Pikes Peak Is My Mountain: “It Symbolizes The Mountains, Challenges I’ve Had To Overcome”

April 14, 2020
Brandon Lyons steers his handcycle up the Pikes Peak Highway.Brandon Lyons steers his handcycle up the Pikes Peak Highway. Courtesy of Brandon Lyons
Brandon Lyons steers his handcycle up the Pikes Peak Highway.

The city of Colorado Springs is gathering reflections from community members on their personal connections to Pikes Peak. It's part of a campaign called "My Mountain" leading up to completion of the Pikes Peak Summit Complex next year. The city has shared audio versions of several stories with 91.5 KRCC, which we are editing for broadcast. In this audio postcard, we hear from Brandon Lyons, a paralympian who lives and trains in Colorado Springs.

I dove into shallow water, broke my back at the T5 and T6 vertebrae. That left me with a spinal cord injury. A few years after that, I got introduced to hand cycling, which is a bike that you lay down recumbent style and you pedal with your arms, instead of your legs.

And I was introduced to the team here in Colorado Springs, and had an opportunity to relocate out to the training center to become a resident athlete just three years to the day of my injury — May 24th, 2017 — and I've been a resident athlete here ever since.

Living at the training center here in Colorado Springs, I see Pikes Peak every morning and it's always been an accomplishment that I wanted to go try to achieve and try to summit it. I had heard that there was a paved road from the bottom to the top, so being in a wheelchair and being in a handcycle it was an accessible route that I could actually summit a fourteener here in Colorado.

From top left: Mohamed Lahna, 2016 medalist in para-triathlon, Jamie Whitmore, 2016 medalist in para-cycling, and Brandon Lyons, member of the U.S. Paralympics Cycling 2020 National Team, at the summit of Pikes Peak.Credit Courtesy of Brandon Lyons
From top left: Mohamed Lahna, 2016 medalist in para-triathlon, Jamie Whitmore, 2016 medalist in para-cycling, and Brandon Lyons, member of the U.S. Paralympics Cycling 2020 National Team, at the summit of Pikes Peak.

We started down right off the highway. You can see the summit and it just looks so far away and you continue to go mile after mile after mile and it's nice that you have those little mile marker signs of the different animals that are keeping you occupied...and it's really just that last like a thousand feet. Once you're over 13,000 feet, I think you can really feel the altitude and [notice you have] less oxygen. And then it's just switchbacks where you feel like it's never going to end until you finally make it to the top.

So we got to the top. We took the pictures by the sign, enjoyed coffee, had to try one of the donuts. We kind of hung out there for an hour and early just took everything in.

I was excited, as I mentioned earlier, just the accessibility of getting up to the top of the summit to really get that full experience. It speaks volumes just to Colorado Springs, the community, and then Pikes Peak itself of, you know, the efforts that they're putting in from an accessibility standpoint.

Pikes Peak is my mountain because it symbolizes a lot of the mountains and challenges that I've had to overcome through my journey of becoming a successful athlete and the person I am today.

The Paralympic Games originally scheduled for this summer have been pushed back to 2021 due to the spread of the new coronavirus. Lyons says he agrees with the decision to postpone the games and prioritize safety. To his fellow athletes he says, “We will rise up, we will conquer Tokyo and we will bring home the gold. Here’s to the final push to Tokyo 2021!”

Editor's note: The Pikes Peak Highway and summit are both currently open, although the gift shop and bathrooms are closed. Click here for updated information if you're planning to head up the mountain.

From top left: Mohamed Lahna, Jamie Whitmore, and Brandon Lyons eat sandwiches at the top of Pikes Peak after riding to the summit.Credit Courtesy of Brandon Lyons
From top left: Mohamed Lahna, Jamie Whitmore, and Brandon Lyons eat sandwiches at the top of Pikes Peak after riding to the summit.