Curious Colorado: What’s the elevation of Pikes Peak and how do they measure it?

pikespeaksnapshot

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In this week’s Curious Colorado question, we ask: “What’s the actual elevation of Pikes Peak, and how do they measure it?”

A quick search of the internet should solve this, right?  Well, we tried three different search engines and got three different answers. Google says 14,114 feet. Yahoo came up with 14,110. Bing went with 14,115. We obviously have some conflicting information here.

This warranted a trip up America’s Mountain. We met Pikes Peak manager Jack Glavan at the gate, which sits at 7,800 feet.

“This year, we had 483,000 visitors just through our gate alone,” he said. “Combine that with the more than 200,000 on the Cog Rail, and we had more than 650,000.”

Galvan escorted us up the mountain for the big reveal.  Along the way, we met other curious visitors from all over the nation and beyond in quest for the same information.

“You come to Colorado, you gotta see Pikes Peak,” said Steve Forrest of Nashville, Tennessee.

Forrest, his wife and two adult children were visiting Denver, but were determined to see the mountain in person.

When asked how tall he thought the summit is, Forrest gave a mixed answer.

“14,010? 120? 115?,” he said. “I think we saw a sign but I can’t remember.”

We can understand the Forrest’s confusion. Even inside the Pikes Peak gift shop, there were conflicting numbers. One shirt said 14,115 feet, while a keychain proclaimed 14,110.

Because of high winds on this particular day, we were the only people permitted to the summit to see for ourselves.

“My gauge is reading 68 miles per hour,” Glavan confirmed when we reached the top. It was difficult to even stand up.

We were able to see the official elevation marker that has been the same place since 1929.

“There’s a few bullet holes in there that occurred somewhere between 1929 and 1935 from what we can tell,” Glavan yelled as we tried not to blow over.

Still, no official reading yet.

“It’s a relatively flat summit, so, it’s hard to get the exact elevation,” Glavan said.

Then, the giant sign outside the summit house:  “Elevation: 14,115.”

When presented with the conflicting elevation readings we’ve seen, Glavan had a perfectly good explanation.

“The original data is from 1929, which read 14,110,” Glavan said. “But then in 1988, they adjusted it for sea level, and the mountain apparently grew.”

But that reading will be changing soon. Maybe even this fall.

“We’re going to be working with NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration), the Forest Service and the BLM,” Glavan said. “We’re going to take very accurate measurements over a three-day period to actually get the elevation of Pikes Peak.”

Glavan said there will be satellite imagery involved – something they didn’t have in 1929 when the last measurement was made.

“So, it’s going to be exciting, and we don’t know what the number is going to exactly be, but we think by the end of the year we’re going to have a different number,” he said.

So get the printing press ready for new t-shirts and keychains in the gift store, because America’s Mountain is likely to shrink or grow again.

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