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Rescue team carries injured teen off the Incline
Check out this special webpage on the Manitou Incline if you're curious about its history and want to see photos of the old Incline Railway.
A 13-year-old boy was injured Saturday morning while coming down the Manitou Incline - perhaps highlighting a new rule that directs hikers who summit the illegal trail to take adjacent Barr Trail on their trip downhill.
Fire crews and paramedics from the Manitou Springs and Crystal Park fire departments teamed up with El Paso County Search and Rescue personnel to carry the boy off the steep slope.
The trail was closed to hikers for about two hours, reopening at 11:30 a.m.
"He was moving pretty fast, coming down the Incline, when he took a tumble," said Dave Gendron, a 20-year veteran of El Paso County Search and Rescue. The teen was hiking with two adults.
Gendron could not address the boy's medical condition but said he was conscious and breathing on his own after the fall and during the rescue.
Emergency teams often are called to local trails and parks to help injured hikers and climbers, but the steepness of the Incline and the difficulty posed by the railway ties make Incline rescues more difficult than most.
A sign posted at the trailhead two weeks ago suggests hikers make the Incline part of a loop hike with the adjacent Barr Trail, which follows a series of switchbacks on the hillside. Gendron said Search and Rescue personnel support that idea.
"Once they make it up, we suggest people head over to Barr Trail. The trail still has risks, but it's far less dangerous than coming down the Incline," he said.
About 50 people waiting near the base of the Incline for rescue personnel to carry the teen off the mountain wasted no time heading up as soon as possible.
"It's all yours - as long as you promise not to get hurt," one Search and Rescue team member told hikers. "We don't need to go up there again today."
The Manitou Incline rises about 2,000 feet in about a mile on a hillside above west Manitou Springs. The average grade is 41 percent; the steepest, a grueling 68 percent. The route follows an old railway bed and hikers seeking an extreme workout climb the railway ties to the top.
A few hundred thousand hikers - estimates say as many as 500,000 - attempt the climb each year, and increasingly the trail is climbed by hikers hoping to check a summit trip off their personal "bucket list" of activities.
Hiking the trail is considered trespassing, although landowners (the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Colorado Springs Utilities and the U.S. Forest Service) are working with the cities of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs to open it up to hikers.
Anyone wishing to join the effort to legally open the Incline is encouraged to join Incline Friends, a group dedicated to maintaining the trail and supporting legalization efforts.