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Is the Manitou Incline uphill only? Well, yes and no

April 20, 2017 Updated: April 21, 2017 at 6:49 am
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Ted Schweitzer, front, resorts to using his hands as he climbs up one of the steeper sections of the newly renovated Incline trail Friday, December 5, 2014. The Incline was closed for three-months as it underwent $1.5 million facelift to improve loose railroad ties, erosion control and remove debris. Many hikers agreed that the trail was made steeper with the improvements. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

Manitou Springs' beloved Stairmaster, the mile-long Incline, is for going up, not down, El Paso County Search and Rescue stressed forcefully Thursday, hours after rescuing an injured descending climber.

In a Facebook post, the rescue agency asked regular hikers of the Manitou Incline to pass on the word: "the Incline is for UPHILL traffic only. ... Go UP the Incline and DOWN Barr Trail."

Search and rescue argues the rules are clearly posted at the foot of the trail, but actually going just uphill on the Incline is more of a suggestion, other officials say.

The rules state that there are no pets and no littering, but there is no explicit rule against hiking down the Incline, it's simply not "recommended."

That's because when the city opened the Incline as a public trail, there wasn't consensus they needed to prohibit downhill travel, said Kurt Schroeder, manager of Parks, Trails and Open Space. There was only consensus that it wasn't advised, he said.

"We would prefer they didn't," Schroeder said, but "it's not a hard and fast rule."

As a result, it's not uncommon to see hikers taking advantage of the wiggle room. Many argue they "do it all the time" or "have done it for years," search and rescue pointed out in its post.

But that doesn't make it any less dangerous, they argue.

"One misplaced step or a piece of loose rock could not only cause you to cartwheel down a long ways ... but your fall could seriously injure an uphill hiker," the agency warned.

Wednesday's tumble wasn't that serious, but it did injure a 10-year-old girl, according to hiker Joseph Shrigley who stopped to help her.

The girl was with her family when they jumped on the Incline at the bailout point and started climbing down, Shrigley said. Soon after, the girl lost her footing and hit her head. He didn't know the extent of the girl's injury.

"People do get hurt on the Incline, but dozens of people get hurt on Barr Trail and no one tries to change the rules on there," Shrigley said. "It does take a lot of skill. It's not for the novice, but that doesn't mean it should be prohibited."

The search and rescue organization wants frequent flyers like Shrigley to "STOP IT!" The group particularly chastised hikers trying to record the fastest known time up and down.

"Your ego and hubris could get someone injured, crippled, or killed," search and rescue posted. "That someone could be you! All for an unofficial and meaningless 'time.'"

One day, hikers may see downhill travel outlawed, Schroeder said.

Last year's land swap, in which Colorado Springs received 115 acres of new public trail easements and surrendered Strawberry Hill to The Broadmoor, opened the door to create another return trail on the north side of the Incline. If that happens, officials may decide it's no longer safe to climb down.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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