The invitation came from My Life At Speed to shoot for the 2011 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. It was a complete surprise and I wasn’t sure what to do. As an automotive journalist I have always longed for the day I would get to go to Pikes Peak, but I was not ready for it to be this soon. In the mix of my schedule for 2011 I just wasn’t sure if it was in the cards.
In the end I was convinced by the majority of the My Life At Speed staff to come to Colorado and I almost hate to say it that way. The truth is there really are no words that I can find at this point in time to explain that mountain. The views, the thoughts and the emotion that you feel are limited to this one place. It has a complete sense of awe that surrounds it, no photos or videos that I have ever seen give off the feeling that you get when you stand at the summit. This experience has forever changed my life, and I doubt will be topped anytime soon.
At 14,110ft in elevation the oxygen is almost 40% less than at sea level, and this makes everything a challenge, even sleeping. You can actually feel what its like to drown when you attempt to nap near the summit, once your body slows down and begins to sleep you wake up gasping for breath. On a side note, if you bring a tube of Pringles with you the elevation makes them open like they do in the commercial. A very loud pop as the lid goes flying (sun screen also does this, big mess). It makes shooting difficult especially when using lenses over 200mm. There is so much from this event that I would like to talk about, and believe me I could go on and on, but I would like to talk about the one definitive moment at this place.
I had been on the mountain for a little over 15 hours when the last of the 1200 class motorcycles had gone by, the passing moments leading up to this had been an emotional few. The race was over, I looked up at the last switch back towards “Devils Playground” when vehicles began to return down the mountain. In the head of the pack was Rhys Millen and he had his door open pointed towards the sky. As I looked closer he began to reach out towards every spectator that he went by. Over the next 30 minutes as every competitor who made it up the mountain came back down they followed in the same fashion. It wasn’t a matter of who won and who broke records anymore. For these competitors it was an incredible achievement to conquer the mountain and that they all had done. I have been an automotive photographer and journalist for the last 5 years, and I have never seen or felt anything like this. Pikes Peak is an automotive event unlike anything else on earth, and should be experienced by every race fan out there. The feeling of family and the connections between competitors and fans is incredible. I was fortunate enough to be part of an unforgettable team who made this something I will never forget.
Here are a few of my favorite photos.