FORT CARSON, Colo. – Standing at 6,530 feet, the Manitou Incline is one of the steepest hikes in Colorado Springs. It gains 2,020 feet in less than a mile, reaching a peak of 8,550 feet. Attempting the Manitou Incline is already a hard hike for many people, but the goal of Sgt. 1st Class Pedro Barbosa, 82nd Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), was to complete the Incline 500 times within a year.
Hiking the Manitou Incline alone is a success of its own. Hiking it 500 times in a year is even greater. For one Soldier, accomplishing that mission was his ultimate goal.
Barbosa was born in Puerto Rico and grew up on the west side of the island most of his life. He enjoyed skateboarding and surfing in his younger years. Barbosa was 29 years old when he joined the Army in October 2015. He joined as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist.
“I'm a chemical reconnaissance detachment (CRD) team leader,” said Barbosa. “We were a six-man team, and we broke it off into two three-man teams.”
Each team works on different missions in order to be more available to support the Green Berets.
Barbosa has now been with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson for two years.
Barbosa’s first time hiking the Manitou Incline was in August 2020. It was a struggle for him, especially because of going from living in an area with sea level elevation to approximately 6,000 feet elevation made it challenging. Then one day he encountered a 500-club member.
“The way I found out about the 500 club is that I met some guys and they were like, ‘Hey, so you're doing the incline, why don't you do the 500?’ And I'm like, ‘I don't have time for that yet.’ And eventually I just started making time,” said Barbosa.
The Manitou Incline 500-club is an annual journey for people to hike up and down the Manitou Incline 500 times within a year. Thousands of people attempt the incline every year, but not many are able to complete 500 hikes within a year.
The Incline is no walk in the park. A lot of training needs to be done to successfully finish, and luckily Barbosa’s job in the military kept him physically fit through all his training.
“As a direct support enabler to a Special Forces unit, you want to be able to carry extra weight,” said Barbosa. “Go faster, harder than your everyday tasks like us chemical Soldiers.”
They work with masks similar to what firefighters use. Wearing a full kit, oxygen tank and mask at work helped Barbosa be better prepared for the little oxygen there is in the high-altitude mountain.
“The Manitou Incline is a great place to get a high-altitude training because it's like a stairmaster, but on super,” said Barbosa. “So, everybody goes up there just to just to smoke themselves.”
Barbosa started his 500-hike journey in August 2021. In the beginning he would do a couple of hikes a day, usually very early in the morning or in the evening when the sun is set. He started to realize that with work sending him to other states or countries for weeks on end, he was not going to be able to finish 500 hikes within a year.
He started to do more hikes everyday by going before work and completing at least two hikes and at the end of the day he would go back and complete two more totaling four hikes a day and sometimes even five hikes.
One cold morning, Barbosa was finishing his first hike of the day and was walking down the steps of the Incline.
“Usually, I could run in ice but that day the ice was not safe to run on,” said Barbosa. “So, I stood down, I put my feet and I adjusted in a part that I've fallen before and the thing about the stairs, they are not the same.”
Some of the steps are very perpendicular, some of them are long. So that makes it a little bit more challenging when going up or down the Incline.
“Those were really long steps and there was a big boulder where I slipped and I woke up with a lady slapping my face saying, ‘Hey, wake up. Are you okay?’ And I open my eyes not knowing where I’m at,” said Barbosa. “And I got up, and I looked around, realizing I went down three really long steps. I don't know how long I was there, but I finished going down and then I hiked it again.”
Barbosa was nearing the year mark and he needed to push himself to do more hikes than he has ever done before. And he knew that the last month he would not be able to go do it at all because of how busy his work schedule was going to be.
On his last hikes, Barbosa had planned out how he was going to finish it all. He woke up early in the morning and conducted three hikes and then was called into work. Barbosa had staff duty that day which is a 24-hour shift. His plan to do more hikes that day was no longer going to happen.
“Well, I got off work the next morning, went to bed and woke up I think by two or three in the afternoon, and I did five that day back-to-back,” said Barbosa. “And then the next day I did six.”
He was determined to finish all of his hikes within a year, and nothing was going to stop him. No injuries, no sickness, no sleep, nothing was too big of an issue to prevent him from reaching his goal.
Barbosa’s average time to complete the Manitou Incline is 38 minutes to get up and then about 10 minutes to go down. He finished July 30 and is the first active service member to complete 500 hikes in a year and the 21st person to overall accomplish the challenge.
Barbosa’s mental and physical strength has helped him become successful in the goals he sets. His mindset and drive to push himself to be great every day has led him to remarkable journeys in life that have set the path to success.