MANITOU – The Manitou Incline sees a lot of traffic from adventure seekers and exercise enthusiasts alike, but this Colorado man has a different relationship with the climb, having used it to overcome everything life has thrown at him.
Ian Johnson, a Colorado Springs resident, has been climbing the incline for more than 10 years. But it’s not just the beauty of the climb that keeps bringing him back to the incline, it’s history, hurt and recovery.
“I almost died in 2007. I was hit by a drunk driver at almost 100 miles per hour, broke my skull, my spine, and some ribs,” stated Ian.
After the accident, doctors were unsure if Ian would ever walk normally again.
However, the report from the hospital wasn’t one he could accept and so he set himself a task, “If I could do the incline, I didn’t have any limitations as far as I was concerned.”
“You put yourself against the mountain, as you’re climbing up a straight mile of stairs. You have to deal with yourself and your own limitations and figure out how to overcome them”
Those stakes made the end of this stairway to somewhere, quite the prize.
“Getting to the top was kind of emotional for me,” Ian commented, “I screamed at the top of my lungs, I was emotionally overburdened. It was so much of a personal success that I was slightly overcome.”
Within a year of his accident, he had moved past his injuries, summitting the incline at least a dozen times.
Now, a decade later, he works to capture in art the place that helped him to overcome, persevere, and move forward.
“Because of that, it’s one of my favorite places and so when I started painting, it seemed like a natural place to start.”
Each climb put down on canvas, is like another hike up the hill.
“When I paint the incline, I’m trying to express all of the emotions that I feel on the way up. My love of it, that’s what I hope to install in the painting, and I’m hopeful that when people look at it, they’re able to feel the painting as much as see it.”
These days, Ian doesn’t climb as much as he used to and he hikes for different reasons, “[For] my kids, making sure I can keep up with them.”
However, he still goes up when he needs to.
“If you can put one foot in front of the other on the incline, why can’t you do it in life. So that’s how I approach everything, smile and push on,” Ian finished.