummings 2019Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
His first lap of the day behind him Friday Nov. 29 2019, 63-year-old Greg Cummings uses a combination of altimeter and mileage readings as well as selfies to log two record-breaking attempts on the Manitou Incline: The most ascents of of the Incline, and the most vertical feet traveled on foot in 365 consecutive days.

Manitou Springs resident Greg Cummings is set to break the record for most hikes up the legendary Manitou Incline in a single year — 1,720 ascents.

The feat would average out to about five ascents up the 2,000 vertical-foot outdoor staircase every day if Cummings took all 365 days of a year to do it. But if he sets the record before Christmas as planned, he’ll still have three weeks leftover before the deadline of the year-long quest he began on Jan. 12, 2019. 

Those extra days will give the 62-year-old Cummings plenty of opportunity to add to the record he'll take from a good friend, Roger Austin. The two have been trading the record back and forth since Cummings hiked the Incline 601 times in 2011. Cummings said Austin has had both knees replaced since hiking the incline 1,719 times in 2015 — in part because of that achievement.

Cummings thinks this new record may hold up for awhile, but he said that you never know with Roger.

The Manitou Incline is a former cable car track originally constructed to help with the building of pipelines along Pikes Peak. It was kept around as a tourist attraction until a 1990 rock slide damaged the track beyond repair.  

Illegal climbing of the left-over railroad ties led to the Incline eventually becoming an official hiking trail in 2013. The Manitou Springs website labels the trail's difficulty as “Extreme (we promise we’re not kidding).” The 2,744 railroad tie stairs climb unevenly straight up a mountainside, with the steepest grade listed at 68 degrees.

Manitou Incline Record Greg Cummings 2Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Greg Cummings, 63, on the Manitou Incline Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.

Cummings said a single hike up the Incline is still difficult for him, in large part because of what all the endless repetitious pounding has been doing to his body. Earlier this year, he was sidelined after a doctor discovered a hairline fracture in his tibia. 

He rested for four days.

On top of that struggle, Cummings has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 38 years. He must constantly monitor his insulin and blood sugar during his multiple daily ascents of the trail. He described all of this as further feeding a desire to pull off the Manitou Incline record one more time.

Manitou Incline Record Greg Cummings 2019Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Sixty-three-year-old Greg Cummings heads up for his second ascent of the day on the Manitou Incline Friday, Nov. 29, 2019.

“So far, it appears that I can, but we don’t know that for sure,” Cummings laughed.

In breaking the record, Cummings will have hiked 658 vertical miles over the course of the past year.

For comparison, The International Space Station floats just 240 miles above the surface of the earth.

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