Happy Birthday, AdAmAn Club

In order to publicize Pikes Peak, “America’s Mountain,” some imaginative Colorado Springs promoters conceived the idea to set off fireworks from the summit of Pikes Peak on New Year’s Eve in 1922. The arduous trek on foot and with heavy backpacks that held the firework rockets was made by mountaineering brothers Fred and Ed Morath; their hiking buddy Willis Magee; noted mountaineer and photographer Harry Standley, who documented their journey; and Fred Barr, the man behind the construction of Barr Trail. The region’s most iconic hiking trail, it starts in Manitou Springs at an elevation of 6,800 feet and climbs steadily to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak in twelve-and-a-half breathtaking miles.

Since the thermometer at the mountaintop that storied night 100 years ago read minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the climbers came to be known as the “Frozen Five.” Somewhat ironically, this handful of hikers did not follow Barr Trail but walked along the Cog Railroad tracks, leaving Manitou Springs at 6 a.m. on December 31 and reaching the summit eight exhausting hours later. A roaring fire in the Summit House helped warm their chilled bones. To announce their safe arrival, they discharged a few signal flares at 9 p.m. Unfortunately, clouds obscured the main fireworks display at midnight from the expectant observers at the foot of the mountain. When the sky cleared ten minutes later, all that was visible from town was a semicircle made of red flares on the summit.

Thus was born the tradition of a New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics spectacle for residents and visitors of the Pikes Peak region, courtesy of a group of intrepid climbers. The adventure of the Frozen Five led to the formation of the AdAmAn Club in 1923. The name resulted from the addition of one new male member per year. This organization remained male-only until Sue Graham became the first female inductee in 1997. Since then, two more women have joined—Cindy Bowles in 2004 and Ann Nichols in 2011, but it is doubtful the club will change its name.

To commemorate the group’s centenary, the AdAmAn Club collaborated with the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, and the Downtown Partnership in the creation of “AdAmAn Alley” in one of the busiest downtown blocks. Starting between two historic buildings on Tejon Street, the Alley incorporates portions of two existing alleys, one going east to Nevada Avenue, and the other angling south to connect to Colorado Avenue. Both alleys underwent beautification, which involved updating the utilities, renewing the pavement, and replacing individual dumpsters with collective trash compactors, which required the agreement of all affected business owners.

On Tejon Street, the entrance to the Alley is marked by a metal arc depicting the “Frozen Five.” A number of murals enliven the dark urban canyons, including one honoring the Frozen Five who made that memorable slog on December 31, 1922, and another showing two later members preparing to light the fireworks. Additional embellishments exist in the form of murals and floral sculptures, as well as LED fireworks displays at night.

Tejon Street entrance to AdAmAn Alley between historic Carlton building on the left and historic Hibbard building on the right

Tejon Street entrance to AdAmAn Alley

Mural honoring the “Frozen Five of Yore” by FIXER/Brand Design Studio

Colorado Avenue entrance to AdAmAn Alley

Enlarged photograph of later AdAmAn members, firemasters John Garret (left) and Rev. George Mc Donald (right), taken by founding member and photographer Harry Standley

Another mural of the “Frozen Five” by Zane Prater on the side of a building on Pikes Peak Avenue which borders the AdAmAn Alley block on the north side

Looking west from AdAmAn Alley to the entrance arc with Pikes Peak in the background and the Antlers Hotel on the right

AdAmAn Alley was officially dedicated on December 28, 2022. My photos were taken on December 9 and 10, 2022, when the finishing touches were being applied to the project. I have yet to see it illuminated at nighttime.

Portions of this text were taken (in slightly modified form) from my book, Places and People of the Pikes Peak Region, available at local independent bookstores (please follow this link to learn more).

39 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, AdAmAn Club

    • Thank you, Wally, I’m glad you enjoyed this short summary. There are many fascinating stories about the group’s experiences over the last century, as you can imagine. The latest member inducted is 72 and I’m in awe. It’s been a number of years since I hiked up Pikes Peak, and that wasn’t in the middle of winter!

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  1. Fascinating piece of local history, and also a sad reflection of social attitudes (no female members until 1997, only three in total). Murals always brighten up an urban landscape, and these look like good examples.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ann. That last view is very precious and only visible from one particular angle, as the wonderful panorama of mountains has otherwise been allowed to be obstructed by buildings. I think the city planners have committed some egregious mistakes in allowing certain structures to go up in downtown Colorado Springs.
      Local weather has always played an important role and many years the clouds obscure the view of the peak, so the fireworks will not be visible from town.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting! I will admit that I accidently read the name a bit too fast and though it was Hungrian naming convention for Adam Ant. Had to go back and look at that closer ha. I have to hand it to those early adventurers – although I can definitely relate the negative temperatures.

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    • One can easily trip over their name, which, one suspects, might have been intentional.
      Being an extreme athlete yourself, you likely would have had no trouble keeping up with the Frozen Five. Or to participate in the Pikes Peak Marathon, which happens every year!

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  3. What a great story. That had to be a grueling hike in that kind of weather. Just hiking up Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks (NY) during very late October my daughter & I (and her husky) experienced fog and rapidly dropping temps after 4,000 feet. Oh, and the wind was like a sandblaster on the peak. Thankfully, we were very prepared.

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    • I agree with you. This would have been a strenuous hike on any day, but to make it in the conditions they encountered was a particular challenge.
      I’m glad to hear that you, your daughter, and her husky were prepared for the adverse weather you faced and made it back home safely.
      Thank you for your comment, and for following my blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, can’t imagine their hike. Our weather was actually great for a fall day. You just never know what a mountain is going to look like though. Ours was over twelve hours on a sunny day (fifteen miles round). I’m so glad I found your blog. It is incredibly informative.

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    • Thank you, Julie, I’m glad this caught your attention. I also like the arch but was reminded how built-up the downtown area is when I couldn’t isolate it with Pikes Peak alone in the background, without any other intervening buildings. In my opinion, the city planners have made a total mess of downtown, obstructing the gorgeous view of the mountains.

      Liked by 1 person

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